Like every girl who grew up in the 1990s, Step by Step‘s Christine Lakin was obsessed with Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Unlike the rest of us, Christine didn’t just hang his Teen Beat pictures on her bedroom wall…
“I’d be like, ‘Oh my god, the Home Improvement boys got so cute over the summer,'” Christine told me of her social circle in the mid-1990s. “Apparently Zachery Ty Bryan had a crush on me, but I was crushing on JTT… It was so stupid. Nothing ever happened. But we would totally gossip about them!”
Although nothing came of those off-screen romances, Christine was seriously concerned at one point about a boy coming between her and Boy Meets World‘s Danielle Fishel.
“I remember one summer, she was kind of hanging out with (Party of Five‘s) Andrew Keegan, who was quite older,” Christine said. “I went to some charity function and we were all bowling. Then, Andrew started talking to me — and then he asked my mom if he could drive me home. I was like ‘Oh no, Danielle’s mad at me!’ It was like, it was a whole thing. Very funny now.”
Now 34, Christine is far removed from her days as the tomboyish Al Lambert on Step by Step. In the time since the Suzanne Somers- and Patrick Duffy-led sitcom wrapped its run in 1998, Christine graduated from UCLA, starred in a few feature films, co-created a popular comedy show and solidified her status as a child star-turned-adult actor.
This makes her a Hollywood success story — even though she’s too modest to say that.
“I think I’m quite lucky because not every child actor can turn around and think of their childhood and think of it fondly… Anytime that you’re kind of forced to grow up too soon or have an overinflated sense of ego at a young age with nothing else to fall back on, I think that would be quite difficult,” she said, adding her parents kept her grounded by making sure acting came after academics. “The business is really very much like high school: When you’re popular, you’re very popular, and when you’re not, nobody wants to sit at the lunch table with you.”
Unlike her childhood peers who assumed they would act forever, Christine was “somehow mature enough” to grasp the importance of going to college.
“(Acting) is not always necessarily a business that rewards people on how hard you work,” she said. “I don’t ever want to be at the mercy of, ‘Oh crap, I didn’t make a backup plan.’ Or what if I just get to a point where I’m like ‘Eh, I’m tired of this’?”
That’s not to say Christine anticipates doing anything besides acting, which she has been hooked on since starting Atlanta theater when she was 6.
These days, Christine is involved in traditional theater and high-tech performing platforms.
“It’s very interesting now with the way technology has grown. In some ways, I think it’s been very liberating to be able to give yourself a platform to do your own stuff. If you don’t feel as though you’re getting the parts you want, then there’s nothing holding you back from writing your own web series and shooting it, which I did,” she said of Lovin’ Lakin, a mockumentary available on YouTube and Hulu.
As something of a YouTube connoisseur, it was natural for Christine to team up with Ryan Higu and judge Internet Icon, a competition for “the next great YouTube star.” She also worked with Joel McHale for E!’s The Soup Investigates — which she hopes will get picked up for a second season both because of the freedom producers allow her during interviews and because of her proximity to co-network stars on Fashion Police. (Christine admitted she’s obsessed with Joan Rivers: “I love her… I think she’s just amazing.”)
BONUS! Christine talks about getting involved with E!, her impression of Farrah Abraham’s Soup Investigates interview and what it’s like to work with Joel McHale.
Still, Christine’s real baby is Worst Audition Ever, a Los Angeles-based comedy show that grew out of a casual conversation among friends.
“I was sitting around a cabin with a couple friends of mine and we were all just having drinks and telling funny audition stories,” Christine said. “There’s something specifically about being an artist and putting yourself out there on a daily basis that for some reason lends itself to some of the most horrific and awkward stories I’ve ever heard.”
After that brainstorming session, Christine decided to begin sharing the stories with people outside of the entertainment industry.
“So, we put it up, not knowing what it would be like,” Christine said. “And here we are two and a half years later… We expanded it this year so it’s not even just Worst Audition. This year we’ve had Worst First Date, Worst Breakup Ever, Worst Holiday Ever, Worst Family, Worst Sex, Worst Vacation… And I think there’s something special about people getting up and really being that vulnerable.”
To date, there have been more than 150 stories from a diverse group that includes Bob Guiney, James Denton and Christine’s old friend Danielle Fishel.
With Danielle’s name coming up a few times in our conversation, the chat naturally turned to Girl Meets World and a hypothetical Step by Step sequel.
“I think that Carol and Frank would be grandparents and like living it up with all their grandkids. And Al would probably be the head of some kind of company. You know, strong-headed, very business-minded, doesn’t take no for an answer. I think she would be super successful in some sort of business,” Christine mused about the characters from the show that launched her career. “I don’t know if that would ever happen, though. A lot of the people actually from Step by Step aren’t in the business any more, so I think they would have a difficult time.”
Although an official reunion doesn’t seem to be in the cards, Christine enjoys informal get-togethers with her former co-stars.
“I see Patrick quite a bit — he’s great. And Suzanne and I always talk at holidays and stuff, and she’s always working on a book or a line of this or you know, going on talks. Staci Keanan and I are actually quite close. She’s actually a lawyer now… She’s super smart.”
Now, thanks to The Hub’s reruns of the 1990s sitcom, Christine’s able to watch her “strange version of a home movie” along with thousands of other viewers.
“It’s like you kind of remember things. You remember punchlines and things like ‘I can’t believe I remember that.’ Or things that happened that week or behind the scenes… I kind of feel like it would be very nostalgic for me in many ways.”
Christine’s next set to star in Holiday Miracle and the Veronica Mars movie. Keep up with Christine by following @yolakin on Twitter.