'Baby Daddy' Star Melissa Peterman On Being an Over 40 Woman in Hollywood & Embracing Feminism
She got her start as Hooker #2 in Fargo. Then, she became known as the crazy "homewrecker" alongside one of the most beloved and popular country singer's aka Reba McEntire on Reba. Now, she's recognized for playing the hilarious Bonnie Wheeler, on ABC Family's Baby Daddy . That's right, I'm talking about actress Melissa Peterman. Before Thanksgiving (now that's something to be thankful for) I was lucky enough to chat with Peterman about her career, feminism, and being an over 40 actress in Hollywood today — all of which she embraces wholeheartedly.
As Baby Daddy and Bonnie Wheeler fans know, Peterman plays a mother of two, a grandmother, and a woman exuding large amounts confidence. The love and self-confidence she welcomes showcases two out of the many reasons everyone should be watching Peterman in action. As for the actress, Peterman loves portraying Bonnie, and as she says, "What I love about her is she’s a 40-something grandmother, mother of two, divorced, [and] a little bit loud. She has a little bit of baggage, but she is the most confident woman in the world." She continues:
She walks into a room and there could be the 30-something handsome guy, and she’s like, ‘Why wouldn’t he want to come to Bonnie town?’ She walks into a room and has so much confidence in herself that it’s such a joy to play somebody who’s like...she believes she’s a catch. I think that’s such a great thing to have on TV for women, for anyone.
How can you not love a character like Bonnie — a strong, independent woman who stays true to who she is and is unapologetic for her ways? She's one of many admired feminist characters on TV today. But does Peterman view Bonnie as a feminist? "Oh, for sure," she concurs. "Absolutely she is, because she expects to be [treated as equal]. She is more than equal is what she [would say]. Instead of just wanting equality, she believes she’s actually better (laughs)."
Per Peterman, Bonnie will never apologize or change for anyone, especially a man. "She wouldn’t change her personality, her expectations, or anything for a man. She fights for what she believes in. She doesn’t need validation from men." Peterman shares a lot of qualities with her character, one being feminism. She definitely sees herself as a feminist. However, she doesn't want others to be dissuaded by the word "feminism" or "feminist." It's not a negative one, but rather something we should all embrace and use respectfully.
"Sometimes I think people react to that word in a way that they shouldn’t, because it really means a strong, confident woman that expects to be treated equally." She adds:
I think there are people who can react to that word and think ‘Oh it means you don’t like men, or you’re a man hater.’ I don’t think people know the real definition of the word is strong, confident women that do expect equality, and they make no apologies for demanding equal respect, equal pay, and celebrate those [gender] differences too. Just because there are differences between genders, it’s about the value of those differences as well.
But those difference sometimes come out in negative ways in the entertainment biz. Not only are women more highly scrutinized for their appearance and weight than men are, but their ages also play a huge factor in Hollywood. But 43-year-old Peterman isn't buying into all that: She thinks every woman should not try to hide their age or pretend aging isn't happening. For her, "it doesn't matter if you started out as Heidi Klum or whatever," but women shouldn't "put all the value on what [they] look like and how old [they] are."
Beautifully and bravely, she embraces her size and having a "muffin top." She reveals,
I’ve been very lucky that I’ve been on TV, and I’ve been a lot of different sizes and ages. I’ve been pregnant and fake pregnant. I’ve been at a point where I felt really healthy and like how I looked, which is very rare for women at anytime. And, there’s been times where I haven’t. I’ve been really lucky that I’ve never not worked or been told I have to change what I look like to be on TV. I am almost like 6-feet tall and I’m an Amazon and I can’t pretend to be this petite, tiny, little thing. Even at my smallest I ever was I still looked like a football player. So, I celebrated it. I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m tall, so guess what, I’m going to go on an audition and I’m going to wear heels and be like the tallest of tall,’ because I can’t change me [not] being short. I can’t change [not] being little. So I celebrated it. I do think as you get older you should let things go. It’s like, ‘Yeah, I got a muffin top. I’ve earned it, and it was super fun making it. (laughs) It’s awesome, and I don’t want to give back those breads and carbs. I like them.’
She doesn't want everyone to think that it's easy being carefree and ignoring the sometimes shaming of women for their looks, age, and size. "It is hard, and I’m not gonna lie that there are pressures on, especially women, in the industry," Peterman says, adding,
Men can be 60 and still get a leading lady who’s 23, and no one blinks. It does exist, but I’ve always been known to be funny too and funny doesn’t age, I hope. If you’re funny, you’re funny. I sort of always relied on that, and was like, ‘Well, at least I’m funny and I play [funny] characters, so it doesn’t matter if I’m not a size two or I may have some crows feet or whatever. Beauty is really about confidence.
Peterman feels blessed to be playing a woman over 40, who isn't the "sidekick or the best friend of the best friend," and she thanks Baby Daddy creator Dan Berendsen for that. Bonnie is a 40-something woman snagging the 30-something guy. The best part? Not only does Bonnie get that guy pretty much every time, but she also expects to get him and won't let anyone tell her otherwise. "She walks in a room thinking she is the biggest and best catch in that room," Peterman says.
I don't know about you, but Peterman just became that much more cooler and beautiful in my eyes. I'm upgrading my fan status to full-fledged fan-girl. With that said, be sure to catch Peterman in action on Wednesday, Dec. 10 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC Family for the holiday-themed Baby Daddy episode.
Images: Bruce Birmelin (2)/ABC Family; kinneyobrien (4)/Tumblr