Josie Bissett: The Girl Next Door

A typical day in the life of actress Josie Bissett involves more carpools than red carpets, more peanut butter sandwiches than paparazzi and more rainy Northwest days than California sunshine — and she wouldn’t want it any other way. Days with her kids Mason, 9, and Maya, 6, usually go something like this:

“Breakfast, school, sports, navigating how to get them to two different places at the same time, homework, make dinner, make lunches and lastly, my favorite time with them, relaxing together before bed,” Josie said.

And after they finally fall asleep, her mind is still racing.
“I lay there and think about the day,” she said. “Was I a good enough mom today? What’s up with Maya’s sassy pants attitude this week and what do I do about it? Is Mason’s cough normal or could it be something more serious? Did I forget anything? Piano lesson, check! Did I refrain from hugging my son at school because he no longer allows it? Check! Whew, off to sleep and then up for more of the same tomorrow!”

Josie is so down-to-earth, friendly and genuine it would be easy to forget you’re talking to a famous model and actress if she wasn’t so mesmerizingly stunning. Perhaps best known for her role as complicated Jane Andrews Mancini on “Melrose Place” and now as mom Kathleen Bowman on the hit show “The Secret Life of The American Teenager,” Josie doesn’t have a bit of diva in her.

She really is like the girl next door, figuratively and literally. She grew up in Kent with two supportive parents and a huge extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins. “My favorite summer memory is inner-tubing down the Snoqualmie River. My grandma had a cabin on the river and we would spend summer days picking blackberries and floating down the river with my cousins,” she said.

When Josie turned 13, she enrolled in a modeling school in Seattle that also focused on fashion and acting. She wanted to be a fashion designer, but soon was the one in front of the camera modeling the clothes. When she was 16, she was asked by the agency if she wanted to go work in Japan. “I was a hard-headed kid. Nowadays we call it ‘an ambitious and determined child,’” she said. “I convinced my parents and teachers into letting me go and that was essentially the beginning of my career in the entertainment industry.” After Japan she headed to L.A. and her acting career began.

While in L.A., she met and married actor Rob Estes, who also had worked on Melrose Place and currently is playing dad Harry Mills on “Beverly Hills 90210.” They were married for 13 years. Even though they split, they share custody of their children and choose to make their homes in Bellevue.

“I think the Northwest is one of the most beautiful places in the world,” Josie said. “We get mountains, water, four mild seasons and an amazing city with great restaurants and culture. I lived in L.A. for 16 years and the sun shines about every day there. I know that might sound like heaven to some people, but I missed the fall and winter so much.“Many traditions and memories are based around the seasons; I wanted my kids to experience that.” They chose the Eastside specifically because of the great schools and strong sense of community, she added.

Making It Work
Josie gave birth to Mason about five months after her seven-year career on “Melrose Place” came to an end. She became interested in another art — writing. “I really began a new chapter in my life,” she said. “I wanted to be home with my kids but still have a creative outlet. Writing allowed for that and I find it to be incredibly fulfilling.”

Her first book, “Little Bits of Wisdom,” was inspired when she began enrolling “myself and my adorable gassy little newborn into all sorts of mommy-and-me groups in search for some ‘What do I do now?’ conversations,” she said. “I quickly realized the power of parents sharing advice and wisdom with other parents.” The book is a collection of “tried and true” parenting tips she collected from real parents around the world.

Her second inspirational parenting book, “Making Memories,” is what she wrote after asking parents around the world to share wonderful memories they created with their children and how they did it.

Her newest book, “Tickle Monster,” is for kids and parents. It happened by accident when she was tickling her son when he was two. “The story just kinda flew out of my mouth,” she said. “After putting him to sleep, I quickly wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget!”

“Tickle Monster” is an interactive book that involves a fun story line that prompts parents to tickle their child. It’s packaged in a colorful box complete with furry blue monster mitts that are, of course, fingerless. The book has been so successful she’s hard at work on another, “Boogie Monster,” that will come with dazzling dancing slippers and a CD, and a cookbook she’s writing with Chef Danny Boome called “Munchie Monster” that will get kids excited about nutrition. It will come with fun kid-sized kitchen tools.

When she goes into writing mode, she likes to hole up in a hotel. “Otherwise I seem to find a million distractions and at the end of the day all I’ve accomplished is making a lot of coffee and catching up with people’s lives on Facebook,” she said.

Currently, she’s working on the third season of “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” which involves flying to L.A. to tape it. She’s really enjoying playing a mom and working with the kids on the set.

Josie schedules her work when the kids are with their dad. The people she works with understand that her kids come first and they work around her mom duties.

“I don’t like missing out on any time with them,” she said. All her scenes on “The Secret Life” are compiled into one day, so she’s able to fly home at night and tuck her kids into bed — sometimes wearing furry blue monster mitts.

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