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Mommie Coolest
by Betty Jo Tucker

When I told two of my middle-school age grandchildren that I would be interviewing Lizzie McGuire’s mother, they exclaimed in unison, "She’s so cool!" But Hallie Todd, the skilled actress who portrays Mrs. Jo McGuire in Disney’s television series and upcoming movie confessed, "The coolness is not all me."

Although Todd said she’d like to be as cool as Lizzie’s mom, she admits the show’s producers, writers, and director have designed it to be what it is, and she’s "just an actress playing a role." Still, while talking with me on the phone, she was also folding the laundry – "multi-tasking" she called it. And Todd, the real-life mother of a 9-year-old daughter named Ivy, explained how much she has learned about being a better mom as a result of her work on Lizzie McGuire, a show infused with family values.

"Playing Lizzie’s mom has helped prepare me for having a teenager," she stated. "I know you can’t know until you’re there – but I’m learning from my interactions with Lizzie and by watching Hilary (Duff) with her parents. One thing the show does confirm is that kids – teenagers – need to have accountability and boundaries. They want them no matter how much they scream and yell about it."

Todd recognizes the difficulties involved in being a parent. "You want to be the good guy. In my TV marriage, we take turns – one being sensitive, one being strict – even though the mother is more overprotective, sometimes coming across as a ‘mom with a mission.’ In my own personal life, I’m the more lenient one. But I’ve learned from my character how to be a bit less lenient."

The house Lizzie’s mom runs on the TV show is so well-organized, so together, it has made Todd ask herself how she can improve. "I swear to God it’s been a huge influence," she exclaimed enthusiastically. And I believed her, especially when she mentioned the Home Management Product she and her husband are developing to help others in this area.

Speaking highly of her Lizzie McGuire colleagues, Todd said she "couldn’t ask for a better TV husband than Robert Carradine – he’s a lot of fun to work with." And she described Hilary Duff, who plays Lizzie, as talented and personable. "She’s got an energy that lights up on camera or off," said the proud TV mom. "I don’t want to give anything away about the movie, but at the end of the film, she looks like a princess. The little girls will enjoy it – and so will the little boys."

The Lizzie McGuire movie, released by Walt Disney Films, opened nationwide on May 2. I’ve seen the previews – and, in the words of my grandchildren, it looks "so cool."

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