Kelli Williams has played a lot of different roles in her career: doctor, lawyer, serial killer victim, NCIS special agent. She’s best known for playing Lindsay Dole on “The Practice.”
But the role that’s been the most important to her over the past 17 years has been her real life work as the mother of three children. That’s why she was so excited about being cast as detective Allison McLean in “Ties That Bind,” the first scripted series for the UP! cable channel.
Not only does she get to portray a seasoned police detective but her character is also a wife, mother and sister.
“It was a role I knew very well. The only difference is Allison carries a gun and Kelli doesn’t,” Williams says with a laugh.
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The series is the creation of Sheryl J. Anderson, who was a producer on “Charmed” for several years. When Anderson talked with executives from UP! about what they wanted to say with their initial series, she was told the themes should be that actions have consequences, marriages are worth fighting for and family is precious.
Stressed most was that family was the core of this series, an element that made Williams want the part even more.
Anderson’s approach to the show was to take a look at how real people make real mistakes and must deal with the aftermath of those decisions.
“And this came about at a time of loss for my family. I had already lost my dad. My mom passed away, and I realized what an incredible blessing it was that I have the best brother in the entire world,” Anderson says. “And I began to think about what life would be like if I didn’t have the best brother in the entire world.
“And that was what gave birth to the relationship between Allison and her brother, Tim, because the question that I settled on was is there anything my brother could do that I wouldn’t forgive him for. And then everything grew from that.”
Tim, played by Luke Perry, is the detective’s brother. When she is forced to arrest him and he’s sent to jail, McLean takes in her brother’s children. She not only has to deal with her own but also the expanded family.
Williams explains that the show offers a lot of different acting avenues.
“There’s a true balance in the show, the hybrid quality of the show where it follows my work life. But then the thing I love about it is then you’re finally going home, and that transition that we all have,” Williams says. “We’re working parents and trying to balance the two and do them both well. And some days you do them well, and some days you don’t.
“And I think that’s one of the things I love about the show, like how it affects our marriage, you know, and the kids. I mean, we do inherit two kids from my brother, and that kind of messes things up in the house with our kids and it’s about finding the balance and opening our hearts to them. It’s not always easy. It’s a lot of the fun.”
It was a role I knew very well. The only difference is Allison carries a gun and Kelli doesn’t.
Kelli Williams on her role as detective Allison McLean in “Ties That Bind”
In her own life, Williams continues to balance her career and being a mom. The 45-year-old Los Angeles native knew she wanted to be an actor from the time she was 5 years old. She was only 19 when she landed her first professional acting job on the CBS drama “Beauty and the Beast.”
She’s now facing a time when her children will be making their own career choices.
“I told them that if they wanted to get into acting, I would prefer that they wait until they’re 18,” Williams says. “I didn’t want them to be child actors. But, at this point they have no interest in getting into acting.
“My youngest has a really good eye and I feel he would do a great job behind the camera as a director. My other two have no interest in acting and that’s OK with me.”
All the mom — who has spent her life balancing acting and parenting — wants is for her children to be happy. Those are the ties that bind for her.