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Celebrity Q+A: Catherine Bell

Catherine Bell, 42, deserves a medal for pulling double duty as a devoted mom on-screen on Lifetime's hit series Army Wives and off-screen to her 7-year-old daughter, Gemma (and a son who's due this month).
Catherine Bell
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Michael Doven

How have real-life army wives reacted to your show?
We've gotten a great response. Women have told me it's helped them get through tough times when their husbands were deployed. To know that fans can relate and feel something because of my work is incredible.

Does Gemma know her mom's a star?
I'm laughing because I just had lunch with Gemma in her school cafeteria, and I was surrounded by 6- and 7-year-olds asking me a hundred questions, like, "Are you famous?" "What's it like to be on a movie set?" "Gemma says you wear 2 pounds of makeup—is that true?" So my daughter definitely knows that not all moms act for a living. She and her friends love The Good Witch movies I've been in for the Hallmark Channel. But I explain that it's just another job—same as a mom who works at a bank or a restaurant.

You relocated to Charleston, South Carolina, for the series. Is it true what they say about Southern hospitality?
Totally! It's wonderful here. We actually want to stay as long as possible, even after the show runs its course. It's so family-oriented, and everyone's sweet, polite, and respectful.

Is Gemma a fan of soul food yet?
Oh, yeah. I actually just picked up some fried chicken for dinner. Charleston has what they call "low country" food that's really good, like crab cakes and shrimp and grits.

Your husband, Adam, is a screenwriter who helps out at home a lot. How are his Mr. Mom skills?
Everything is a team effort with us. He gets Gemma ready for school in the mornings and takes her to gymnastics, swimming, and horseback riding. Even when she was a baby, he'd wake up for nighttime feedings so I could get enough sleep before a 5 a.m. call time. He's the best!

How did your family upbringing differ from his?
My relatives are really expressive. The first time Adam had dinner at my grandma's house, my Persian uncles ran up and yelled, "Adam!" before kissing him on both cheeks. He was like, "Whoa! Why are these men kissing me?" At the dinner table my relatives talk with their mouths full and reach across the table to get what they want, whereas a meal at his parents' house is very quiet and polite: "Can you pass the peas, please? Thank you."

Are you sharing your Persian culture with Gemma?
My mom and stepdad just moved to South Carolina to be closer to us, so they're teaching her to speak Farsi. My mom also cooks her kebabs over basmati rice.

What makes you a proud mom?
If the school bully is treating someone unfairly, Gemma won't allow it. She gets in there and says, "Hey, that's not okay." When I see her taking care of people like that, I feel so good.

Fast Facts
Defining moment: "Being diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 21 helped me realize the importance of living each day to its fullest."
Guilty pleasures: "Chocolate cookies and peanut butter sandwiches, definitely!"
Daredevil duo: "Adam and I ride motorcycles and race sports cars. We love to try anything new and exciting."
Best parenting advice: "To keep a refreshed and relaxed attitude, and to take time for yourself and your marriage."
Supermom mornings: "When I wake up early enough to take Gemma to school and hit the gym before work."

Originally published in the August 2010 issue of Family Circle magazine.