Former child stars Beverley Mitchell, Jodie Sweetin, and Christine Lakin on the ’90s, nicknames, and their new lives as Hollywood Darlings

Stephanie Tanner, Lucy Camden, and Al Lambert walk into a mansion … No, this is not the beginning of a joke circa 1997. Instead, this is the photo shoot for the leads of Hollywood Darlings, starring former childhood actors Beverley Mitchell (Lucy Camden on 7th Heaven), Jodie Sweetin (Stephanie Tanner on Full House), and Christine Lakin (Al Lambert on Step by Step).
In the Pop TV unscripted docu-comedy, now entering its second season, the women play exaggerated versions of themselves, once-famous child actors now trying to navigate La-La Land as adults. (Mrs. Doubtfire’s Matthew Lawrence is a guest star.) The charm of the show is completely reliant on the women’s chemistry, and during this afternoon high in the Hollywood Hills, as the actresses pose in glamorous evening gowns, their easy interaction makes it clear why the show is earning them a whole new generation of fans. Between extended fits of laughter, the Darlings trio gab about navigating “scripted unscripted” television, childhood stardom, and the everlasting beauty of John Stamos.

The three of you are clearly super-tight co-stars. How did you originally meet?
SWEETIN: Beverley and I have actually known each other since we were 4 or 5 because we used to do commercials and auditions together all the time. And then Christine … When was that?
Lanin: I was 12 when I first met Jodie. I came to test for Step by Step and I literally tested on the set of Full House, so I got to meet the cast as a result. It was the greatest day of my young life up until that point. I was like, “Oh, my God. I peaked. This is it.” And I still pretty much feel that way. With Beverley, I always kind of knew her, but then I was cast on 7th Heaven as a pregnant, at-risk teen, so I was on her show. It’s funny, though. We all kind of went our separate ways in our 20s. We were having babies and getting married, and it really wasn’t until our adulthood that we really got to know each other.

MITCHELL: I think the greatest thing about our friendship is that because of our history, and because of this very unique way that we’ve all grown up, we understand each other on a different level that a lot of people don’t. We have this special kinship where we can mess around with each other, and it’s so comfortable and amazing. These girls are more than friends. They’re like my sisters. Especially because they love messing with me.
SWEETIN: [Laughs.] We really do.
MITCHELL: I’m just so grateful for the relationship that I have with these two women. It’s better than any TV show.
LAKIN: And you have to remember, the three of us are only children in real life, so having these women who feel like sisters is something I’ve wanted my whole life. It’s really cool and really special.

Each of you got into the business at a really young age. How’d you first start acting?
MITCHELL: I was actually discovered at the Sherman Oaks Galleria when I was 4 years old and throwing a temper tantrum because I was hungry—the girls can attest that I still throw tantrums when I’m hungry. It was actually Corey Feldman’s mom, who was a manager at the time, who told me I should get into the business. She said I had spunk.
LAKIN: So weird! I don’t know what it is about moms in the business, but it was actually Candace Cameron’s mom who spotted me when I was around 11 at a resort in south Georgia. But it was 100 percent always my decision to get into acting. You couldn’t stop me. If it were up to my parents, I think they’d wish that I was an anchor for CNN. You’re never going to be out of work.
SWEETIN: I was probably about 3 ½ or 4 when I started doing it. I told my mom I wanted to be a “modeler,” which is what I called people on TV when I was little. Any opportunity to perform, whether it was for two people or for 20, I wanted to do it.
MITCHELL: And now they just can’t get rid of us. You put Jodie, Christine, or me on a set, and we’re in our element. That’s where we thrive. It’s just so second nature to us. We all have this strange comfort level in front of the camera.
If your kids want to act, will you let them?
SWEETIN: My older daughter, Zoie [9], did one little guest appearance on Fuller House, and Beatrix [7] loves to perform. Zoie has talked about wanting to act, but when I say, “That might mean you miss out on soccer,” she’s like, “Oh, I don’t know.” So we’ll see!
MITCHELL: I brought my kids [Kenzie, 5, and Hutton, 3] to set last night for our last day of shooting season 2, and Kenzie was so comfortable and so happy on set. I’ve never seen her come alive like that. She’s also obsessed with Christine and wanted nothing to do with me.

