JoAnna Garcia Swisher uses the word "magical" multiple times over the course of our brunch interview, but consider this: She's a successful working actress, charismatic, and gorgeous, she's married to baseball player Nick Swisher, and they're parents to darling two-year-old daughter Emerson. Garcia Swisher's life is as seemingly as magical as they come. But with that good fortune comes responsibility and gratitude—both of which the 35-year-old is adamant about instilling in her daughter—and making a difference in the multiple cities she resides (yes, more on that in a second). In our third installment of Girl Talk, Garcia Swisher talks about her new role on The Astronaut Wives Club (premiering tonight on ABC), the day she met her husband, and what life was really like on the set of Gossip Girl.
Glamour: Needless to say, The Astronaut Wives Club is being primed to be one of the biggest hits of the summer. What can you preview about playing the real-life Betty Grissom?
JoAnna Garcia Swisher: Betty was strong, she was tough, she didn't mince words. She experiences the greatest tragedy [on the show]. She may have not had the best social graces, but she was who she was and to this day she is. You're going to get to know the legacy that I think Gus and Betty Grissom would be proud of. I had a few hours with [the real Betty Grissom and] it was amazing. She was so generous with her time.
Glamour: The costumes you get to wear are stunning! What were your favorites?
JoAnna: Eric Daman was the costume designer, and he also did Gossip Girl. He's beyond! I got to wear a vintage Oscar de la Renta dress and there was a lot of Pucci and all of these designers that were so iconic. It was really special.
Glamour: You cut your hair for The Astronaut Wives Club. Was that hard for you?
JoAnna: Hard! I was really attached to my mermaid hair! I had these Ariel locks, and it was so great. I knew I didn't want to wear a wig, so I cut a long bob and thought that would cut it if you put curls in it, but it just didn't. So I cut it more. You kinda have to for the period to get it right, so I just got used to it. Now I really like it, but I miss the long hair too.
Glamour: What's your favorite look from all the shows you've been on?
JoAnna: Goodness. I really would say Ariel on Once Upon a Time and also Astronaut Wives Club because it was a period piece and it was so special for that, but it was fun to be a mermaid!
Glamour: The Astronaut Wives Club filmed in New Orleans for almost six months, but you have a home in Cleveland because your husband plays for the Indians. You also live in Los Angeles. Where's home base?
JoAnna: [Laughs] We have four homes. Home base right now is Cleveland because it's during the season. We're gypsies, really. We kind of travel in a pack! We have four dogs and a horse, but the horse does not travel with us. The horse is here in L.A. There's also a home in Tampa, in the same neighborhood I grew up in. My parents are right down the road, and that's what we would consider home. That's where we like to spend most of our time and where we would like to eventually land. The fourth house is in Scottsdale, Arizona for Spring Training. I know, it's really ridiculous!
Glamour: You've embraced the baseball life. What stadiums do you love to visit?
JoAnna: Yankee Stadium. I love Citi Field too. Wrigley Field is amazing. And I love Fenway and the city of Boston. I've never been to Busch Stadium in St. Louis, but I really hope that we get a chance to go there.
Glamour: Since you grew up in Tampa, were you a total Busch Gardens girl?
JoAnna: I did zoo camp at Busch Gardens since that was more in my backyard! I even did a few commercials for them as a kid. I really love the animals [there], and Emme has that love for them as well. My husband is going to have a zoo as she grows up.
Glamour: At what age did you know you wanted to be an actress?
JoAnna: I knew I always loved it, but my parents did a really good job of making sure I had a lot of balance in my life. When I was younger, I was very much a working actress. I was on a Nickelodeon show for many years, and I did a lot of work in Florida, but I never felt that that was all there was to me. It wasn't until I went to college and my first year in college when I realized I really missed it.
Glamour: You moved to Los Angeles in the summer of 1998 and literally hit the ground running, didn't you?
JoAnna: Three days after I arrived, I got sent to North Carolina to do a made-for-TV movie with John Ritter, and then I was gone for six weeks. A week after I got back to L.A., I started doing the show Party of Five. I knew it was a bit unrealistic, but I was like, "OK, this is how it is here, right? This is what actors do!" I was just really fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and then it just steamrolled from there.
Glamour: After Party of Five, you starred in Reba as Reba McEntire's daughter. Were you a country music fan?
