From left, Jill Tracey, host Julie Moran, Blanca Varela and Alexandra Arguello pose for Moran’s new weekly morning show on Lifetime network, “Mission Makeover.” The 13-week program, which debuts at 7 a.m. Monday, follows the three women as they attempt to make over their lives with the help of medical and physical training experts.
NEW YORK — Years ago, Thomasville native Julie Moran decided to take step back from show business to focus on family. On Monday, she’ll be returning with a 13-week morning show, “Mission Makeover,” on Lifetime network.
And expect to continue to see her regularly in the mornings on that network. She’ll be joining Lifetime’s morning show “The Balancing Act” soon as well.
Moran spoke with The Albany Herald in a telephone interview as she was leaving a meeting in New York to catch a flight back to Los Angeles. It was Valentine’s Day.
“I’m on my way back on Valentine’s Day to see the kids and (husband) Rob,” she said. “ They’re all going to pick me up at the airport.”
Family has always been important to Moran, who left her second dream job — hosting “Entertainment Tonight” — to be a full-time mom. Now that her two daughters are older and doing well at school, she said she feels it’s a good time to get back in “the business.”
“Mission Makeover” debuts at 7 a.m. Monday on Lifetime. It involves three south Florida women — Jill Tracey, Blanca Varela and Alexandra Arguello — whose lifestyles and lives would benefit from makeovers.
“Why I loved it was it was similar to ‘The Biggest Loser,’ but it was about making these woman over from the inside out and maybe finding out why they’re 100 pounds overweight and why they overeat,” Moran said. “We give them everything from a psychologist, therapist, hormone testing, a trainer, meal delivery, beauty tips ... everything. We really tried to get to the bottom of why they found themselves 100 pounds overweight.”
“It’s been really interesting. One gal is a deejay and she’s been a deejay on a radio station for 10 years and she’s gained 10-20 pounds a year because she sits down all day long. And then she’s confessed that she hides cupcakes in the control room and in the desk. ‘Cupcakes are my weakness and I hide them everywhere.’
“One gal lost her husband and then she began to overeat. One gal had a troubled teen, and that led her. We’re trying to get to the bottom of why. We’re giving them 26 weeks to be trained and looked after and then we’re airing it in 13 weeks. We’re hoping that their whole lives will change, not just the weight loss.”
When the show debuts Monday, the women will have reached approximately the midpoint of their journey, which will lead to a live show on the final Monday morning broadcast.
“We still haven’t completed the process,” Moran said. “We’re through seven shows now. And we’ll have a live reveal at the end. On February 25th, you’ll see them at their heaviest. And hopefully by show 13 we’re going to do a live reveal and makeover and you’ll see how far they’ve come.”
Moran said he hope is that the show will lead to permanent improvements in the lives of the three women.
“This show is helping these women retrain and getting to the root of the problem,” she said. “Hopefully once they’re through with our show, they can live life a whole new way and a healthier way. That’s what really appeals to me about this show. I did some of the testing with them. I check in with them and try to be their cheerleader.
“We hope they’ll leave this experience better for having done it.”
While Moran has continued to do some work with shows like “Access Hollywood,” I asked her why she cut back her career. Both she and her husband, Rob, are involved in the entertainment industry. The answer was simple — family.
“I had my two dream jobs hosting ‘Wide World of Sports’ and then being on ‘Entertainment Tonight’ ... for seven years. And I just wanted a break. I had one child, I was trying to get pregnant with the second one and I was working too hard and traveling too much,” she said. “I thought, well, I could keep working like this and have an only child. My mother was an only child, and she said, ‘Julie, don’t. Try.’
“So I took a step away from the business and it was so beautiful when I did, and nine months later I was pregnant with Makayla. I really decided to raise them and get them on their way.”
Makayla’s now in the 3rd grade and Maiya is in the 7th, which means they’re in school from 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays. Plus they’re active in sports.
“I thought it was a good time to step back into the business,” Moran said. “And I loved the idea of this show, that it was helping women. I did take a little break, but I’m so glad that I did. I think my children are better off for it.”
MORE TO COME
So, will viewers be seeing more of Moran on television once “Makeover” has run it’s course. The answer is: Definitely.
“I will break this news to you that I am going to join another show on Lifetime ... called ‘The Balancing Act.’ I’m going to become one of the hosts of that show as well. Lifetime is just a great network for women.”
Moran will be joining the show’s two other hosts to “give you practical solutions for everyday problems. It’s not a news-driven show. It’s more of a solutions-driven show. We have lots of guests on.”
One of those will be Bruce Willis, whose latest movie, “A Good Day to Die Hard” debuted this past weekend. He and Moran have exchanged books as baby gifts.
“I actually had Bruce Willis and we taped a segment last week. I’m going to try to bring on some Hollywood folks” to “The Balancing Act”, she said. “It’s great with Bruce Willis. When I had my first baby, he gave me a book called ‘Your Child’s Self Esteem.’ I’ve had that book for 13 years. I just gave him a book. He just had another baby — his fourth daughter — and I gave him a book called ‘How Girls Thrive.’
“We’re trying to bring on stars and also bring good information to viewers, and maybe some tips and things that I’ve learned along the way. It’s a show that’s really solution oriented not just for women but for men, and how we balance our lives every day.”
And that balance includes Moran’s life. While she says she will be busy, she adds she is “trying to make sure it’s something I can manage with my girls’ schedule.”
Moran attributed her south Georgia roots as one of the reasons she took time off to focus on being a mom. I asked her if she gets home to Thomasville very often.
“All the time,” she said, adding her family was planning to visit during spring break at Easter and in June. Plus, Destin will be calling on Independence Day weekend.
