Kimberly Williams-Paisley on Darrow Mysteries, Family, and Charity

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Kimberly Williams-Paisley has been entertaining audiences since her star-making role opposite Steve Martin and Diane Keaton in Father of the Bride in 1991.

Most recently, Williams-Paisley has been starring in a movie series for Hallmark Mysteries & Movies spawned from an original titled Darrow and Darrow. She co-stars as part of a mother and daughter duo, Joanna and Claire Darrow. Wendie Malick costars as Joanna, and Tom Cavanagh is Claire's opposing counsel, Miles.

With a successful career and a happy home life, it seems like Williams-Paisley has it all, and it was a pleasure speaking with her about all of it. Excepts of our interview follow.

Kimberly Williams-Paisley as Claire Darrow

What is it that first drew you to the Darrow and Darrow movies?

It was the script. Phoef Sutton has written every single one. And I just think he's a wonderful writer. Boston Legal was one of my favorite shows when it was on the air.

Me too.

Yeah. And I was actually in the series finale of Boston Legal.

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Oh really? I'm re-watching it now so I'll have to watch for you.

Oh good, yeah, I'm in the last episode, when they go to the Supreme court, and it was so much fun to do. And then when Phoef came, well, I mean the idea was brought to me by one of the former producers, and I love that.

And then Phoef got on board, and I loved the script so much. There's a great mystery, but then there's humor. And it seemed like a really great balance, kind of the way Boston Legal was. So I've had fun doing every single one.

I love Tom Cavanagh. We got such a great cast. Tom is wonderful. And then of course Wendie i[Malick] s fantastic. I love, love working with her, and so I just feel really lucky to be able to keep doing them.

Darrow and Darrow

But on this upcoming installment, Witness to Murder: A Darrow Mystery. Claire kind of gets a kick in the butt. It forces her to face her feelings about Miles. What can you tease about that?

Yeah, she experiences jealousy maybe for the first time ever, which was really fun. That was my idea. I guess when we were doing the last one, because we wanted to get Claire and Miles together somehow, but we didn't know what would be the impetus to finally make it happen.

And I thought how great if she is very laid back about it as she always has been in every other one. You know, like, "Oh, Miles isn't going anywhere."

And then all of a sudden a beautiful new, smart, interesting woman shows up, and she and Miles have a history, and it kind of forces Claire to really take a different perspective and really have to decide what she wants to do about it.

Opposing Counsel

She's been kind of hesitant about defining their relationship. Why do you think that is?

Well we learned early on that her husband has passed away. She's raising a daughter. She's completely committed to her career. So it's really hard for her to make space for a relationship, and she's scared I think.

I think really what it comes down to is just a fear of falling in love again and getting her heart broken again, not to mention the complication with her daughter. But, of course, her daughter is encouraging her to go for it.

Yeah, Lou's a great character.

Yeah. Yeah.

She's a chip off right off the old block, her mom and grandma.


The Three Darrow Women

And how is the mother/daughter relationship between Joanna and Claire changing?

I think they seem to be getting along much better, working well together, tolerating each other, respecting each other, working together. And that's, that's been also fun to play, in this episode especially.

An old colleague of Joanna's comes back and is asking for help and, and then winds up, through a series of events getting accused of murder, which is much bigger than the help she was asking for in the beginning.

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And Joanna has to decide if she wants to forgive her, because they have a painful history together, if she wants to forgive her and if we can represent her. And I, I of course want to represent her because I see that it's, it's unjust.

And so it's fun to have her, to team up with her on this and try to figure it out together. I have to fight Miles on it too. So we go head to head in court.

A Darrow Family Affair

Right. And that, that kind of also plays into how everything with their relationship changes.


What parts of Claire do you most identify with?

Well, I'm definitely not a lawyer. I'm so grateful that I'm not a lawyer because I get to just say these wonderful lines and sound brilliant, and nobody's life is at stake.

But I really respect lawyers who know what they're doing and can save innocent people from going to jail. So I don't relate to that part, but I love playing it. I guess I relate most to being a mother, and I also relate to, you know, what it's like to be with someone that's funny.

As far as like the Clara Miles' relationship, you know, I mean it's, it's fun to be in a relationship that's, that's based in humor and friendship and, and I think that's what Claire and Miles have.

Grilling a Witness

How do you balance being a mother and working at the same time?

Well, it's a constant balance. My kids are older now, and when they were younger, I did take a lot of time off so that I could be with them. I love being with them. I love being a mom, but then I also want to keep my career alive.