JoAnna: Oh yeah! When I was originally hired for the show, Reba hadn't been cast yet. She was starring in Annie Get Your Gun on Broadway, so we weren't sure if she was going to be able to do it. The show was called Sally at the time. It was a spec script that was just sold to the WB. When I found out that she was being considered for the role and wanted to do it, I was like, "Oh my gosh, this is a dream come true!" Having no idea of what a multi-camera comedy meant, I was totally naive. We shot the pilot two ways [once Reba was hired]. We shot the pilot where she played Sally and then the character of Reba. And we were like, "There's no other show where she could be anyone other than Reba." She's a queen.
Glamour: Reba was also a bridesmaid at your wedding. Not bad!
JoAnna: Yes! And Melissa Peterman, who played Barbara Jean, was also a bridesmaid. Chris Rich, who played my dad on Reba, married Nick and me. So yeah, it goes without being said how special everyone is.
Glamour: You were on Gossip Girl in a recurring role. What actress and character from the show would have been your BFF in real life?
JoAnna: Probably Serena, but I like the heart and bitchiness of all of them! [Laughs] Except Michelle Trachtenberg's character, who was just an absolute devil! Although almost everyone I could find a good side in. As for an actress, everyone was so incredible to me. Blake [Lively] was just gorgeous and wonderful and lovely. I loved Leighton [Meester]. Everyone truly opened their arms to me. But I would say Jessica Szohr. She's just a dreamboat of a girl. She's so lovely. Everyone was just so freaking cool to me and nice. Then I ended up meeting my husband because of that show since I had to move to New York.
Glamour: How did you and Nick meet?
JoAnna: We were set up by a mutual friend. When I moved to New York, he heard I was going there to do Gossip Girl and [our friend] said, "I know this guy that just got traded to the Yankees this season." I said, "OK, give him my number, and I'll introduce him to all my friends. I have a ton of friends in New York!" I was never thinking about dating him. I mean, I was going to make out with Chase Crawford for a whole summer! I was just going to have fun in New York. I met Nick three days after I landed, and 10 months later we were engaged. It was pretty instant.
Glamour: What did you and Nick do on your first date?
JoAnna: The Yankees were playing the Mets, so he called me and asked if I liked baseball. I went, and he had a great game. I didn't realize he had a great game, but now that I know more [about baseball], he did! [Laughs] [After] I was waiting outside the hall where the family members wait, and this was the first time I was going to meet him. He was wearing ripped jeans, a bedazzled T-shirt with dog tags, and a mohawk, and I thought, "Oh my gosh, where does this guy get his clothes?!" I think he had a skull ring on and a leather wristband.
Glamour: Why couldn't he actually take you out instead of having you come to the game? Or did he want to just show off?
JoAnna: Well, he didn't have any days off, so he said, "If you want to come to the game and we can hang out after, that would be great." So I said sure. I'm sure he didn't think it would hurt his chances to play a baseball game [in front of me]. He had driven to the stadium, so we went back to his apartment to drop his car off and decided to have a cocktail there.
JoAnna: We literally talked—nothing else but talked for four hours till the wee hours of the morning. I was so impressed by him. He was super humble, but he also had this cocky flair about him, which I really love. He's such a genuinely great person. He talked about what he wanted out of life and his picture of what his life would look like. It was all so magical! It was one of those moments where you meet the right person at the right time, and maybe it wouldn't have worked five years ago because we still had some living to do...
Glamour: Although it sounds like you'e doing more living now than ever before!
JoAnna: 100%! Yeah, just a different kind of living! It was just one of the moments where...he said, "I know I'm a ballplayer and there's a negative connotation to that, and I'll never disrespect you and I won't play games with you. I want to date you and I want to date only you."
Glamour: This was all on the first night?!
JoAnna: This was the second week we were dating. He's like, "I'm going to change my phone number. I want everything from my past to go away. I want it just to be about you and me, and I want to prove to you that that's what it's going to be." He was just so certain of what he wanted, and he was going to be the man that I would want to be married to. He was like, "I know you are probably dating other people. I am no longer dating anybody else. I'm just dating you."
Glamour: Were you dating anybody else?
JoAnna: Oh God, yes! [Laughs] But everything fell away. It was just instantly—this guy is all in, and so was I. We were instantly a couple. Instantly. And I did tell him I loved him before he said it to me.
Glamour: Tell me how that happened.
JoAnna: It happened accidentally. We were in Toronto, and I was really overwhelmed in the moment. We were on a road trip together, and I just blurted it out. He's like, "What did you just say?" and I said, "I love you." He said it back right away, but he likes to hold that over my head!
