California Whirl

It’s been four weeks since Alicia Minshew, her hubby, Richie Herschenfeld, and their 9-month-old daughter, Willow, moved from Manhattan’s Upper West Side to West Hollywood to put a formal end to her lengthy maternity leave from AMC, which relocated to California a month after Willow’s birth. “I still don’t know if it’s hit me yet that this is a move, not a vacation,” she says, “but I can see why people love living here. We both like it a lot more than we thought we would.”

Still, she reports in an upbeat tone, “Leaving New York sucked. It sucked! When I stood in our empty apartment and I went into Willow’s room … You know, that was her first room, and it was painted for her, with Winnie the Pooh everywhere. I just burst into tears. I was so sad. So sad. But then, you know, when Willow and my mom and I arrived from New York, we walked into an apartment that was done, decorated, beautified. I walked into a home. They” — that’d be Herschenfeld and his best friend/Minshew’s leading man, Thorsten Kaye (Zach) — “made the transition flawless for me.”

The transition back to work was a little more challenging. “The first two weeks were rough,” she groans. “I had some really long days, like 13-hour days where we had party scenes and the whole cast was there. That’s a long day, in general, but especially when you’re missing your child, who you’re breast-feeding! But I’m getting more used to it and so is she. She was used to having me and, you know, my boob around [laughs], so at first she was like, ‘This is Daddy, this is a bottle. What the hell? Where’s my mom?’ But she’s a happy baby and she’s adjusting beautifully.”And, naturally, Willow has quite the fan club in Minshew’s AMC colleagues. “People at work call her ‘Lashes’ because of her long lashes,” Minshew reports. “When I bring her in, everyone goes, ‘Oh, my God, it’s Willow!’ and she smiles at them. I love showing her off; she’s my baby! Thorsten probably knows Willow better than any of our friends because he’s spent so much time with her, and Rebecca [Budig, Greenlee] is full-on Auntie Rebecca. Ricky Paull [Goldin, Jake], he’s having a baby, and when he met Willow for the first time, he played with her and she smiled at him and he got a little video footage of the two of them. He said, ‘I need to practice!’

“One of the cutest things,” she continues, “was when Jacob [Young, JR] held her for the first time. Jacob, you know, is Mr. Daddy now, and even though she did not know Jacob, she went into his arms, looked up at him, laid on his chest and snuggled up to him like he was her dad. I have never seen her do that before. Just the way he was holding her and cuddling her put her so at ease, Richie and I were both like, ‘Whoa!’ Jacob was like, ‘Oh, my God, this baby is so sweet!'”

Minshew says that aside from nearly daily giggle fits, brought on by some combination of sleep deprivation and the inherent hilarity of working with pals Budig and Cameron Mathison (Ryan) — “When I work with those two, forget it. It’s a problem. The best problem you could possibly have!” — she has easily settled back into life as Kendall. “There was a part of me that really missed playing her, so it’s nice to just step back into her again. It feels like visiting an old friend. As soon as I start talking to Greenlee and Bianca and wearing her shoes, her big, high heels that I haven’t worn in so long, I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah! This is a fun person! I love this person!’ ” She’s also digging her new scene partners, Christina Bennett Lind (Bianca, about whom she raves, “As soon as I met her, she gave me a big hug and a kiss and it felt like we’d known each other forever”) and Michael Nouri (Caleb). “I have a new friend!” she trills. “A new friend who reminds me — and not just me, but a lot of us — of Thorsten. He is filthy and hilarious and I connected with him right away.”‘
But with only an outside chance that ABC will manage to coax Kaye into returning full time as Zach, Minshew is still trying to get a handle on who Kendall might become post-“Zendall”. “It’s really, really, really weird,” she says of playing Kendall without Kaye by her side. “I’m so used to him being there. I miss him as an actor and as the character, but ultimately, I have to remember that I played Ken-dall for three years before Zach came along. I did it before so I can do it again, and remind the audience of who she is: a strong woman who doesn’t always necessarily have to be coupled with somebody. If she’s not going to be with him, she’s quite fine by herself — and she’s quite interesting by herself, too. I think it could open the door for so many different stories, and I totally welcome that.”

It’s a more mellow stance than Minshew may have taken in the past, she allows. “I’m learning not to stress about things too much,” she muses. “I’m very lucky and I do the best I can. I can’t freak out about every little thing. If I don’t like the dress I’m wearing or I can’t remember my lines or these aren’t my favorite scenes, I just do the best I can in that moment and remember that I’m so happy with what I get to come home to. Richie and I are still going, ‘Pinch me. Is this really our life right now?’ I mean, as we speak, I’m in the baby’s room, rocking in the chair, looking out at a palm tree. Life is good right now!”
Did You Know?

• Having given up their New York digs before moving to California, Minshew and her family stayed for two weeks in the apartment that Connecticut residents Thorsten Kaye and Susan Haskell (Marty, OLTL) keep in the city. “They said, ‘Here are the keys, make yourself at home.’ It was unbelievably nice of them. It was the best transitional place we could have possibly had — comfortable, gorgeous, decorated to the hilt.”

• When Minshew’s at work, Willow is cared for by her daddy and a babysitter, who just happens to be one of Rebecca Budig’s best childhood friends.