Actress Melora Hardin is a triple threat and her love of music, dance and acting comes through in her song choices, which range from the disco stylings of Donna Summer to the girl-next-door charm of Doris Day. Melora was a scene-stealer playing Jan on NBC’s hit show The Office and recently released both an album (All the Way to Mars) and her directorial debut (You).
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Anne Litt: Hi, I’m Anne Litt and I’m here with actress Melora Hardin. She played Michael Scott’s boss and lover, Jan, on NBC’s hit show The Office and recently made her Broadway debut as Roxy Hart in Chicago. Today, we’ll be playing excerpts of songs she has selected that have inspired her over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Melora, welcome to KCRW.
Melora Hardin: Thank you so much, I’m so happy to be here.
AL: I’m glad you’re here too. And you’ve brought Donna Summer and “Bad Girls.” Tell me how that ended up on your list.
MH: I know, I know! Out of all the songs in the world, why that? That was sort of the dancer in me. I truly was so into disco. I mean, I was a young kid, I don’t even know how old I was when this song was a hit, but you know the satin shorts and the satin hat and roller skating. I even had a birthday party at a disco when I was like 14.
Song: Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls”
MH: You cannot listen to these songs and not move. I mean you have got to move! And I now have two little girls and they chose this song. They pulled this song out of my entire iTunes library which is extremely eclectic, and they love this song. We dance to this song in our house almost every day. [laughter]
AL: Donna Summer, ‘Bad Girls’ on KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. I also see you brought in music from Doris Day. Tell us about that.
MH: I did. You know I discovered the work of Gil Elvgren and I got so drawn into these drawings of these pin-ups with this kind of very Americana, clean, fresh, you know, perfect hair and nails and make-up, and you know they’re leaning over and picking up a hose just as the mailman is delivering the mail and a gust of wind comes along and their skirt goes up and low and behold they have this fabulous lingerie underneath with garters and I just love this sort of knowing naïveté of that.
Because of these pictures, the Gil Elvgren pictures, I started listening to the music that evoked that and that was really when I discovered Doris Day. All of these wonderful songs that really have this incredible American pie, fresh face…she’s got this pure voice, and yet she’s a very sexy woman with a real girl next door beauty. I love to sing along to this song “Everybody Loves a Lover.” I think she’s just wonderful.
Song: Doris Day’s “Everybody Loves a Lover”
MH: There’s just something about it that I connect to. “Everybody Loves a Lover, I’m a lover, everybody loves me. At least that’s how I feel.” [laughter] Wow, I feel just like a Pollyanna, you know. I’m sorry, and you know I have been criticized in my life but I am a happy person [laughter] I have been criticized for that. I really love life. I guess that’s really kind of why this song really clicks for me. And when I sing it, it just feels good to sing this song. I really enjoy the kind of double entendre of songs of that era, saying one thing but meaning something completely different. I love the humor of that, I think it’s funny and I think it’s entertaining and sexy.
AL: That was Doris Day, “Everybody Loves a Lover.” It’s KCRW’s Guest DJ Project, I’m Anne Litt here with actress Melora Hardin. Up next, music from Barbra Streisand, “Woman in the Moon” from the film soundtrack to A Star is Born.
MH: I saw that movie. I don’t remember when it came out but I was definitely very young, and I was just so incredibly inspired by her, by the fact that she’s an actress, a singer, a singing actress. She was sexy and powerful with an incredible voice and an amazing actress and she’s really quite a person to idolize as a young person.
Song: Barbra Streisand’s “Woman in the Moon”
MH: I started acting professionally at six years old. I loved growing up as a child actor but there were the times you would work with these directors that were, you know, horrible and they keep you under their thumb and they could be so controlling. And I just love this song. It’s like she’s so controlled but then she just busts out and she’s like, “but you can’t hold back the tide.” The first verse is “I was warned as a child of 13 not to act too strong, try to look like you belong, but don’t push girl.” I feel like that’s me. [laughter] So I love this.
AL: That was Barbara Streisand, “Woman in the Moon.” I’m Anne Litt here with Melora Hardin. It’s KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Up next let’s hear a bit of the song “I’m So Ordinary” by Paula Cole. Tell us about your love for Paula Cole.
MH: I remember vividly driving down Barham actually, in Los Angeles, and this song, “I’m So Ordinary” came on the radio and I thought to myself -- I literally like turned it up and thought, “Wow, that’s a songwriter.” And her voice was so rich and, you know she’s got that amazing angst in her voice. And then, low and behold, years later when we were both pregnant with our first daughters (my first daughter, her daughter) we met and we just became fast friends and she’s one of my very best friends.
Song: Paula Cole’s “I’m So Ordinary”
MH: She’s an amazing, amazing friend and gives me so much courage and so much fortitude as a songwriter and as a singer. I’m really thankful for my relationship with her.
AL: Acting, singing, dancing. Where are you happiest?
MH: My mother said I was on a complete high doing eight shows a week as Roxy Hart in Chicago because I was singing, dancing and acting eight shows a week for two hours a night. I really love that feeling that all these skills I’ve honed all my life are getting used. That’s just heaven for me.
AL: Are you going back to Broadway?
MH: Oh, I will be there as soon as they call [laughter].
AL: That was Paula Cole’s “I’m So Ordinary” here on KCRW’s Guest DJ Project with actress Melora Hardin. So for your final choice, Mel Torme and Cole Porter. Tell us about this choice.
MH: As a songwriter I’ve been extremely inspired by Cole Porter, of course. I’ve really studied so many of his songs and I just think Mel Torme sounds amazing. His voice is like butter on this recording. Many, many years ago I did a singing cameo in a movie called The Rocketeer and a few months after it was released, I got a phone call from Tracy Torme, who is Mel Torme’s son, and he said to me, “My dad saw you in The Rocketeer” but he said to me “now that girl can really phrase a song. She’s real singer.” It was sort of like, “What?! [laughter] What?! Mel Torme said what?!’”[laughter]
Song: Mel Torme’s “Too Darn Hot”
AL: There are so many people who are going to be listening to this interview who are giant fans of The Office, your character on The Office, all of that. When you guys are working on that show, is it a musical place to be?
MH: Well, I did have an opportunity to sing in the baby shower episode, which was hilarious and that was because I did Les Miserables here at the Hollywood Bowl. I played Fantine. And Mindy Kaling, who plays Kelly Kapoor on the show, she found out that I was doing that and she said, “Alright, we gotta write something for you to sing, we’ve gotta get you to sing on the show.” I was so impressed with the fact that she wrote that. Jan actually sings “Son of a Preacher Man” to Astrid the baby and it’s so ridiculous and lyrically it’s so inappropriate and you know I just went for it 100 percent and it was so funny the first time we did it because it was literally like, “Cut. You did not just do that.” [laughter]
AL: Mel Torme and Cole Porter with “Too Darn Hot.” Actress Melora Hardin’s picks here for KCRW.com’s Guest DJ Project. Melora, thanks so much for joining us on KCRW.com.
MH: Thank you so much.
AL: If you’re looking for a complete track listing and to find these songs online, go to KCRW.com/GuestDJProject.