"We're both 34," Hart says, "and we've both been in this business 30 years. We started almost the exact same time."But until the 2009 ABC Family TV movie "My Fake Fiance," the two had never crossed professional paths.
"Never bumped into each other on-screen," Lawrence says, "but off-screen for years, yeah."
ABC Family and the fans liked what they saw, and now the two are back together for the comedy "Melissa & Joey," premiering Tuesday, Aug. 17, on ABC Family with back-to-back original episodes.
The concept was of a man forced to become a nanny, or "manny." Hart plays Mel, the former wild child of an Ohio political family who is now on the Toledo city council. She's working hard to rehabilitate her image when her life gets turned upside down.
After a scandal, Mel's brother-in-law goes on the lam, and her sister winds up in prison, so Mel unexpectedly gets custody of teen siblings Lennox and Ryder (Taylor Spreitler, Nick Robinson). Unable to cope alone, she winds up with Joe (Lawrence), a former Wall Street hotshot banned from the market after a scandal of his own and desperate for a job.
"We don't really like each other," Hart says, "but we need each other."
On this July day on the show's San Fernando Valley set, a scene being filmed has Mel coming down the stairs in a form-fitting dress and very high heels, not looking much like "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch."
"I wear a lot of tight dresses in this," Hart says. "It's pretty sassy. It's great that I get to play an adult. There may be some people who will be shocked by what my character does and what she says, and maybe what she wears, but it's definitely more grown-up for me."
Lawrence also had very definite ideas about what sort of a character he wanted to play.
"It was a guy that I didn't think was on TV right now," he says, "which is a real guy's guy, sort of politically incorrect ... you like him for his honesty."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun