Actress Claudia Wells talks with TVStoreOnline.com about Back to the Future and her work on such television series as Fast Times, Fame, and Herbie: The Love Bug.
TV STORE ONLINE: In preparation for today I went back and watched that great episode of Fame [1982-87] that you did where you play a Russian student...
WELLS: I loved doing that show. That was one of my favorite things that I ever did. I just went in and auditioned for that. That was actually my first big screen kiss too.
TV STORE ONLINE: I know you started out on the opera stage....I was curious if the acting bug was something that had bitten you before that though?
WELLS: I started when I was eight years old. I can't remember a time that I didn't want to be an actress. I liked to sing but I did that because it got me on the stage in San Francisco and I did ten operas by the time I was twelve years old.
TV STORE ONLINE: Had you seen a particular film or television show as a kid that put the idea into your head to pursue acting?
WELLS: I wanted to become an actress after I had seen shows when I was really young like Sesame Street [1969-Current], Romper Room [1953-94], and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood [1968-2001]. I can remember going to my mother once and crying because I didn't think I could be on television because I was too big and I wouldn't be able to fit into the television set. When I was a little kid I really thought that characters on the screen could see me watching them just as I could see them...laughing I even tried to be on television before I was an actress. There was a show that featured people's inventions so I invented something and I went and asked my mom if I could be on the show but she told me no...laughing
When I started to sing...I was a founding member of the San Francisco Girls Chorus which was a take off of the San Francisco Boys Chorus. Not long after that, an agent saw me and offered me a national Volvo commercial and my mom let me do that and the commercial won a Clio award! That was my start.
TV STORE ONLINE: Not long after BACK TO THE FUTURE  you worked on a great show that was a take off on the movie FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH  called Fast Times ...How did that come to you?
WELLS: I loved doing that. I met Amy Heckerling at a dinner party and she asked me to come in and read for it. I had actually turned it down several times until my agent called me and she told me to go to the network. I went and did a cold reading for "Linda" at the network and I got the part.
TV STORE ONLINE: Given that the character of Linda had already been interpreted by actress Phoebe Cates in the movie...Did you go and look at what she did in the movie prior to starting work on the show?
WELLS: I had seen the movie when it first came out, but I never went back again and looked at it in preparation for the show. I just made the character my own.
TV STORE ONLINE: Your interpretation of Linda is much more interesting and sincere than how she is played in the movie. There's some great moments with that character on that series. Episode Three for example is really great because of all that emotion that Linda goes through. How did you find her for that?
WELLS: Just like how I find every character. I think that there's a part of every character that is really just a part of who you are. You just expand on that. It's kind of that simple.
TV STORE ONLINE: Why was Fast Times canceled so quickly?
WELLS: I don't know. It was one of the very first teenage shows. We found out two days after we shot the pilot that it was going to be picked up for six episodes. We shot those six shows and then they decided not to pick it up. Fast Times had a great cast too. A lot of cast when on to become superstars.
TV STORE ONLINE: Moon Zappa worked on the show too!
WELLS: That's right! She was a reality consultant on the show and she played the character of "Barbara".
TV STORE ONLINE: With BACK TO THE FUTURE...How did that whole thing come to you? Had you been aware of the casting of Eric Stoltz and Melora Hardin prior to yourself and Michael J. Fox?
WELLS: I was actually cast before Melora Hardin. I had been cast with Eric Stoltz the previous spring before shooting and Eric and I had already started to talk about the characters. A pilot I had shot with Ed Asner called Off The Rack  was picked up by the ABC and it was scheduled to start shooting at the same time as BACK TO THE FUTURE. I had originally took the role of "Jennifer" in BACK TO THE FUTURE because no one thought that the pilot for Off The Rack was going to get picked up, and once it did... ABC wasn't willing to share me so I could do BACK TO THE FUTURE because I was under contract. So I had to release myself from the movie and that's when they re-cast the role with Melora Hardin.