And so it becomes about getting them set up so they don't need me as much, which is bittersweet. And then, you know, it's a constant bouncing. I feel like I'm constantly trying to keep schedules in my mind and make sure they're covered and all of that, but it's so worth it.

It's so worth it to be able to be with them and then to go off and work and then come back together again. And I want them to do the same thing when they're grown. I want them to go do what they love and then come back and be with family. So it's important to me to have both.

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And you know, you, you're married to Brad Paisley obviously, and you're both celebrities. Yet your marriage seems grounded, and you're never like out there thrust into the crazy spotlight.

How have you managed to have a successful marriage in this business and still maintain your celebrity? What's your secret?

We don't go out into the crazy spotlight. We have a lot of normal downtime at home. You know, we play ping pong at night and we cook dinner. It's just very normal at home and we say no to a lot of things for the sake of time together.

Paisley Ping Pong Partners

Right. And you need to do that when you have a family.

Right, right.

So who's the better ping pong player?

Well we have names. There's Queen Pong when I'm winning, beating everyone, and then there's King Pong, if any of the boys are beating everybody. I have to say when we started, I was Queen Pong all the time. I beat all of them.

We started out the gate, and I was by far the best, and now they're all catching up to me. So it's not a done deal that I always beat them. I think Brad is becoming the best, and also Huck is extremely good. My oldest son, the 12-year-old is very good.

We started playing because we were in -- Clayton Kershaw, you know the Dodger pitcher -- he has a charity event that's ping pong, and Brad and I were being honored for doing our nonprofit, The Store, and we had to play ping pong in this tournament.

So about six months ago we started practicing. And the tournament has come and gone now, but now we just play for fun cause we love it.

Ping Pong for Charity

Oh, what can you tell me about your nonprofit?

Well it's called The Store, and we just broke ground. It's in Nashville, and it's a referral-based, free grocery store for people in need. We hope to open just after the beginning of the year. And the idea is that it's a temporary aid so that people can get back to self-sufficiency and get back on their feet.

We're trying to get people before they reach like a full-blown crisis. But there's so many people that, you know, for whatever reason have lost their job or they lose their house or they just find themselves on tough times, and we want to help them. So we've partnered with Belmont University.

Belmont is doing a ministry center that's going to be right next door to our grocery store, so we can share clients, and they're going to offer legal services and health services. And then we're going to be the food part. We'll offer will education as well.

Because we'll have a lot of people in the population that have diabetes and other health concerns, and we want to help support them as well.

Breaking Ground on The Store

I love it. What made you choose that as your particular nonprofit of choice?

Well the kids were acting a little spoiled one year around Thanksgiving and we live in Santa Barbara, California, some of the year. And so we found this place called Unity Shop there, and it was a similar model, and we just loved it. And the kids went in, and they immediately had jobs to do.

They were packing beans. They were stacking shelves. They were checking people out at the register. And we loved that it was service learning, so they were learning skills but they were also giving back. They were understanding the food needs of people and meeting new people, and it was Brad who said we have to bring this idea to Nashville.

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And that was probably like five years ago. It's been a long time in the making because you know, obviously, it's a lot of work to start a nonprofit. I say obviously, but I did not know; I did not know how much work it is. And had we known how much work it was, maybe we wouldn't have done it.

But I'm just teasing about that. We are so glad we did it. People have come out of the woodwork. We've gotten so much support. We just got a million and a half dollar grant from the state of Tennessee to do this.

Oh wonderful.

It's huge. Yeah.

Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams-Paisley Officially Break Ground For Free Grocery Site The Store

And will there be volunteer opportunities at The Store for people in the community to come by and help?

Absolutely. It's in the 12 South area, Edge Hill neighborhood. So it's an area of need, but it's also a pretty safe area. It was important to us that our volunteers feel safe as we do taking our kids to the Santa Barbara Unity Shop. Because that's a big part of it is we want -- to erase the margins and just all be in it together.

We at Unity Shop one time, and there was a woman walking down the aisle, and she saw my kids at the cash register, and she said, "Oh, I used to bring my boys here to volunteer and now she was having to use the service," and there was no shamAny of us could be in that kind of situation.

And we're all in this together. That's the feel of it. And we want it to feel like a community comfortable store. Like I've been in some of these places that'll give food for free and the ones I've been in seem kind of industrial looking or just kind of run down.

We want this one to be warm ,and Brad really wants a mechanical horse out front that kids can ride. My kids really thought it was very important to have free samples, like samples of cheese, like they do at Whole Foods. You know, that kind of community feel.

That is just so wonderful. That kind of makes my heart happy.

Yeah, mine too.

