When we first spoke to Erinn Hayes a few months ago, she was working hard at the most common acting exercise of all. Looking for work.
Her co-starring role as Dr. Lola Spratt in Rob Corddry’s beloved cult medical show spoof, Childrens Hospital (a favorite of ours!), had just come to an end after seven critically-acclaimed seasons. “She’s so good!” Rob told Yahoo TV. “Erinn’s like a big Swiss Army Knife that I can’t keep in my pocket because she can do too much.”
But according to Rob, the time had come. Erinn understood, but still, “I would have loved for it to go on longer. It was the greatest job ever,” she lamented. “And now, here I am, waiting to hear if a pilot I just shot is going to get picked up.”
Well good news! It happened. Starting this fall, Kevin James returns to his Monday night home on CBS with a new family sitcom, Kevin Can Wait. And when he does, Erinn will be right at his side, playing his wife, Donna.
“We’re the Gable family,” Erinn says, “and Kevin plays Kevin; a guy who’s been a cop for 20 years, and now it’s time for his retirement. We met as kids and have been together for over 20 years. We’ve got three kids and it’s the eve of finally going from having a cop husband who’s gone all the time, to having somebody who’s home all the time. That’s the very loose premise.” You can watch the full pilot episode here.
Meanwhile, there’s even more good news for Erinn. She’s received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series – 2016. “I’m beyond thrilled about the nomination for the show, for my castmates and myself,” Erinn tells us, beaming with that incandescent smile of hers. “I admire (and feel incredibly lucky) that the Television Academy is so forward thinking to include short format at all, let alone short format acting.”
Born in Marin County, Erinn got her BFA in Colorado. “I always knew I wanted to be an actor and study acting, but I made my choice of colleges based on which one was closest to the snow. It’s pure luck that the University of Colorado had one of the top BFA programs at the time. One of the times the stupidity of youth worked in my favor.”
From Colorado, Erinn first moved to San Francisco, then, eight months later, moved down to Los Angeles with her boyfriend (now husband), where they shared a home in Los Feliz with three other guys. When Erinn had the chance to meet a commercial director, she told him that if he would start submitting her for jobs, she’d work in his office. And soon she began booking spots.
Even so, money was tight. “We bottomed out to a couple of hundred bucks,” Erinn tells us, “I was taking acting classes at Actor’s Lab in the Valley, and that led to a gig at Disneyland doing theme park improv.” Erinn shakes her head and laughs. “Actually, it turned out to be a wonderful experience.”
In fact, it was a serious training ground. Erinn was there for two years, practicing her improv skills every single day in front of live audiences in a fairly low-risk environment.
Even though Erinn was able to find a little work, the struggle was no different for her than every other aspiring actor. “I’ve probably stepped on every single rung of the ladder to get up to the one that I currently occupy,” Erinn says with a wise smile. “I started out doing student films, then some backstage and extra work, which is how I finally got my SAG card. My first job was as a waitress on some ABC show, and then the next one was maybe two lines, and then I got a guest star that was in one scene and then I did some commercials. There was no, boom, all of a sudden I was a series regular on a hit show and I’m famous. It didn’t really work like that for me.”
But Erinn was determined. And according to Erinn, she had a big advantage. Her husband, Jack. “My experience is tainted because I found a core, stable relationship at a very young age and in that regard always felt very solid, so going out and risking a little bit was not as risky for me as it was for some.”
From Disneyland, Erinn was cast on a WB show called On the Spot. It was a scripted sitcom, but with plenty of room for improv.
Warner Bros. put Erinn on hold for two years. She did a few pilots for them, and things started to get rolling. She then went to Fox, first working with Bradley Cooper on his short-lived series Kitchen Confidential. That led to doing The Winner with Rob Corddry, and although it too was short-lived, Erinn became friends with Rob.
At that point, Erinn got a great break. She landed on the CBS sitcom Worst Week. “Here I was working on my fancy sitcom,” says Erinn, “when I asked for a day off to go help Rob with his new web series, Childrens Hospital. Seven years later, I was still on that, and have yet to get a second season of an actual network show.” Of course, with her new booking, that is about to dramatically change.
To this day, Erinn’s career clearly runs second to family. Erinn and Jack have been together since high school, and they spend lots of time with their two girls, ages seven and nine. In fact, we had to cut one of our conversations short, as they were about to take the girls to Raging Waters.
When Erinn and Jack both ended up working on the Warner Bros. Lot, they became First Entertainment members. “I love, love the credit union,” says Erinn generously. “They do things everybody says could never happen. You really get treated like a person, and you talk to people who can make decisions based on your personal circumstances, not some abstract guidelines.” For Erinn, the rise to where she is today was slow and grueling. Now that she’s really starting to pop, we wonder if there’s anything she would have changed along the way.
Erinn takes a long pause, and then it hits her. “If I’d been a little more neurotic, cutthroat or if I had sacrificed a little bit more in my marriage, I wonder what might have happened career-wise. I used to think, I wish my parents messed me up more, I’m never gonna be an interesting actor because I don’t have, like, enough emotional turmoil. I had a friend years ago who told me I was the most normal person he knew, and at the time, I was so mad he described me that way. ‘Normal’ has such a bad connotation.”
But given the chance, would she rewrite history?
“No way,” says Erinn. “I look at my life, which is very stable – we’re homeowners, we have two children and a normal marriage – and I think, you know what, I’m super normal, and I’m proud of it. If I didn’t have all that, if I was driven and made my career my only and highest priority, I wouldn’t be as happy a person as I am.”
Yes, Erinn is indeed a well-adjusted, happy actor in a loving marriage in Los Angeles. So no, ‘normal’ isn’t the word we’d ever use to describe her.
We’re proud to have Erinn as a member, and we congratulate her on her new starring role on Kevin Can Wait.
We can’t wait!