“The cutest thing was my 3rd grader’s teacher told me, ‘I asked Makayla what her favorites place on earth was and she said, “Georgia.”’” And I said, ‘Makayla, did you mean Disneyland?’ She said, ‘No, I like Georgia much better than Disneyland.’”
Albany’s a city she’s also familiar with.
“I love Albany, too. My mom married a man from Albany, Gordon Dixon. He’s showed us some fun parts of Albany. I’ve been up there and he’s shown us where he coached basketball and coached football. He still has a home in Albany as well.”
I had to admit that I’m sometimes reluctant to watch Lifetime, quipping that unless Meredith Baxter was in the movie, I figured the guy was going to come out on the bad end of things. Moran said that the new president of Lifetime is taking it to new directions.
“It’s really changing,” she said. “It’s been taken over by a great executive. Her name is Nancy Dubuc. She also runs The History Channel and A&E. She’s really determined to make this not just a women’s network, but a positive network. Some of the movies they are doing are just terrific.
I like her as an executive and it’s so funny — her cousin, Mark Dubuc, was in our wedding in Thomasville, so I have a close connection with her. She’s just one of the top women executives in the business and she’s just great. She got the ‘Hatfields & McCoys’ made on The History Channel ... she’s just doing great things at all three networks.”
“I’m just excited about all the great things she’s going to do.”
Her husband, Rob, had a part in that mini-series that garnered an Emmy for actor/producer Kevin Costner. In the second segment, he portrayed Secretary of State John Floyd, who tried to negotiate a settlement in the legendary feud. He had to travel to Romania, where much of the film was shot.
“It’s so interesting how so many movies aren’t made in Hollywood anymore,” Moran said. “Rob just made one last year that was shot in Atlanta. he’s also got a role in the new Star Trek movie that’s coming out in May.”
“We’re excited about that. He’s actually on the rogue ship. Rob gets cast as a bad guy a lot and I don’t know why because he’s the nicest guy in the world.”
I suggested that perhaps he’s being cast against type.
“There you go,” she said.
SO, IS IT KHAN?
One of the biggest questions for fans of Star Trek is whether Benedict Cumberbatch is portraying Khan, the iconic villain from the original series in the 1960s and the second Star Trek movie who was played by the late Ricardo Montalban.
Turns out, as you might expect, the Morans have been sworn to secrecy.
“J.J. is like, ‘This is all very secret,'" she said. “Don’t let anything out.'"
Moran has high regard for the director, whose daughter plays on the same soccer team as Maiya. And that regard is held both for his directing ability and his devotion to family.
“J.J. Abrams is a great director,” Moran said. “His daughter plays soccer with my daughter out in Los Angeles and they just won the Area 1 state championship. They’re just a great 13-year-old soccer team that’s doing real well and I’m so proud of her (Maiya).
“I’ll you what’s really sweet. I just saw J.J. on the soccer field and he told me ... he heard about this man who had cancer and he heard that his dying wish was to see ‘Star Trek Into the Darkness’ (which is set to open in May). J.J. screened it for him, and he died three days later.
“That’s the kind of guy J.J. is. He never looked for the press on that. He didn’t want that to get out, but it did. He’s a good guy and very talented guy and a family man. We see him every Saturday out on the soccer field.”
Now that soccer’s wrapped up, Moran’s found another big role — coaching basketball.
“I’m coaching my little 8-year-old daughter, Makayla’s, basketball team and having a blast doing that,” she said. “We were 5-0 and lost our first game last week. I’m having a good time doing that. It’s one of the reasons I’m getting back. Our games are Sunday afternoons and I’m coaching this week. That’s just as important as my meeting in New York.”
I’ve always been curious about how children deal with famous parents that they see in movies and on national TV.
“When Maiya was young,” Moran said, “I was still on ‘Entertainment Tonight’ and she used to get very confused. She said, ‘Mommy, why are you in the box?’ She was about two. ‘You’re here, but you’re there.’”
They’ve gotten to ages now where they understand the concept, she said. She and Rob have also tried to keep their kids grounded. Maiya and Makayla, for instance, have never attended a red carpet premiere. Moran said there’ll be plenty of time for that later.
“We’ve kind of kept them out of it until they were old enough,” she said.
But they have a much better chance of catching their mom on TV than their dad, at least now. But not because of his quantity of work. Rob Moran has acted in a number of films, including “Hall Pass,” “There’s Something About Mary,” “Dumb & Dumber” and “Kingpin” — all movies that he has banned his daughters from viewing.
“They’ve never really seen one of Rob’s movies because, unfortunately, a lot of them aren’t appropriate for them,” Moran said. “They did see ‘The Hatfields and McCoys’ because he was playing a very good guy, secretary of state. And they’re a little older now, so it doesn’t really throw them anymore.”
She said she hasn’t decided whether the girls will get to see “Star Trek Into the Darkness” until she finds out what the level of violence and scariness is. “I’ll have to talk to J.J. about that,” she said.
Maiya has seen Moran on “Access Hollywood,” however, and has even started critiquing her mom’s work, pointing out when she has a particularly insightful question and quizzing her mom on aspects of journalism.
“She’s now every curious about the journalistic process,” Moran said.
Overall, Moran seems to have found a good balance in her life, as well as create a balance for her husband and daughters. That’s a rarity in Hollywood.
“I always feel so blessed to have such a great foundation,” she said. “I treasure my roots and I just coming home. I love reconnecting with people in town.”
“It’s a lot going on, but it feels manageable. The girls are excited. I think it’s been fun for them to watch me go back to work. The little one said, ‘Mommy, really? You used to be on TV?’ She has no idea. I want to be a good role model. It’s good for your girls to see that before you were picking up their socks you were doing something else.”