We shot six episodes of Off The Rack for ABC and those were all done in front of a live studio audience and then ABC decided not to pick it up. A week after that, Eric Stoltz was let go from BACK TO THE FUTURE, Michael J. Fox was hired, Melora Hardin was let go and sent some flowers and I got to do the movie.
TV STORE ONLINE: Did you shoot anything with Eric Stoltz before leaving for Off The Rack?
WELLS: We had only done a boyfriend/girlfriend photo shoot together.
TV STORE ONLINE: Prior to BACK TO THE FUTURE though you had also auditioned for roles in GREMLINS  and THE GOONIES  hadn't you?
WELLS: I did. I screen-tested for GREMLINS, THE GOONIES, and YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES . I even screen-tested for ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING  and it came down to myself, Phoebe Cates, and Elizabeth Shue.
TV STORE ONLINE: With BACK TO THE FUTURE...What kind of director was Robert Zemeckis to you? Was he one that issued a lot of direction or was he one that would allow the actor to try different things and then chime in if he didn't like what you were doing?
WELLS: He would give us specific directions at times. Like "Look at each other, then look at the clock tower, now look at the clock tower lady.." He was very open, very smart, and easy going. He was also very sweet and kind too.
TV STORE ONLINE: How was the kiss with Michael J. Fox?
WELLS: Everyone wants to know that! It was lovely...laughing
TV STORE ONLINE: What do you think that Claudia Wells brought to that Jennifer character that wasn't already on the written page of the script?
WELLS: She was me! I played myself. Jennifer and I were the same person. That was who I was. I did a background for her. I built her brick-by-brick. I knew how she did in school. I knew how long Jennifer and Marty had been dating.
TV STORE ONLINE: Going back even farther...What are your memories of working on the Herbie: The Love Bug  television series?
WELLS: I loved that show! That one only went a pilot and five episodes. Working on that was a turning point in my life. I worked with Dean Jones on that and we would spent time talking about God and he and his wife would talk me and my mom to church every week. He had a huge effect on my spiritual growth and he changed my life.
TV STORE ONLINE: Then what about your clothing boutique in Los Angeles? How did Armani Wells come to fruition?
WELLS: There were a couple of reasons. I had often shopped for expensive clothes but got them inexpensively at women's resale shops. I realized that there was nothing like that for men. Mens clothing is so expensive when it's high end and beautiful. I had lived in New York for about six months and I really loved how the men dressed there. So I decided to move back and open a shop where I could create a niche and dress men and make them feel good by making them feel comfortable and offer them inexpensive clothes. I opened up on December 19th of 1991.
TV STORE ONLINE: How are you fighting the dreaded E-commerce industry as a business owner?
WELLS: I was told when I first opened that I had a recession free business because when people are tight on money they can come here and save. Men can come here and buy Armani suits for $300 or $400 dollars instead of paying $2000 or $3000 dollars. If they have money, then they know how to save money and end up coming here anyway.
TV STORE ONLINE: We're seeing a resurgence of '80s fashions these days...Why do you think that fashion trends seem to recycle every couple decades?
WELLS: I don't know. It just comes and it goes. It's always changing.
TV STORE ONLINE: Are you still involved with the Kids In The Spotlight charity?
WELLS: Very much so.
TV STORE ONLINE: How did you get involved with Kids?
WELLS: A friend of mine started it. She invited me to be on the board of directors when it first started. In fact, I just acted in one of the films that one of the foster kids wrote. All of the kids write short films about their life experiences.
Kids In The Spotlight trains youth in foster care programs and other underserved youth to create, write, cast and star in their own short films. Please visit The Kids In The Spotlight website HERE:
TV STORE ONLINE: What's next for you? Where can people see what you're up to and where you'll be next?
WELLS: They can check out my website at claudiawells.com. I have a schedule on there. They can see all of the upcoming autograph shows I'll be at. They can buy autograph photos and they can find out information about the store Armani Wells.
Follow Claudia Wells on Facebook HERE:
Armani Wells is located at 12404 Ventura Blvd Studio City, CA 91604
Phone: (818) 985-5899