Parents can be really embarrassing and actress Nikki DeLoach is no stranger to that. On MTV's Awkward, DeLoach plays Lacey Hamilton, Jenna's (Ashley Rickards) forever-young mom who's still trying to live the dream. Case in point: she ditches the soccer mom stereotype for T-shirts so tight they'd make any child cringe and forgoes college to use the cash for a boob job.
In real life, DeLoach couldn't be further from the notoriously high-maintenance and irresponsible parent she plays. Deloach actually missed our first scheduled interview to attend a "baby breakdown emergency." In other words, she's got her priorities straight.
Ahead of tomorrow's Awkward mid-season finale, DeLoach took some time to speak to us about the hit MTV series, her days on Mickey Mouse Club alongside Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera, and what it was like opening for Britney Spears.
How did you land the role of Lacey Hamilton?
When the audition came through, I had passed on it about two or three times. I thought I was too young. [Laughs.] That year, for pilot season, I had been going in to play the roles of moms and every time I would go in, casting directors would say, “She’s not old enough to play a mom.” I got this role [as Lacey], mom of a 15-year-old and I said, "I’m not even wasting my time. I’m not going in." Finally my agent said, "Nikki, they said that they know how old you are. They really want you to go in."
How has playing Lacey affected your role as a mother?
Playing Lacey has taught me a lot of things and one of those things is that you learn from your kids as much as they learn from you. Lacey and Jenna have the dynamic that sometimes Jenna is the adult in the scenario. You learn about patience and you learn a lot about who you are. I’m the mom of a seven-month-old and I’ve learned a lot about who I am. Some of it good, some of it not so good. [Laughs.]
What’s the biggest difference between Lacey and yourself?
We’re so totally completely different. I’m a country girl. I was raised on a farm. I’d rather be barefoot or with boots and jeans on and have a Coors light in my hand and Lacey is Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The one thing we have alike that I think grounds Lacey as a person is the fact that her heart is so big and she is so well-intentioned. She has an inadequate skill set sometimes, but she always means well.
How has your relationship with the cast grown over the course of the show?
I’ve been in this business long enough to know the magic that has happened from the cast and the show doesn’t happen all the time. Desi Lydic, who plays Val, is one of my best friends. Jillian Rose Reed lives down the street from me and is over at my house all the time. It’s going to be so hard one day when the show ends! The fact that we won’t go to work and see each other every day. I just don’t want to think about that right now.
What do you and Jillian do for fun when she visits?
These days she comes over and hangs out with my child. [Laughs.]
We spoke to Jillian awhile back and she told us about behind-the-scenes pranking. Is that still a thing?
We haven’t actually had a lot of pranking this season. It used to happen a lot because of Brett Davern, who plays Jake. He’s the set prankster.
Do you remember any big pranks?
Brett and Jillian blew up a million balloons and shoved them all inside my car and posted signs all along the outside of it. [Laughs.] I literally could not get my car. I just got rid of the car last year, but I was still finding balloons in it like a year later.
What can we expect for the rest of season?
It’s senior year and this season we’re taking it all the way up to spring break and it’s just a lot of fun senior activities. Of course there is the Matty and Jenna drama. Will they be together? Will they not be together? It’s really fun. Last year, the show followed Jenna on this dark path. This season we brought back a lot of the fun of the show.
How would you say Awkward influences teens alongside other shows like Faking It that tackle tough subjects, but ultimately relay a positive message?
Awkward is in a class all its own, compared to any other teen shows on television. From day one, it was really important for our creators and our writers to not only bring the funny, but to also bring the tears. As much as 15-year-olds want to laugh, they also want to cry and they want to feel understood and they don’t want to feel alone. Awkward does that in such an authentic way. Yes, there’s a lot of comedy and some situations are heightened because it's TV, but in general people love the show because it feels genuine.
Playing Lacey has taught me a lot of things and one of those things is that you learn from your kids as much as they learn from you.
You were also on the Mickey Mouse Club. Were there certain members of the cast that brought out the best in you?
If I was doing a skit with comedy, Lindsey Alley and Rhona Bennett were always so much fun to work with. I loved performing with Matt [Morris] and Justin [Timberlake] because they were such good dancers and such good singers. Everyone was so talented that they all taught you something about being an entertainer.
Did you look up to any artists at the time for inspiration?
I looked up to everyone, including the kids younger than me. How can you hear Christina Aguilera sing and not be in awe and be inspired by that? I knew I had my own thing going on, meaning, I was never going to have a voice like Christina. There were things I knew that were not me.
What was it like breaking away from MMC and forming your music group, Innosense?
It was a little bit darker, to be honest. The music business wasn’t for me, but I loved some of the experiences I got to have. I got to tour the country and tour so many parts in Europe and I got to live in Germany. I got to play Madison Square Garden and open for Britney [Spears] and N*SYNC. It was an amazing time and at the end of the day, the way our group ended was really sad. Lou Pearlman had signed us, Backstreet Boys, N*SYNC, and everyone. Groups who had already achieved a certain level of success by the time Lou’s schemes and scams had been found out were able to continue to have success and groups that hadn’t lost their record contracts because of what he was doing. Now he’s in jail. I look back and I’m grateful it ended when it did because I feel it was just supposed to be this small part of my life and I was supposed to grow and learn and have some great experiences and just move on.
What was it like opening for Britney and N*SYNC? How crazy were the fans?
It was incredible! I love to perform. That’s why I went into the music industry. With that said, performing in front of 60,000 people who are all N*SYNC fans or Britney fans, that’s like performing on steroids. Not many people get to do that. It was an amazing time to be on tour with two huge pop groups who were experiencing unheard of levels of fame and popularity at the time.
Interview by Debbie Encalada (@DebbieOE)