LAKIN: Not to brag, but me and Kenzie are best friends.
MITCHELL: Oh, you totally are. But yes, I see that spark in both my kids, so if they really wanted to do it, obviously I don’t have a problem with it. I know you can come out just fine and normal.
LAKIN: Georgia’s 21 months old, so it remains to be seen. I had a great experience, but I also now appreciate how hard my mom worked—
SWEETIN: Oh yeah.
LAKIN: A lot goes into trying to fulfill your children’s dreams of being in the entertainment business, and if she wanted to do it, I would … I mean, let’s be honest, if she wants a cookie, I cave. But I know there were a lot of childhood things I missed out on. So I want her to do all those things and then make a decision, because you don’t get to do that stuff again. You can’t go back.
You guys talk about that in episode 2! Which brings us to the question: How did Hollywood Darlings come to be?
LAKIN: Jimmy Fox, our executive producer, had seen a web series that I created for Hulu called Lovin’ Lakin, about how I was making my triumphant return to Hollywood only to find out that no one knew who I was. And it was along the lines of an idea he had. So I sat down with him and said, “I know your background is in reality, and I’m not into that, but if you want to create something with themes from my real life, I’d be into that.” A few months later, I heard from him, and [he] said, “I’ve been talking to two other girls I want to pair you with for the show. Wasn’t sure if you know them. Jodie Sweetin and Beverley Mitchell?” And I was like, “Yeah, dude. Let’s do it!”
SWEETIN: So we sat down and talked about how we didn’t want to do a reality show, but we wanted to take elements from our real life and heighten them, make them way over the top, and just do something that we’d never really done before. Just like, “OK. Get from point A to point B in a scene. However you wanna do that. And … go!”
MITCHELL: It’s so fun because it allows us to play off of each other. We’ve learned what jokes work best for who, and it’s just this wonderful collaborative effort. Most of our jokes come from us messing around in the trailer and one of us says something stupid— usually me—and then we just get to put it in the show. It’s very different from the regular scripted show. It’s exhausting, but it’s so fun.
The show intentionally blurs the line between reality and scripted. How similar do you feel you are to the “characters” you portray?
MITCHELL: I’m definitely that over-mom-ing, over-organized character in real life. I’d like to think I’m not as anal or controlling as I am on the show—I’m pretty chill, although these girls might disagree …
LAKIN: [Laughing.] Aw, that’s very cute, Bev.
SWEETIN: Bev. You label nuts.
MITCHELL: Well, how else am I supposed to know the difference between cashews and pistachios? I guess I could look at them …
SWEETIN: [Laughing.] Don’t get me wrong, I love them, and I eat them all the time. But you have labeled nut containers in your dressing room and in your purse.
MITCHELL: I told you, I’m bad, OK!
SWEETIN: Clearly, I’m pretty similar to the wisecracking character I play. I’m definitely the one who will lovingly make fun of my friends. Christine and I obviously enjoy getting a rise out of Beverley because it’s so easy and so fun.
LAKIN: And I can definitely be a little wacky and I’ve got a hippie-dippie vibe, for sure. I don’t really dress the same that I do on the show, though …
MITCHELL: Nakey Lakey!
“Nakey Lakey”?
MITCHELL: We call her “Nakey Lakey” because she barely wears clothes. She has a banging body so it’s fine, but her clothes throughout season 2 just got smaller and smaller and smaller.
LAKIN: I don’t know how it happened, but by the end, I’m just in a bathing suit in, like, every scene. It’s fine, but I was definitely a little cold.

How does it work to have an “unscripted” series?
SWEETIN: We have a lot of the storylines mapped out, but however we want to get that story across is sort of up to us.
LAKIN: Yeah, we’ll usually go sit in the trailer with our director and our producer and go through the beats and someone will say, “Beverley, you take this part, we’ll talk about this thing, we’ll do a little improv here, we’ll have the ‘make fun of Beverley moment,’ and then get back to the meat of the scene.” So we kind of know where it’s all going to go. But there are gems that happen right before we film and the director will be like, “Save it! I’m about to roll. Do that.”
You are constantly identified by fans as your childhood characters in the show. Does that bother you in real life?
SWEETIN: Doing Fuller House now, people are still calling me Stephanie Tanner, but I don’t mind it. It affords me the ability to do what I love, so I’m not complaining one little bit. LAKIN: I think we’ll always be known by those shows. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s a good memory people have. And we try to embrace it and own it. Plus, even though people think of us as who we were as kids, Hollywood Darlings is for adults. The minute they watch this show, they’re like, “Oh, that’s not Lucy and Stephanie and Al.”
MITCHELL: What’s so fun about our show now is that it’s such a large departure from those characters that people think they know us as. They’re getting to know us in a totally new way.
Given the ’90s nostalgia in the show, I wanted to do a little ’90s lightning round. Christine, what were the posters in your room as a kid?
LAKIN: I had a poster of Aerosmith. I also had—get ready for it—a head shot of John Stamos—
SWEETIN: [Hysterical laughter.] LAKIN: Yeah, from the time I got to meet everyone on set. He went right on the wall. Sorry, Jodie.

Beverley, who was your celebrity crush?
MITCHELL: The only name that’s coming to mind right now is JTT.
Jodie, what was the most embarrassing item of clothing you rocked?
SWEETIN: Oh, God. I can’t think of just one! I saw a picture of myself the other day in fully matching bike shorts with an oversized T-shirt and color-coordinated scrunchie. But there was a lot. Especially with hair. I was really into the side ponytail.
Christine, did you prepare for Y2K?
LAKIN: I went on a cruise with my family and I remember thinking, Well, if the world ends, at least we’re stockpiled on this cruise. It can be its own flotation device.

MITCHELL: I don’t know where I was, but I know I wasn’t prepared.
LAKIN: We actually have a Y2K episode in season 2, so you’ll see that, plus a lot of terrible ’90s fashion.
On which note, what else can we expect from season 2?
LAKIN: It’s going to be a lot more turned up than last year. We’ve got storylines that are even edgier and more in that cable space. And we’ve got some awesome guest stars—Will Friedle, Tatyana Ali, Marla Sokoloff, David Lascher, Soleil Moon Frye … We’re all really excited about it.
Thanks, Nakey Lakey. We are too.