Holly Marie Combs’ idea of ideal family life took shape behind white “Picket Fences,” a series not exactly known for its normality.
The actress who plays teen-age Kimberly Brock on the CBS drama, which enters its fourth season Sept. 22, says her TV alter ego has nothing on her real life and real-life rebellions.
“Oh my God!” Combs says from her San Fernando Valley home about comparisons to her character who lives in fictional Rome, Wis. “She’s so much more together than me and my home life. I had this ideal of that perfect family and that perfect home behind a white picket fence.”
Whatever troubles the TV Brocks might encounter, says Combs, one thing remains constant: “They’re this nuclear, ideal family. The parents treat their kids like human beings, they let them go through what they need to. They fight, they cry. They speak their minds and are taken seriously.” Those factors, Combs says, have helped make the show a critical hit.
“The way the family copes helps their audience,” the 21-year-old Combs adds. “TV’s a wonderful medium, this intimate way of observing how a successful family operates and deals with each other. It’s wonderful to be a part of that.”
While reluctant to cite specifics of her teen-age rebelliousness, Combs says, with a degree of embarrassment, that she was “just awful, evil.”
Combs acknowledges that she didn’t have much of a running start. Her mother, Lauralei Combs, who lives with her daughter, says, “Everything we’ve always done has been hard. People said, ‘No way you’re going to make it.”’
Lauralei Combs was 14 when she became pregnant with Holly Marie. “Everyone was telling me we were going to end up on welfare,” Lauralei recalls. Combs’ parents were married for two years, “but they were just too young,” she says. But her mother was determined that she and daughter would make it. Holly Marie recalls spending nights in rock ‘n’ roll clubs as her mother pursued a singing career. (Lauralei eventually landed a contract at RCA Records, which ended two years ago.)
“It was all tough,” Lauralei recalls. Their survival became “a mind set. If you want something you go for it. You give it your best shot.”
In fact, it was Lauralei who pursued acting 11 years ago.
“I’d go on all her auditions,” Combs says. “And I would fuss with her hair, scold her about her performances--God, I would never want a kid anything like I was because I remember how obnoxious I was--and she finally said, ‘If you think you can do it better, give it a try.’ So I did.”
Combs landed her first role at 13 in “Sweet Hearts Dance.” Guest spots on TV as well as roles in the films “Born on the Fourth of July” and “Chain of Desire” followed.
Next month, Combs stars in the CBS movie “Sin of Silence” as a rape victim. Lindsay Wagner plays her mentor. “It’s a very emotional film,” Combs says.
Her own emotional catharsis came at 16 when she confronted her father. “I was so angry up until then; that’s why I was so rebellious, but I got a lot of it out, shouted a lot.”
She married actor Bryan Smith (“Bugsy,” “Boxing Helena”) in 1992 at 18.
Lauralei was concerned that her daughter was too young for marriage, “ very concerned because of my past, but Holly is very grounded.” Lauralei, Holly Marie, Bryan and five dogs share a home.
“Holly wants to be everyone’s caretaker, help the world and make it a better place,” Lauralei, 35, says. “People are just drawn to her.”
“Picket Fences” executive producer Michael Pressman agrees. “She’s one of the brightest and most talented actresses. She has an absolutely natural quality and exudes charm and warmth both on screen and off.”
On-screen is where Combs would like to stay. “Everyone wants to be a writer, director, producer,” she says. “I don’t have the imagination for that, but, hopefully, I can continue to act.”
“Picket Fences” airs repeats in two-hour blocks for three weeks, starting Friday at 8 p.m. The fourth season begins Sept. 22 at 9 p.m. on CBS.