Lyndsy Fonseca always knew that she was born to be a performer. After spending her early years at multiple professional dance studios in California, Fonseca, who struggled to fit in at a middle school that had a poor arts program, was looking for a new creative outlet when her mother suggested that she try acting.
“I was coming out to L.A. for auditions — I was so naive, so green, so new — and I just loved it,” the 34-year-old actress recalls in a recent phone interview with Observer. “It was just like a really immediate love.”
That love intensified when Fonseca landed her first television role at the age of 14 on the long-running CBS daytime soap opera The Young and the Restless, where she played Colleen Carlton from 2001 to 2005. The show not only marked Fonseca’s coming-of-age as an actor but also defined her later teenage years.
“I was homeschooled on the set, and I remember being young and everyone being like, ‘Well, aren’t you sad that you’re gonna miss prom? Don’t you miss being a kid?’ And I was just like, ‘No, I don’t!’” she says with a laugh. “I get to go and be expressive and do this thing that I love, and I finally felt like I found my purpose in life, and it wasn’t in school.”
We would do 30 pages a day. On a film, you’re doing three pages a day. On television, you’re doing seven pages a day.
Since then, Fonseca has built up a steady number of screen credits in the last two decades, including a main role on The CW’s Nikita and recurring roles on the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother and the ABC comedy-drama series Desperate Housewives. But it’s perhaps her latest project, Turner & Hooch, that might prove to be her most family-friendly — and most slobbery! — project yet.
Based on the 1989 film of the same name that starred Tom Hanks and created by Matt Nix, the new Disney+ series follows a young U.S. Deputy Marshal named Scott Turner (Josh Peck) who inherits and eventually teams up with an unruly dog who seems dead set on destroying his promising career. While training his new canine partner to work with the Marshals, Scott pairs up with his animal-loving sister, Laura (Fonseca), to investigate a mysterious case that their father (Hanks) was working on before he died.
In a wide-ranging interview, Fonseca opens up about the roles that have defined her career, reuniting with Peck — one of her oldest friends in the industry — in front of the camera, and the “dream” cameo that she and Peck want to see in their new Disney+ original series.
Observer: Given how young and green you were when you joined The Young and the Restless, how formative was the experience of working on a soap opera as you worked to hone your craft as an actor?
Lyndsy Fonseca: I just recently did this feature film called Spinning Gold, and there was another actress on the movie — her name’s Peyton List — and she’s like me. She started in soap operas at around the exact same age. I was saying to her, “It’s just so great to work with someone who grew up just like me. [We spent] our high school years on a soap opera. It is so unique.”
When it’s your first job like that, you don’t know how much the workload is. We would do 30 pages a day. On a film, you’re doing three pages a day. On television, you’re doing seven pages a day. So 30 pages a day, or whatever the heck I was doing, on The Young and the Restless was so insane. But when it’s the only thing you know, you rise to the occasion, especially when you’re young. You’re like, “If this is what I have to do to do this job, then great, I’ll do it!” And so because of that, it was this great jumping-off point to be like, “Oh, the work and the material is never going to be too much, because of where I started from.”
You must get asked this all the time, but when you signed on to film How I Met Your Mother, you also had to sign a confidentiality agreement, which kept you from revealing the ending for a very long time. Were you at all surprised by the sustained success of the show, or the fact that you had to keep this big secret for close to a decade?
Oh yeah, I had no idea that was gonna be the 10-year plan for my life. Obviously, I was in the pilot and expected to be called in throughout the show. [But] what happened was David Henrie, who plays my brother, was younger than me and he was going through puberty. We couldn’t continue on with that storyline without him growing into a man. It was happening so fast before our eyes, so we “stock-footaged” everything. Everything was sort of time capsuled, and we [shot] so much footage that the creators just decided to make up to be able to put in throughout the years.
At the time, when we signed confidentiality agreements on the set, we didn’t know if the show would [last] a year, two years, three years. I think never in anyone’s wildest dreams, when you’ve been doing this for so long, do you expect a show to last almost 10 years. So by the time the series finale happened, David and I did this skit for Comic-Con one year, and I was like, “I don’t even remember!” I kept the secret for so long, and I never even told my own mother. I was so terrified to let the secret get away that I just forgot who our mother was, and David had to tell me! If someone had asked me to tell them and I was tortured in a basement somewhere, I would have been the best undercover agent because I never would have given the secret away. (Laughs.)
Fans could recognize you from any number of projects, but I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about Nikita. Looking back, besides the fact that you met your husband [Noah Bean] on that show, what are some of your fondest memories from working with that cast?
Gosh, it was a really great cast. Aaron Stanford and my husband went on to do [the television series] 12 Monkeys together because they loved working with each other so much. Aaron is a great friend. Shane West and I are like brother and sister; it was a really great relationship. And Melinda [Clarke] was so fun, not at all like her evil “Amanda” self. (Laughs.)
I knew how lucky I was in the moment, but even more now in reflection, I think honestly the biggest takeaway from that show was being able to do all of those fight choreography sequences. As a former trained dancer, it was an absolute delight. I miss it so much. The fight choreographers and stunt trainers show you the fight with the [stunt] doubles, and you learn the choreography — and it was a show, so we didn’t have any prep time. I would go into work that day and have to learn stuff most of the time, so the challenge of learning these intricate fight sequences, and just feeling strong and [like] an empowered woman was something that was so cool about the show. Maggie [Q] and I were these strong women with this great onscreen bond, and that sort of physicality was such an amazing gift. I’m so grateful for that opportunity to be able to do that.
We’re fully announcing to the world: “Tom, come on the show! Do a flashback with us! Do a dream sequence!”
