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Melora Hardin of ‘The Office’ talks ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ new doc

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One of the stars of “The Office” says she accepted an invitation to be part of season 30 of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” in the hope viewers might come to know the real Melora Hardin. Hardin is best known as Jan Levinson, the boss both loved and feared by Steve Carell’s Michael Scott, and for her roles on “Monk,” “Transparent” and “The Bold Type.”

Hardin tells The Maine Edge she’s ready to go for the mirror ball trophy on the dance competition series. The show’s 30th season premiered live Monday, September 20, and is scheduled to air new episodes each Monday at 8 p.m.

Hardin began her acting career as a child on shows like “Little House on the Prairie,” “The Love Boat” and “Different Strokes,” but says even then, dancing was her biggest passion.

“When I was a little girl, I would have told you that I was going to be a ballerina and that this acting thing was just a hobby,” Hardin said during an interview that aired on BIG 104 FM.

She danced as Roxie Hart in the 2008-2009 Broadway revival of “Chicago: The Musical,” and during a ballet scene on a short-lived 1983 series called “The Family Tree” co-starring Anne Archer and James Spader. As editor-in-chief Jacqueline Carlyle on “The Bold Type,” Hardin strutted her stuff in a scene to Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push it.”

“I’ve managed to use a bit of what I know here and there, but “Dancing with the Stars” is very different,” Hardin says. “We’re in rehearsal now, and even though I’m sore, my body and brain are loving it. One of the great things about this show is that we get to watch the personal challenges of each star, and the professional dancers on the show are just unbelievable and beautiful to watch.”

Hardin’s competing stars this season will include Olympic gymnast Suni Lee, professional wrestler The Miz, Martin Kove of “Cobra Kai” and “The Karate Kid,” Melanie C. of The Spice Girls, Olivia Jade (daughter of Lori Loughlin), Brian Austin Green of “Beverly Hills, 90210” and eight others.

When I mentioned those names, and then told Hardin I had a strong feeling she would mop the dance floor with all of them, she burst with laughter.

“From your mouth to the ‘Dancing with the Stars’ god’s ears,” Hardin said, adding “It would be great to add that mirror ball to my shelf of SAG awards, but I’m really there to challenge myself, and to just stay on the show as long as possible so I can learn all of these dances.”

Hardin’s wish for viewers to know her as a real person instead of a character may be realized by an upcoming documentary she’s been working on for the past four years. It’s connected to one of the TV shows she appeared on as a child.

At age 10, Hardin starred as Cindy on the children’s show “Thunder” about a wild black stallion that would come to her when she whistled. Together, Thunder and Cindy would save the day by rescuing people trapped in caves, freeing animals caught in traps and generally righting various wrongs throughout the land. The show lasted for a single season on NBC, but it had a profound effect on at least one young viewer named Hunter Austin.

Hardin said she was directing a music video for the 20th anniversary of Paula Cole’s 1996 hit “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” when she needed to find a horse for some of the scenes. That need led her to Hunter Austin’s farm of 47 acting animals, all of whom ended up appearing in the video.

“When I walked through Hunter’s door, she said ‘Oh my God, you were in my favorite show when I was a little girl,” Hardin said. “She told me ‘I wrote you a fan letter and you wrote me back. I wanted to be the little girl with the horse and now I am’ and it was so moving. Hunter is just one of those light, bright people who make things work.”

As the two came to know each other, Hardin felt comfortable enough to ask Hunter about her personal life.

“I asked her if she was married or had a partner, and she told me she had never been on a date, and hadn’t ever kissed anyone,” Hardin said. “She said she was ready and I fancied myself a matchmaker so I told her to call me if she had any questions. Six weeks later, she did.”

Hardin said the questions Hunter asked prompted her to ask a question she’d never asked another human being: “Is there any chance you were raped?” After Hunter answered in the affirmative, and said it occurred when she was 7 years old, Hardin said she took Hunter into her life.

“This documentary is the story of women holding women up and what it really takes to get through trauma,” Hardin said. “We’re both very vulnerable in this film and it’s my passion to get it out into the world to help people heal and help them realize it is possible to transform trauma.”

Hardin said she partnered with Morgan Freeman’s company to help find the right home for “Thunder, Hunter & Me” and hopes to announce soon where and when it can be seen.

“Who knows?” Hardin asked. “Maybe that news will come while I’m on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and I’ll be able to share it there. I’m very proud of this film. It took 40 years, but Thunder and Cindy finally came to help.”

Last modified on Wednesday, 22 September 2021 07:28

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