The video: “Your Love” by the Outfield.
The girl-now-woman: JoAnn Willette.
Where were you living at the time?
I had an apartment in Sherman Oaks, CA.
What music videos, shows, or movies had you appeared in prior to that?
I had a part in Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2. I was Girl on Bus #2—and the first killed, I believe, in the crazy bus ride through hell with Freddy. In Real Genius I played a teenage girl at the science fair—though I was cut out of the movie. I co-starred with Sharon Stone in an episode of T.J. Hooker that they were using as a pilot for her—I think they were going to call it Mrs. Hooker; I played an abused drug addict and William Shatner gave me mouth to mouth resuscitation—a career highlight for me. I love him.
In an episode of The Facts of Life, I played a socialite and I had a recurring role on a bad nighttime soap called Rituals. I had a series regular role in an NBC pilot called High School U.S.A., which didn’t get picked up. I played a high school kid and stars from when I was little played teachers and school administrators: Ricky Nelson (his last role before he died, I believe; very nice man), Burt Ward, Barbara Billingsley, Henry Gibson, Julie Newmar, Ken Osmond, Paul Petersen, Jerry Mathers, Harriet Hilliard (Nelson). It was a thrill for me to work with them. Other kids in the cast were Crispin Glover, Anne-Marie Johnson, and Crystal Bernard.
My very first job was an episode of Hill Street Blues. I played a Catholic school girl with Ally Sheedy. Steven Bochco Taft-Hartleyed me into the union. Also at the time I did this video, I had just finished starring in an indie coming-of-age movie with Mariska Hargitay and Courtney Thorne-Smith called Welcome to 18—that’s how I got cast.
How exactly were you cast?
The director of the video—John was his name—came to the set of Welcome to 18 to watch the filming. He was friends with the cameraman, Julio Macat (who went on to be the cinematographer on films such as Home Alone). John really liked me. He approached me and asked me if I’d be “the girl” in a music video he was directing for the Outfield. I think it was shooting the following weekend. I said sure. Sounded like fun.
Do you remember what your reaction was when you were cast?
I guess my first reaction to being cast was surprise. They usually cast tall, modelly type girls for those things, which I am certainly not. I’m tiny-leggy and drop-dead is not me. But the lead singer, Tony Lewis, who sings to “the girl” and flirts with her, was not super tall so maybe that was a factor. At any rate, I was thrilled—I grew up on MTV videos, a trip to NYC—all sounded fun to me. John also directed all the Hall and Oates videos so I was interested in working with him.
Where was the video filmed?
It was shot at a soundstage in NYC—Brooklyn maybe? I don’t remember the exact location. They had a set which resembled the album cover. The guys sang on a stage and I played an artist offstage finger-painting the cover.
How long was the shoot?
We worked all day, all night, and wrapped the next morning when the sun came up. The last shot is me walking out of the studio on the street. (People think it’s the sun setting—it’s not. It’s dawn.)
How did you feel making the video?
I had a lot of fun. Never worked on something like this—so it was interesting. They blasted the playback for the song at each take—the song was great.
What was the hardest part of the shoot?
Besides staying awake at the end (didn’t think it would go so late!), the hardest part for me were the precise shots John took of my face through the glass as I was finger-painting—which I was really doing. He would try to get just my eyes, etc., and I would have to paint just in the right place where he could still see me. I thought it was very cool what he did.
How was it to work with the band? What were they like?
The band was very nice. When I met them I didn’t think John Spinks, the guitarist, liked me—refer back to the part where I’m not a leggy model—but they all treated me very well. Especially Tony Lewis—very nice guy. We had fun.
The [video] concept was the making of a music video. I was the artist/art director for it. You see me in the beginning when Tony and I meet and have the attraction moment; I’m working with another guy on the set.
See the T-shirt he’s wearing? I still have mine that the band gave me; it’s gray, not black, but it says “Play Deep” on the back and has the Outfield logo on the front. It’s my daughter Cecilia’s prize possession. She wears it all the time.
JoAnn in the T-shirt (2013)!
What did you think of the video?
I thought it turned out great. I thought the band was very talented. I had never heard of them before I shot this with them but I thought the song would be a big hit. I really liked it—went home and couldn’t stop singing hit. Catchy tune for sure—which is why it is still a well-covered song! I certainly never anticipated how popular the video would become, though.
What did your parents think of it?
My mom and dad loved it. My twin brother said he would see it play in bars in my hometown in Maine and he would tell people (I imagine [especially] girls!) that was his sister—they were impressed. It played a lot on MTV. Like I said, I never thought I would be so recognized from it.
What did your friends think of it?