Do you still keep in touch with any of your other co-stars?
I do, [but] I travel so much with my family now. We’re friends with Aaron Stanford and his wife, although we haven’t seen each other since before the pandemic. We also keep in touch with Shane. But we’re never in the same city. We’re always filming in separate locations, so it’s really hard to keep in touch with people. But yes, I do keep in touch with everyone. Obviously, I married Noah, so… I see and speak with him every day. (Laughs.)
How did you first get involved with Turner & Hooch? Were you at all familiar with the original film?
I saw the original film as a kid. I was too young to see it when it came into theaters, but I do remember watching it, and I had fond memories of it. They asked me to come in and read with Josh because that chemistry was really important. I knew that I liked, what I guess you would call, the source material — I thought it was something that I was ready for, especially being a new mom. When we started Turner & Hooch, because we were supposed to shoot this before the pandemic, I had just barely a two-year-old. So I had taken some time off to be a mom, and I really wanted a schedule that was light. I didn’t want to be the No. 1 on the show. I wanted to do something that my kid could watch. It was just the right timing for all of it.
And the icing on the cake was that Josh Peck was our No. 1! I knew him when we were, like, 14 years old. We lived in the same apartment complex with our moms, traveling for auditions, like one of those corporate housing [buildings] that actors stay in. Years later, we did Grandfathered together. I did a few episodes on that show with him and [John] Stamos. I was just like, “Are you kidding me? Josh?!” I just loved him so much, and it was a very easy chemistry read. It felt very at home. I already felt like he was my brother. I felt like it was one of those jobs where everything came into place and was meant to be.
Would you say there is a mutual understanding there, given that you both started your careers at such young ages?
Oh yeah. Josh and I get it, and Josh also had a lot of fame at a very young age. We’ve both been doing this for a long time. My husband is also a lot like the [other] actors on Turner & Hooch that I work with that went to theater school, that went to college to do plays and learn Shakespeare. They become professional actors as adults, [and] that’s a normal trajectory. So, when you work with someone like Josh and I who knew each other when we were 14 years old and have been around so long — with the ups and downs and with our moms as our business managers at one point — it’s sort of just like you have another language that you speak.
Laura is an extremely affable and loving sister and mother, who is trying to become a veterinarian and co-parent with her ex-husband. There are clearly these themes of family and legacy, so what was it about this character or this show in general that you saw in the initial sides that really spoke to you?
When I had the first material for the pilot, it was very much in my world because I was a new mom and much of Laura’s introduction to the show in the first two episodes is this juggling [of] single parenthood [as] a working mother and all the animals. Her plate is too full, and I felt like that and I could understand that.
But Matt Nix, our creator, really made it clear to me early on that that’s not all Laura was gonna be, that this was a dynamic person who’s going to get involved in the events surrounding their father’s death — and [this mystery] gives her purpose. So that was something that made me very enticed in Laura’s story. I wasn’t just gonna play tired. I wasn’t just gonna play the loving sister that I was gonna have something to work through. As a mom, when you’re just trying to survive, it is totally true that that’s just not everything we’re doing. We have these passions, we have these interests, and I thought it was beautifully written that she could understandably lose herself in parenting and then have this thing that brings her back to [her] purpose that isn’t just about her kid, which I think is a very universal situation.
We have to have three pairs of pants to switch it out for the drool and all that stuff.
Josh has a lot of scenes with the five dogs that play Hooch, but you have certainly gotten your fair share of scenes with the canines. What are the biggest challenges of working with such beautiful — but extremely big and drool-y — dogs?
As the season went on, I remembered I actually have a vivid memory of my elbow joint going out and I remember texting Josh, being like, “Dude, I don’t know how you do this every day.” There’s plenty of stunts on the show, but I’m not fighting every day, I’m not doing stunt choreography every day. But any episodes that I had Hooch for more than normal, I felt it in my body. They are very strong dogs! It takes time to get used to it, and that’s part of the comedy — the physicality. What’s so fun is you get to play with the humor of it with Hooch pulling the leash and your body getting yanked in one direction or another. And again, we have to have three pairs of pants to switch it out for the drool and all that stuff.
What can you preview about this freshman season of Turner & Hooch? How will Scott and Laura’s journey to discovering the truth about their father’s death bring them closer together?
Well, I think any sibling can relate to life as an adult with a sibling. You just get really busy with your own life, and you can lose touch with your sibling. But they just lost their father, and I think a lot of family members can relate to what happens after a parent’s death and how that can be very complicated for the relationship of a brother and sister. So, in this first season, you see how they’re sort of checking in with each other and living separate lives. And as the season continues, Laura does not let Scott off the hook as far as knowing she’s on to something that does not smell right, and it is her way of dealing with closure over her father’s death. She discovers files; she discovers a separate investigation her father was doing. She needs Scott’s help as a U.S. Marshal, and it’s not just about the work. It’s about their bond and their relationship, and it’s really sweet to see how they tackle this and have closure over their father and have this mission that they have to solve.
Would you be open to a Tom Hanks cameo in a flashback?
Oh yeah, Josh and I are not shy about that. (Laughs.) We’re fully announcing to the world: “Tom, come on the show! Do a flashback with us! Do a dream sequence!” I think the showrunner and the creatives involved on the other side of the camera have done a really great job of honoring the film, so hopefully, he’ll be down to do it. He knows what it’s like to be a parent. This is about being able to watch a show with your kids and everyone being entertained, so I hope he does. That would be the ultimate dream.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Turner & Hooch premieres on Disney+ July 21 with a new episode to be released every Wednesday.