Feeling Felicitous

InStyle Magazine, April 2000

Amy Jo Johnson gracefully morphes from actress to singer to painter.
What else would you expect from a former pink Power Ranger?

There are some garage bands where the lawn mower has more talent,
but not this one. Step into the carport-cum-recording studio of a
certain snug Hollywood Hills home and listen up: Even without her
four-member ensemble behind her, the front woman of the Amy Jo
Johnson Band -- sporting embroidered jeans and looking a bit like a
pixie, with her chestnut hair tucked behind her ears -- is making a
joyous noise, belting out a soulful ballad about "just how crazy life can

As she gingerly maneuvers through a thicket of amps and soundboards,
it's easy to imagine Johnson abandoning her day job -- playing the
earthy student and aspiring singer Julie Emrick on WB's Felicity --to hit
the road with Lilith Fair. Acting is just one of the arrows in her creative
quiver, along with screenwriting, painting and making her own music.

For such an artistic multitasker, there's no better place to be than Los
Angeles. "It's an amusement park of opportunity," says Johnson, whose
original song "Puddle of Grace" is on the Felicity soundtrack and whose
band has played such popular local clubs as the Mint and Temple Bar.
And even though it's her refuge, Johnson has also made her house, with
its lightly stained hardwood floors and rugged pine furniture, something
of a creative carnival: a place to paint, sing and entertain the many
friends who drop by.

"I've made 10 keys to the house, and I've given away seven of them,"
says Johnson, 29, just as the phone rings yet again. For constant
company, there's roommate Zary Lahouti, a retail clerk. And a regular
visitor is ex-fiance Colin Mayo, a film electrician who comes over once a
week to continue a ritual they enjoyed while dating -- watching The
Mary Tyler Moore Show on Nick at Nite and eating Ben & Jerry's ice
cream in bed. The only difference now is that they're no longer a couple
and he goes home when the credits roll. Actually, there's a whiff of new
romance in the air, and a Cheshire-cat grin comes over Johnson's face
as she lets a morsel slip: "I really like someone...He's not an actor.

This is an actress who wants to anchor her life beyond the parameters
of Hollywood; after all she hails from Dennis, Mass., Cape Cod town she
calls "very Norman Rockwell." Her father, Grieg, was a used-car
salesman, and her late mother, Christine worked in a clothing shop. "My
mom had amazing style, with the kitchen all blue and white, with little
blue plates -- all that stuff." Johnson's own kitchen is less
buttoned-down, with pink and aqua silk butterflies dangling from
skylights. She half-mockingly dubs her decorating approach
"international," and in fact there's a Tibetan sash, a wooden Buddha,
and a red Mexican coffee table in the living room, plus a stack of
vintage LPs.

Music fills her house and her head. A perfect morning for Johnson
consists of rising early, grabbing a big cup of tea, cranking up Sinead
O'Connor, and dancing around the living room. Then perhaps hitting the
canvas: Amy's breakfast room doubles as her art studio, and next to
the sturdy farmhouse table (which she repainted in pastel stripes) sit
her paints and brushes. Her latest work, hanging in the living room, is
an acrylic of a nude figure with wings. Etched in the painting are the
words "Don't forget your gifts," a philosophy of life she tries to heed.

From an early age, Johnson, the youngest of three, yearned to perform.
Her first stage was the balance beam, where from 7 to 17 she
competed worldwide as a gymnast. Realizing she wasn't headed for the
Olympics, she switched to acting. After high school, she moved to New
York City to study at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, and
lived in an apartment above the famed Beacon Theater music venue.
"The first time I opened up my window, there was Santana coming in,"
she recalls. Her big break came in 1993 when she was cast in TV's
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as Kimberly (the pink one).

In 1998, an even bigger opportunity -- being chosen for Felicity --
came at a moment of devastating loss: Her mother was dying of
cancer. Two months into filming, production was halted so she could fly
home for what turned out to be her last visit. "I said goodbye seven
times," she recalls. "I kept running up and down the stairs. Finally my
mom said 'Amy, go. Goodbye'" Today, in Johnson's bedroom suite, cards
that she sent to her mother form a sort of shrine. "I can feel her. She's
so in my life," says Amy. "If I didn't have faith before, I have so much

The tragedy also taught her not to sit on her talents. Both her Felicity
character and the sixties musician she played in the 1999 VH1 movie
Sweetwater: A True Rock Story are singers, and Johnson hopes to
develop her music independently, ultimately putting her songs out over
the Internet. But her big love remains acting, and the next move on the
career chessboard (she's a serious aficionado of the game) is
independent films. "When I get an idea, I just go do it," she says. "It's
good not to let things have too much power over you." And it won't do
for her to overanalyze the wellspring of her many forms of expression.
"It's just all from my heart," she says. "Just from me." --Honor Brodie

Thanks to Blkrobin for transcribing this.