Catherine Bell on Motherhood and Marriage

By Paulette Cohn

Photo courtesy of Hallmark Channel

Lifetime's gorgeous 'Army Wife' reveals why she was terrified while pregnant and opens up about her new role as a 'good witch!'


Little did Catherine Bell suspect when she moved to Charleston, SC to film "Army Wives" that it would be the perfect place to raise her five-year-old daughter Gemma. But the historic Southern city, which is famous for its charm, wove its spell on her and her family. So, the former self-professed vagabond has put down roots -- but she says it is mainly to accommodate her daughter.

"Adam and I were constantly moving and changing houses and traveling on whims all over the world," Bells says of her life with husband Adam Beeson before Gemma's arrival. "We still have that spirit, but it is more important to settle down for her. She has her friends here, she has school and she has her play dates and stuff like that."

As enticing as Charleston is, the move was not without its downside. Bell's mother, Mina, had been Gemma's nanny when the family lived in California, but unlike her daughter, Mina didn't want to relocate. That's where dad stepped in. Luckily, Beeson is a screenwriter and can work at home, so he can take on the parenting duties when Bell has long days on the set. And, of course, Gemma is in school now, so there are fewer hours that she needs at-home supervision.

These days, Bell has happily settled into the role of mom, but in the beginning she recalls she wasn't expecting how much having a child would change her lifestyle. As an only child, who never did any babysitting, Bell had a lot to learn about childrearing.

"I was terrified when I was pregnant," she admits. "I thought, 'I won't know how to change a diaper. What am I going to do? I won't know how to hold her.'"

So Bell enrolled in classes and learned to change a diaper on a doll. Until one day, while she was still pregnant, a friend came over with her baby.

"I thought it would be good if I experienced it one time, but it is a very different experience when a) you've never done it before and b) it is not your own child, because it is like, 'Ooooh this is gross. I am not going to be able to do this.' But you have your own child and it comes naturally. Their poop just doesn't smell because it is your own child," she jokes.

Bell, who is starring in "The Good Witch's Garden," premiering Saturday, Feb. 7 at 9 p.m. on the Hallmark Channel, says her first thought in deciding to do the role was the opportunity to play someone closer to her true self, but she also chose the project because it is something her daughter could watch. After all, Denise Sherwood, her character on "Army Wives" has been involved with two men other than her estranged husband this season -- a little too sexy for the eyes of a kindergartener.

"I am much lighter, sillier and quirkier than most of the serious, strong women I have played," says Bell, who is also known for her role as Colonel Sarah "Mac" MacKenzie on "JAG". "It was very exciting for me to get to play a romantic comedy and work with Chris Potter. We had great chemistry."

So is her character really a witch?

"That is the big question, isn't it? she asks. "I think she is in tune with things that a lot of people are and some people are and probably aren't even aware of it. I think we all have those abilities to a certain extent, but it is a matter of whether or not we pay attention to them or listen to them and acknowledge them."

With her busy acting career, motherhood and marriage, Bell has a lot to juggle, and she says that one of the most important things she has learned is that it is essential to balance out your time.

"While it is important to give to your child of your time and energy, it is important to take time for yourself and your marriage. Often that gets dropped. I talk to friends and say, 'You have to go to dinner. Get a babysitter and have a romantic dinner, or go alone to the beach or get a manicure.' All those things get dropped when you have a child and, I think, if you go to lunch or go shopping with your girlfriends, you are dying to see your baby when you come home. It is that much better."