Veteran actress Alyssa Milano is the latest famous face to join the Project Runway family. And, as a longtime fan of the show and clothing designer of the sports-centric line Touch, she says the timing couldn't have been better.
"The baby (son Milo, 2) is still young enough where I can bring him with me everywhere and not have to worry about school," says Milano, who is taking on the role of host for the third season of Lifetime's Project Runway All Stars. "It was exciting to be able to take him to New York for a couple of months. It just all seemed to work out."
This edition of All Stars, which premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT, features the usual lightning-fast challenges, quippy critiques and a revolving door of diverse celebrity guests, including Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe, TV and stage star Kristin Chenoweth, entertainer Nick Cannon, interior designer Nate Berkus and tonight's guest judge, rocker Debbie Harry.
"To be surrounded by that creativity was really inspiring," Milano says of her 10-week stint with the show. She shares more about her emotional connection to the contestants, her favorite guest judge and the biggest perk of being a PR girl!"
Project Runway is outside of your wheelhouse; why take it on?
It's one of my favorite shows; I've been a fan of the show since the very first season. I also have a clothing line, so that made sense to me, and I felt that kind of validated Touch.
What was the most surprising challenge of working on a reality competition as compared to a scripted series?
I didn't expect to be as emotionally attached to the designers. That happened gradually, because obviously in the first few episodes, you barely even know them, but as the season progresses, you not only get to know them as designers, but also as people. I really got an understanding of how important this (was) to them. There's that moment in every episode where the host has to send someone home, and I don't know whose decision it was to make that the host's job, but it really sucks! It's the kind of thing where I would go home and kind of stress about it.
I think the most surprising thing overall about doing the show is you hear so much about reality TV being staged. I think my experience could not have been further from that. The emotion is so raw and these people, you know, their dreams depend on this 10 weeks of competition. So, you can see, you can feel the stress level of them. It's as real as it possibly gets. I think that that is the thing that was most surprising for me. This is their life.
How are the more seasoned contestants on All Stars different from first-time Project Runway hopefuls?
With All Stars, we have a very unique scenario because our challenges are so crazy, and on top of that, they only have 10 hours. We hold them up to a higher standard, which makes all the challenges more difficult. So, they don't really have time to worry about how they are in front of the camera. They've got to get a garment done and ready to show on the runway in 10 hours! It's execution and not just fashion. It's a lot of stuff that they have to accomplish very quickly.
Don't want to get you in trouble ... but pick your favorite guest judge who stopped by on this season of All Stars!
Gaby (Sidibe) was definitely my favorite. She was just the kind of girl that I wanted to spend a night out in Manhattan with; just a cool, funny chick. I also had a great time with Kristin Chenoweth. We had a lot of great fashion industry people too, like Elie Tahari. He's spectacular and he's such a lovely, lovely man. Nina Garcia was so fun. She is so good at her job, and to sit on a panel with her was really great.
'Project Runway' judge Isaac Mizrahi, left, Alyssa Milano, mentor Zanna Roberts Rassi and judge Georgina Chapman attend the third season launch on Tuesday in New York. (Photo: Charles Sykes Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
How did you vibe with your fellow castmates, judges Isaac Mizrahi and Georgina Chapman?
Oh my god, the nicest people ever! She's so nice and so fun to be around, and he is just delicious. And they're both so good at their jobs. The whole critiquing part was very, very new to me. I went into it like, 'OK. I'm not going to judge as if I'm some big fashion insider.' They pretty much have that angle covered. My whole perspective was that I'm going to go into this as the audience member and as someone that loves fashion and loves clothing, that has a good idea of what looks good on people. I'm going to go in as a real person.
Those two are so good at giving sort of the back-handed compliment! They start out every critique by saying something that's so incredibly lovely -- and true -- and then they just slam you! He'll say something like, 'The top is absolutely atrocious and it doesn't go with the bottoms at all, but I can't believe the work that you put into it!' Just to see that, I learned a lot from them.
And, of course, we all want to know the perks of working on a show as fab as Project Runway!
In a selfish, sort of girly way, it was so, so cool to be able to go into work every day and be made up by the best hair and makeup teams in New York and have the best wardrobe; all of that stuff was so fun.