They thought it was very cool I was “the girl.” I got street cred for being a music video girl.
In the video, it looks like a member of the band was blind—was that the case in real life?
I believe he was really blind but you should check with the director. [MTN: Director John Charles Jopson said, “Yes, one band member was actually blind.”] I don’t think he or the blond guitarist were original band members. As far as I know, it was just Tony Lewis, John Spinks, and the drummer, Alan Jackman. Maybe [the other] two were hired just for the video?
At one point, John Spinks comes over to you and says something that makes you laugh and shake your head. Any chance you remember what that was? Was it a planned line that you were supposed to react to, or spontaneous?
The director told me John would come down and flirt with me. Didn’t know what he was going to do but I do remember he said something funny and winked, which made me laugh. I was supposed to be friendly. John’s very cute, but I was supposed to share moments of attraction and flirt with Tony.
Did the video ever affect your dating life in any way (i.e. when you first told boyfriends you were the woman in it)?
That was always funny to me. When dates would find out I was a music video girl, they all wanted to see it—my other work, not so much. I got rock-star-by-proxy status.
I think men are [prone] to fantasize over the girl in videos who is sought out, pined over by singers…the focus of their love or lust. Men were hard-wired to like these women in videos—especially in the beginning of the MTV craze. The women didn’t talk, didn’t have names, but were desired…the “it girl”—gotta have her. Even today, when a date watches this video again—so impressed with me. “You were the girl in ‘Your Love’?” Their head explodes. They all remember this song, where they were in their life—making out to this video with whatever high school girlfriend they had at the time.
Did you receive fan mail? If so, do you still have any of it?
I actually did receive fan mail for this video—they would send it to my agent. I don’t think I still have any though.
Do you know how fans found out how to send you fan mail? Your name was not in the video, let alone your agent’s!
Fans of mine would recognize me in the video, call Screen Actor’s Guild (anyone can call the guild and ask who represents an actor; you can get info on up to three actors in one call), and then send fan letters to the agency and ask them to forward to the actor, which they do.
You may recall the tragic death of Rebecca Schaeffer, who was a friend of mine. We worked together on My Sister Sam, an episode called “If You Knew Susie.” (I played Susie.) I also worked with Rebecca on an episode of Amazing Stories called “Miscalculations.” Rebecca’s address was obtained by a simple inquiry at the DMV. Her murder brought an awareness to the dangers of personal information in the wrong hands. It changed our industry and brought about new stalking laws.
Through my agent, I have gotten fan mail from prisoners. The warden sends them after blackening out inappropriate content (sometimes there is quite a lot of black on the page). They are almost always very polite fan letters—otherwise the state would never forward them, of course. They usually tell you what they are in for and ask for a signed photo…and at times even tell you that they plan on selling it. They send stamped envelopes self-addressed back to the prison.
Sometimes I get fan mail sent directly to my home by a fan. I am always amazed that people are able to find my home address. I never ever respond to those. It’s not safe to confirm to anyone where you live.
Did the video generate any controversy that you know of?
I am unaware of any controversy. The video is actually pretty tame, sweet—a couple of the band members just flirt with me. Partial controversy maybe later in that this song is featured in a rated-M video game, which introduces it to a whole new younger fan base who associate it very differently than when we saw it on MTV or heard it on the radio.
What were you paid?
The production didn’t have much of a budget. The director really wanted me to do it so he personally paid for my flight and gave me a couple hundred bucks out of his pocket—even offered to let me stay with him in NYC—but I stayed with my brother John, who worked in the Twin Towers at the time.
Did you watch the MTV World Premiere of the video, and if so, where and how did that feel?
I did not see the world premiere, but saw it a lot after, play after play.
Were you ever recognized in public? How often and when last? Any stories about that?
I got recognized quite a lot in public after that, which surprised me. It lasted as long as that video was in play. Though now, online, people guess who the girl is. Only once did I see someone identify me.
Did you appear in other music videos after that?
This was the one and only music video I ever appeared in. Later, when I starred in an ABC/Warner Brothers sitcom called Just the Ten of Us (a Growing Pains spinoff), my three sitcom sisters and I formed an all-girl rock band called the Lubbock Babes. We performed ourselves on the show and were offered a record deal with Warner Brothers (which we turned down because two of the girls didn’t want to do it. I wanted to do it, though).
We even sang the national anthem at a Dodgers Game once. Tommy Lasorda was the manager and I still have the baseball that Orel Hershiser signed to me. I was also a lead singer in a rock band called the Imperials when I was 16. We headlined at my local VFW club every Friday and Saturday night. So I was always on the other side—in the band, not “the girl”…
Why didn’t two of the Lubbock Babes want to take the recording contract?
