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Show rides the waves of family life



Published: Sat, April 9, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Lori Loughlin, previously of 'Full House,' co-created and stars in the drama.

By DAVE MASON

SCRIPPS HOWARD

The beach drama "Summerland" quickly evolved from a surf story into a look at what works and what doesn't in raising kids. That remains the focus as the WB series, filmed partly in Malibu, Calif., ends its second season Monday with back-to-back episodes, beginning at 8 p.m.

In real life, star Shawn Christian has found that being a dad means trying to help a child find answers. And the questions begin immediately.

Christian, who plays Johnny Durant, said his 4-year-old son asks many of the usual questions. "'Why is the sky blue?' I say, 'I don't know.' 'Why are people mean?' I tell him, 'Some people aren't happy with their lives.' 'Some of the kids at school will be mean.'

"He asks, 'When are you going to be home?' 'I'll be home when I'm done at work.'"

The questions become more complex as kids get older, and on "Summerland," adult roommates, who never had children of their own, try different approaches to help kids grow up.

And the kids are watching. "Summerland" won its Monday time period this season for two demographics -- teenagers in general and female teenagers in particular -- according to the WB.

Family life

Lori Loughlin of "Full House" co-created the drama and stars as Ava Gregory, a fashion designer who has cared for her niece and nephews at her Southern California beach home since their parents died in a car accident.

Ava has lived with adult roommates -- business partner Susannah Rexford (Merrin Dungey of "Alias"), surfer Jay Robertson (Ryan Kwanten) and Johnny. They have different views about how to raise the Westerly kids -- Bradin, 16 (Jesse McCartney); Nikki, 13 (Kay Panabaker), and Derrick, 9 (Nick Benson).

Christian said Ava tends to think carefully about her decisions regarding the children.

"I think Johnny's more instinctual, which isn't always good," Christian said.

The kids have added a factor to the on-again, off-again relationship between Johnny and Ava. She has to think of the kids and has questioned whether Johnny is responsible enough.

"It isn't just about yourself anymore," Christian said.

Christian said his character, who worked to open a bar this season, has tried to prove himself to Ava.

There's a real family aspect on "Summerland." The cast includes Christian's stepdaughter, Taylor Cole, who plays surfing instructor Erika Spaulding. Bradin fell for Erika in the first season.

Christian said he enjoys his role as a real-life parent and brings his experiences to his character. "Kids remind you how simple life can be," he said.

Christian noted that viewers have followed him to "Summerland" from "As The World Turns."

"Soap fans are very loyal fans," he said.

The 29-year-old Grand Rapids, Mich., native said the fantasy aspects of acting lured him to the profession: "the idea that I can go to work and make-believe."

The profession also led him to the love of his life. He met his wife, Deborah Quinn, the mother of their son and "Summerland" actress Cole, during auditions for a showerhead ad. They were married in 1996.




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