'Hart of Dixie' signals a welcome return to form for the nostalgic WB crowd; set in the fictional town of Bluebell, Alabama, it tells the story of Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson), a big-city doctor who inherits half of a medical practice in the close-knit town and must learn to embrace the human side of medicine, all while resisting her attraction to the sadly engaged George Tucker (Scott Porter), the town's golden boy.
Jaime King plays Lemon Breeland, George's fiancée and Zoe's natural Southern nemesis, and AOL TV caught up with the effervescent actress (who also happens to be a blogger for our sister site The Huffington Post) to preview the upcoming episodes. Read on for King's thoughts on Zoe and Lemon's rivalry, the juicy secrets her character is hiding, and, most refreshingly, her candid thoughts on the shallow nature of Hollywood, and how the pressure to be perfect helps her relate to Lemon.
There's something so nostalgic and old-school WB about 'Hart of Dixie.' Is that part of what attracted you to the role?
Yeah, it's very much like that. Cress [Williams, who plays town mayor Lavon Hayes] put it really well: he said it's like sitting on a cozy couch, and it really is -- I could watch the show all day long. I've done plenty of movies and things that I still have not seen. You make things because you think it's going to be a great role but ultimately, do you really want to watch it? These characters are so wonderful, there's only five leads: two female leads, three boy leads. You feel like you're at home when you're watching it -- it's super funny, it's really heartfelt, but there's also these really great grounded and real moments.
In the pilot, Lemon is kind of positioned to be Zoe's nemesis -- do you think she's a little misunderstood?
That's exactly it, she's very misunderstood. You'll get to see that as the show goes on. The first two episodes are your obligatory introducing episodes where you introduce how Zoe got there, but even the second episode is fantastic. What I really love about our show is that everything is a slow reveal, it's not like by the next episode you see Lavon and I having some torrid affair in the backseat of his car. It's really sweet and really fun and you have all of these tense moments between Zoe and Scott Porter's character, and my character and Scott Porter's character, my character and Cress' character. All of these great love triangles that are really fun to watch.
But what you get to learn about Lemon that's been really amazing to play is the reason why she is the way she is: her mother left her when she was about 16 years old. That's rare -- a Southern mom doesn't just leave her kids. So basically, she's had to raise her little sister and take care of her father, so she's never had a life of her own.
Anybody that I know that's lost a parent or had a parent leave them at a young age has terrible abandonment issues. And not only that, but they feel like they did something that caused their parent to leave; that if they were a better kid then they could have kept them there. So that's why you see Lemon so wound-up and uptight all the time; she has to cook everything perfectly and has to be this perfect "wifely, motherly" figure, but she's still young. I really feel a lot of compassion for her because that's where that really tense, uptight feeling about her comes from -- heaven forbidshe doesn't do something right, because if she doesn't then people will want to leave her again.
Why do you think she's so threatened by Zoe?
I tried to play it as non-catfight as possible, but she's definitely threatened by her in the sense of, just like anybody, if there was some woman that came into your office and then all of a sudden said that she was going to try and take over your position and take your boyfriend and mess up something with your family and then say everything about your life sucks and where you come from is lame, then you feel threatened. That's basically what Zoe Hart is doing! She's like "this town sucks, I can't believe people do things this way in this town, this is awful." It's all about New York.
So it's really fascinating, because Rachel's character and Lemon are very similar. I think that's why they fight so much -- I think they're more similar than anything, and you'll start to see that. They're so much alike in the fact that they both think that they're right, they're very headstrong, they think that their way is the right way, that their place is the best place and that anything else is kind of silly. So that's where this competition comes from. I was talking to Rachel last night and said, "if only our characters just had coffee ... " [laughs]
Right, they'd probably end up being BFFs. So do you see the potential for a friendship between her and Zoe somewhere down the line?
I do, I really do. But what I really love about the writers on our show -- this isn't the type of show where you're going to see everything get resolved within one episode. I think that so much TV now, everything happens so quickly because they think people in the modern age do everything very quick; that's not true. I have plenty of friends that don't just go out and sleep with everybody, I have a lot of friends that don't backstab each other and do these scandalous things that you see on TV! The great thing about our show is that it explores the other side of life. You really are invested in these characters.
For instance, we're on episode 1.09 now. We just had a scene last night between Rachel and I where she helped my little sister, so there's a beat where we really start to connect, but my character just shuts it off because she can't handle it. She's afraid to connect to this girl because this girl just feels like a big, big threat in her life.
We didn't see her interacting with her father Brick (Tim Matheson) in the pilot -- what's their relationship like?
They're very close. It's interesting because in the episode we're doing now, we're really exploring the dynamics of the family, which you meet my little sister for the first time, played by Claudia Lee -- she is unbelievably talented, she's a really fantastic little actress. What you basically get to see in this episode is that Lemon has been struggling so hard because ever since our mother left us, my dad has laid all the responsibility on me to take care of my little sister.