Glamour: Earlier you mentioned making out with Chase Crawford for the entire summer on Gossip Girl. Did you guys ever date?
JoAnna: No! Chase has always been a friend. I was just joking before because he's so dreamy and sweet. By the way, Chase is the real deal. He's incredibly real, incredibly well read, into sports, gorgeous. He's the total package. But there was nothing romantic there. He was just a fun friend, but I joke about that I was in New York to date Chase Crawford and didn't expect to meet my husband!
Glamour: Based on what you know now, what relationship advice would you give to Emme when she's older?
JoAnna: I'd say, "Don't be afraid to make mistakes and always respect yourself." I say this to a lot of my friends, but what's the worst that can happen? If you want to be all in and fall head over heels in a matter of minutes, then go for it. Obviously be safe and be protective of your body and your heart, but I feel like nobody can disrespect you unless you really allow them to.
Glamour: Your dad is a gynecologist, so that must have been interesting growing up...
JoAnna: My dad blocked out for a good portion of my [teen years]. [Laughs] My dad was so great at letting me be exactly who I was and helping me through all of it. He also set the bar really high for what to expect in a marriage and a relationship and a friendship with my mom. My parents are celebrating 44 years of marriage. It's an incredible blessing, and there's a sense of commitment that my dad always instilled.
Glamour: Do you give your girlfriends a lot of advice?
JoAnna: I've seen a lot of my girlfriends get married in their early 40s and wondered throughout their 30s if they were going to have children, and I've always said, "There's no right time or right formula." I understand there's that desire to have that relationship, I totally get it. But life with the right situation is way better than having somebody in it that's not the right situation. I think that the love and friendship that I have with my father really gave me inherently an example of what a relationship with a man should be. My father adores me and always picks up the phone when I call, and he loves me through it all and exactly for who I am, the good and the bad, and that sense of security made it very easy for me to acknowledge when something was really good. I don't want Emme to be afraid of making mistakes. I want her to love hard and love with reckless abandon and live these love stories—and obviously be very careful and very safe and cautious.
Glamour: Speaking of gynecology, how's this for a transition: You were on The Mindy Project last season. What was that like?
JoAnna: It was the best! They are hilarious. It was actually very intimidating in a weird way because most of my career has been spent in comedy. But there is such a camaraderie there and such a chemistry that I was super nervous, but then almost instantly it was all washed away. Ike Barinholtz is a dreamboat. Chris Messina is hilarious. He's so sweet too. And Mindy [Kaling] is ridiculously amazing.
Glamour: When you're not on a set or on an airplane, you're really big into animal rescue. What prompted you to start that?
JoAnna: My bleeding heart. I can't imagine any animal being mistreated. I would take them all in if I could. I just love animals, and the idea of being able to protect and rescue something that has been mistreated or needs a home is something that resonates with me. We work with all different kinds, even in Cleveland. I rescued this kitty cat in New Orleans from underneath a car on the side of a road. My daughter and my parents were with me, so my dad held on to Emme, and I was hearing this little kitty moaning under the car and couldn't leave without it. My whole day was shot, but it didn't matter. I spent a few hours underneath this car, covered in soot, and this young man helped me rescue her. She ended up having a broken femur, and I took her to the vet. We had to get her surgery, but we ended up finding a home for her.
Glamour: Kudos to you. That's wonderful.
JoAnna: I just want my daughter to take the time to do those things. We can all get so busy in life, and there's nothing wrong with that, but being able to be in the moment. If there's someone in need, take the time to say hello, see how they are, give a smile, whatever it may be. Just slow down life a little bit and take it all and live your life with a lot of gratitude.
The Astronaut Wives Club premieres tonight on ABC at 9 p.m. ET.
Photos: Cook Allender/ABC; Jessica Radloff
- ^ JoAnna Garcia Swisher (www.glamour.com)
- ^ Girl Talk (www.glamour.com)
- ^ Cecconi's (www.cecconiswesthollywood.com)
- ^ Blake [Lively] (www.glamour.com)
- ^ Leighton [Meester] (www.glamour.com)
- ^ The Mindy Project (www.glamour.com)
- ^ Ike Barinholtz (www.glamour.com)
- ^ Chris Messina (www.glamour.com)
- ^ Mindy [Kaling] (www.glamour.com)
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