Joanna and Claire at Breakfast

So back to Darrow and Darrow! As the franchise continues, what are your hopes for Claire and Joanna? What would you like to see play out?

Well, I like seeing them team up on cases, so I'd love that. Of course, it's always good to have a little tension. They're very different. I think it'd be interesting to see if like Joanna got accused of something and Clara had to defend her.

I think that'd be an interesting twist. I don't know or to have Joanna have more of a relationship. We had her with the coach for a little while, and that was sweet, and it might be fun to see more of a full life for her.

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What if Claire got accused of something, and Joanna had to represent her?

Look, Claire is perfect, how could she possibly get accused of anything?

Watching the Crime Scene

Exactly. She's always the smartest woman in the room. That would really test the relationship and her faith in her mother.

That'd be great. Yeah, that'd be awesome.

And what are your hopes for Claire and Miles?

Well, I don't want to give away what happens, but I think I'd like to see them really commit to their relationship. And, and then what happens? How does it change their working relationship? How does it change their day-to-day lives?

You know, what steps do they take to commit to their relationship? I think that'll open up a whole new area to discover. Yeah, but it's also fun to fight him. So, I don't know. I guess we have to figure out what we like better.

I mean, it'd be fun if they're together as a couple, but yet they're always having to fight each other in court. That's kind of fun.

Arguments For and Against Each Other

Right. And have to meet that middle ground of how do you kind of help each other on cases without giving up your win. Because they're both fighting for justice.

Right. And all the things you can't talk about at home, you know, I think that'd be a great thing.

Right. And what's interesting is that their relationship, at first, was all about the law. So how would that change the closer they got? And they'd have to find things in common. And that could just kind of expand on them outside the courthouse.

Right. We've made that joke that when they go out, they don't know what to talk about besides law. So that'd be interesting.

Claire and Miles on a Date

And you were also on a couple episodes of The Flash. Did you work with Tom whenever you were on that? I didn't see those episodes.

Yeah, that was because of Tom, because when my kids came to visit the set, they said they were huge Flash fans, and so Tom said, "Oh bring them by."

And so we went, and the cast was so nice, and my kids had the best time. And then Tom said, "we should get you on the show." And I said, "Oh my gosh, I would do that in a heartbeat." So that was all orchestrated by Tom.

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He's such a great guy. Yeah, you guys have such a great cast. It must be so much fun.

It is. We're so lucky. And it really is. It's a great group.

And when you're sitting down with your family, what do you guys watch on television?

As a family, we'll watch movies. My kids are very much into the Marvel universe.

Paisleys at GOT Event

As they all are.

Yeah. So we'll watch movies together. Our favorite movie as a family is The Sandlot. And then Brad watches a lot of Dodger games, and then Brad and I watched Stranger Things. What else? We did the whole Game Of Thrones, which was crazy.

Sure, sure.

So we kind of go through phases.

But you don't let your kids watch Stranger Things?

I'm thinking they probably could. I think Huck could definitely watch it, and Jasper? I don't think it would be his thing. He probably wouldn't enjoy it as much. But I definitely think Huck could watch it. And we just wanted to watch it first.

Sure. I think that's great.

I also think he'd like the second season because the second season has so much humor in it. Did you see them?

I did. Yeah.

Yeah. So I think they're fun. Fun to relive the that time. Too. Cause I grew up during that time.

Yeah, as did I. It's so fun seeing it and seeing how kids respond to it now.

Mm-hmm. Well after watching Stranger Things, I remembered The Neverending Story. So I did show my kids Neverending Story, and they loved it.

Awe. It's so great that you can take that time to share all that of that with your family.

Oh yeah. I love it.

Kimberly Williams-Paisley 80s Dance Party Fundraiser

You're a pretty impressive woman with your career, the way you've raised your family and your marriage. What else is coming up for you?

Oh, you're so sweet, thank you. Well, I'm doing an Alzheimer's fundraiser event in Nashville on September 29th and some '80s dance party to raise money for research. So that's coming up, and we're really excited about that. We've got some great artists performing, and Brad comes. It's the third year we've done it.

Oh nice.

And so that's coming up September 29th in Nashville. And then, yeah, other than that... Oh, for Netflix, I've got an episode of Dolly Parton's anthology series. So I'm in the episode "Jolene," and that's coming out in November, I think.

Fun! It was very nice talking to you. You should be a role model for people today.

You're so kind. Thank you so much for saying that. I appreciate that.


Witness to Murder: A Darrow Mystery airs Sunday, September 8 at 9/8c on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. We also have an interview with Wendie Malick coming up, so keep an eye out for it!

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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