It becomes increasingly more frustrating because she starts growing super rebellious. Here I am, a young woman, trying to keep my little sister in line, trying to plan my wedding, find a house, and take care of my father; it's just a whole lot of responsibility for someone. She's never had the opportunity to live her own life yet. But ultimately, you get to see that he relies on her and that they've had to band together because they both experienced a really traumatic loss; he lost a wife and I lost a mother very, very suddenly.
She and George are childhood sweethearts. What makes them such a good match in Lemon's eyes?
I think that what makes them such a good match is they both understand the culture of where they came from -- they both love their town so much. They both grew up in the same community, so they have a long history together. I think what adds to the conflict is that, like any childhood sweetheart, sometimes you need to explore other things to understand what's really right for you. I think that George has had more of that experience by going to New York and living a more cosmopolitan life, but Lemon doesn't want a cosmopolitan life -- she doesn't need to go to New York.
With Lavon, something is going on but you don't know what. They're not having an affair but they're in love. Something happened while George was in New York -- but we don't know what -- that caused Lemon to end up with Lavon. As soon as George said he was coming back, then obviously it was over, because Lemon's not the type of person to just be having scandalizing affairs. But what I love, when you see Lavon and Lemon together, is that you get to see the real Lemon: the Lemon without the mask on, the vulnerable Lemon, the Lemon that is just trying to be the best that she can be. I think that it's really important for the audience to see those two different sides.
As you said, Lemon was the one to end things, but in upcoming episodes, I hear that we're going to see her struggling with jealousy when she sees Lavon with other women, right?
If you really love someone, even if you end it, of course there's going to be jealousy, because you don't want to see them with other people. She doesn't want Lavon to go, but she can't be with him, so how do you handle that? How do you not be with someone because you're engaged to someone else?
It's because everybody expects her to be this perfect thing, and most importantly, shethinks that everybody expects her to be this perfect thing. It's just like Hollywood; it's just like our industry, where you're expected to look perfect and be the perfect weight and wear the right thing. Heaven forbidyou wear the same thing -- you'll be a repeat offender! I went to the Chateau last night to go have dinner with my friends, there were all these paparazzi outside and I wasn't expecting it. I was wearing jeans and this really kind of funky outfit and I'm like, "oh f***, here we go; Heaven forbid I dress the way I want to dress because now I'm going to end up in Fashion Police or something!"
I was wearing a really cute outfit, for me -- but it wasn't really edgy and funky or whatever. I'm coming straight from set after working 14 hours. I was like, "God, this is what Lemon feels like day in and day out." I so relate to her, because you always have to be presented in a certain way, when really you just want to be yourself. You don't want to have to think about what you're wearing when you go to dinner, but these are the types of things that really fit in her world. It's so stupid, but it's just the part of it; that's what she's going through on a day-to-day basis.
You do make her sound very sympathetic; I'm totally getting aboard the Lemon train right now.
I think that when you see her, you will feel sympathetic. I think, obviously, you want to feel more sympathetic for Zoe because she is Zoe Hart, but one thing that I love about our show with future episodes is you understand why [Lemon] is coming from where she comes from. I think that's also just my natural inclination as an actor; any human being, when I read about somebody in the news, I'm not so quick to judge, because people may be saying negative things about them, but I really believe that we don't understand why people are doing things until we really try and look at where they come from and what they're going through. I don't think that people are intentionally cruel, I don't think that people are intentionally mean; if they areintentionally mean or cruel, it's just a defense mechanism. But that's because my whole life is spent breaking down why people do what they do, because that's my job.
What else can you tease about upcoming storylines?
My favorite one is called 'In Heat and Havoc' [episode four]. It's basically where a heat wave hits Bluebell. In the opening scene, it's Lavon telling Zoe "this is your time for a free pass, you better just get used to it because everyone's going to start going crazy." Lemon's the only one that you think isn't going to get affected by the heat wave because she tries to keep her s*** together all the time.
Everybody slowly starts succumbing to the heat wave in their own way; it's the most hilarious episode because some people, it makes them react sexually; some people, it makes them react with jealousy; some people, it makes them react like literallycrazy. It's so funny to watch everybody fall apart and try and keep it together but they can't. At the same time, it's the most poignant thing that we've had in regards to relationships, because it's a really intense episode for Lemon and Lavon, and a very interesting episode for Zoe and Wade. It's just a really funny and beautiful episode.
We're also getting ready to do our Thanksgiving Episode; we do "Planksgiving" where we all dress up as pirates. Basically every episode revolves around some town event; our town events are out-of-control hilarious.
'Hart of Dixie' airs Mondays at 9PM ET on The CW.
Are you watching 'Hart of Dixie'? Are you interested in seeing Lemon's softer side or are you rooting for Zoe? If you missed the first episode, you can watch it for free on CWTV.com or buy it on iTunes.
Follow Laura on Twitter: @LauinLA