One got advice that doing an album might ruin her career—[cause her to] not be taken seriously, and that convinced another girl. WB really wanted us to do it. A couple of music representatives and my producers met with me and asked me to please talk to the girls about it and try to convince them how important it would be for the show in marketing, etc., and how it would be good for them, too. I was the oldest of the four and they thought I might have influence over them. They stuck to their decision, though. It’s too bad because the episodes that involved us singing at the pizza parlor were the highest rated. Ironically, kids singing in TV shows is a matter of course these days on Disney, Nickelodeon, ABC Family—it’s become a successful formula. I think we were before our time.
If you ever met other women who were female leads in a mainstream ‘80s rock video, who?
I’ve never met anyone else [who did] a video.
If you went to college, where and what did you study?
I went to UCLA and studied theater, film, and television. I started in 1982, left in ‘86 because I was working so much as an actress. I went back to school (while being a cougar was still in!) and finished earning my BA in 2011. Such a rewarding experience.
Do you mean “cougar” as in the popular slang meaning these days? And if so, is it no longer in to be a cougar? (I hadn’t heard!)
I do mean the slang reference—and I do hope it’s not out of fashion yet!
What did you get your BA degree in?
I have a degree from the Theater and Film School. I have a theater degree and I earned a minor in film studies.
What are you doing these days?
I am a single mother of two great teenage kids. My son Luca is 15 and my daughter Cecilia is 14. I’m still acting, writing (including a one-woman show based on my life), producing, and starting an accessory company with my sister. I was selected as a quarter-finalist for the 2013 Page International Screenwriting Awards for my screenplay Will To Live. Out of 5,682 scripts submitted, my comedy made it as one of the top 10%.
What can you tell me about the one-woman show?
It is still a work in progress. It will be stories of outrageous but normal-for-me stories. I have friends who say “It could only happen to you.” The working title is No Ordinary Jo.
Where do you live?
I live in Beverly Hills, CA.
If you are/were married, what was your future husband’s reaction when he learned you were in this video?
I am divorced but my ex-husband thought it was pretty cool I was in this video.
What do your kids think of the video?
My son says it’s pretty cool I was in that and my daughter thinks it was awesome. She loves [the] Katy Perry [version, “Use Your Love”], too!
What did you think when you first heard from me?
I couldn’t believe you wanted to interview me. I am always surprised at the impact this video had/has.
Has anyone else ever interviewed you about this? If so, who, when, and for what publication?
I’ve never been interviewed about this before nor do I know if the guys were.
Have you appeared at any fan conventions to sign autographs? If not, would you?
I have appeared at fan conventions for my other work but not for this video. I might, though, if asked.
Did you stay in touch with the band after the shoot?
I actually dated the director after for a short while after. He was very nice to me. I’ve lost touch with him, though.
When was the last time you were in touch with the band?
I haven’t seen the band since that night we worked together. I’m a big fan of theirs, however.
How do you look back on the experience?
I look back on this experience very fondly. I’m glad I was a small part of something that was a big deal in my generation. The MTV rock video was all the rage then and this song holds a lot of meaning for people who grew up with it. Also, it’s fun to see artists like Katy Perry cover it now.
Anything you’d like to add?
One thing. The hairdresser that night talked me into cutting my hair in this very cool, punk rock haircut after we wrapped. I was tired and didn’t think too hard on the decision. Although I like the cut, the producers of Friday the 13th, Part 6 (I think) did not. When I returned from NYC, I got a screen test for one of the leads and they were pissed I cut my hair off. It cost me the role…
Lastly, were you Josie?
Gosh, I have wondered that, too—am I Josie? Wouldn’t that be romantic! I don’t think I get to be the girlfriend, though. I don’t think I’m Josie. Tony sings, “You know, I like my girls a little bit older”—then they cut to me. I look pretty young in the video! Then he sings, “I just want to use your love tonight.” I think I’m the girl he sings about. The secret girl of the night. I think he wants “my love” [just] for the evening. After all, Josie’s on a vacation far away.
Tweet about this interview to @The_Outfield_ and @JoAnnWillette!
Copy and tweet to help me find more 1980s music video girls:
Real research question: if you know the Annie Hubbard who was in 1984 Night Ranger video “Sister Christian,” pls contact @MarcTNobleman
Real research question: if you know the woman—even just her name—in 1986 Cinderella video “Shake Me,” pls contact @MarcTNobleman
Real research question: if you know woman—even just her name—in ‘87 Richard Marx video “Should’ve Known Better,” pls contact @MarcTNobleman
Next: Lou Gramm, “Midnight Blue” (1987).