By Allison Kugel
Jodie Sweetin enters the room with a take me as I am confidence that makes no apologies. She seems rooted in something profound after a past filled with the rigors of child stardom, substance abuse and mental health struggles. It’s taken her nearly four decades of life to arrive at this place of strength, clarity, and insight. The girl has definitely earned the life she gets to live now with a thriving career, two well-adjusted daughters, and a loving relationship. For Jodie, who says she shuns plastic surgery and gobs of glam, the glow up has definitely been internal, yet you can see it on her youthful face that hasn’t changed much over the years.
The 39 year old mother of two began her career as one of the young darlings of 1980s and ‘90s prime time television; her blonde ringlets and exaggerated on-cue facial expressions helped propel Full House into the stratosphere of iconic sitcoms that continues to play around the globe in syndication. Fans reveled in Sweetin’s adult portrayal of Stephanie Tanner in the Netflix reboot, Fuller House, which ran for five seasons from 2016 – 2020. What made Fuller House magical for audiences, Jodie says, is that “the Netflix show brought generations together. Kids who grew up watching Full House could share the show with their kids.”
Now, the entrepreneur, actress, producer and author has ventured into the digital space with the launch of Never Thought I’d Say This, the popular podcast she co-hosts with Life Coach and best friend, Celia Behar. The two women tackle all things motherhood, sprinkled with celebrity interviews and a lot of candid humor.
Allison Kugel: What are the three most pivotal events in your life that have shaped the person you are today?
Jodie Sweetin: It would be when I was adopted at 14 months old. That completely changed the trajectory of my life. Being cast on Full House at five, and then having my first daughter at 26. Those three things changed everything about my life.
Allison Kugel: Are your birth parents alive? Have you ever connected with them?
Jodie Sweetin: No, I’ve never connected with them, and as far as I know they are not alive. I’m totally okay with that. It’s one of those things I think a lot of adoptees feel. There comes a point in your life where you finally realize what happened, and it no longer becomes something about you like, “I wasn’t wanted.” You realize, “No, they actually made the healthiest decision for me by allowing me to be adopted by another family that could provide better.” I look at it now very differently than I did when I was young, which was in a very self-torturous way. I felt like something was wrong with me. I think we all take that on a little bit, but this shift in my thinking completely changed how I view myself.
Allison Kugel: You were five years old when you got cast on Full House. Were you ever an introverted and shy kid, or were you always bubbly and outgoing?
Jodie Sweetin: I was always bubbly and outgoing. My mom used to say when I was two years old that she would worry I would just walk home with a stranger in a supermarket, because everyone was my friend. I would just say, “Hi! I’m Jodie.” I’m still sort of like that, but I haven’t gone home from the grocery store with a stranger (laugh). I loved performing, I loved dance, and I started dancing when I was three years old doing tap and ballet. My very first dance recital, I was in the second row, and apparently I thought the girls in front of me in our little cabbage patch outfits were not doing as well as they needed to. I wormed my way up to the front row, pushed them out of the way, and thought, “Here’s how it’s done.”
Allison Kugel: So when you went to the Full House audition you must have been like, “I got this!”
Jodie Sweetin: I actually never auditioned for the show. I did a guest appearance on a show called Valerie with Valerie Harper and Jason Bateman. I played the next-door neighbor’s niece. I did one episode of that show and it was for the same producers and same company that were creating Full House at the time. They saw me and said, “That’s Stephanie,” and cast me on Full House. I always say, I wound up exactly where I was supposed to be. Of course, everything in my life changed after that.
Allison Kugel: When all the kids were on the set, what was the interaction like between all the kids on the show and John Stamos, Dave Coulier and Bob Saget?
Jodie Sweetin: We were like family from the beginning. The guys on the show always took care of us. It was a very familial vibe from the beginning. It was never a show where the kids and the adults didn’t really have anything to do with each other, and that happens a lot on shows. That didn’t happen on Full House, nor did it happen on Fuller House. That was just not the vibe of our show. The kids were always included in family BBQs, get-togethers and doing stuff outside of work. They always looked out for us from the time we started, when I was five. Candace and Andrea where ten. Ashley and Mary Kate were just nine months old at the beginning of Full House. They were like our uncles. I was very close with Bob and his three daughters, Dave and his son, and John with his now wife and baby. I love and adore all of them, still to this day. I had a really fortunate childhood in this business. I know not a lot do, but I never had a negative experience on set with the people I worked with.
Allison Kugel: For Fuller House, did you return to the same exact set or was it rebuilt?
Jodie Sweetin: They tear those things down after a show is done. It all goes back to the set department. The funny thing was, I think the year before we went back into production on Fuller House, they had gotten rid of the floor plans at Warner Brothers for the Full House house. They thought after 20 or 25 years they didn’t need it anymore, and they cleared out everything. When they went to go build the Fuller House sets, the art department and our set design department actually had to go back and watch old episodes of the original Full House and design it from that, because they didn’t have the blueprints anymore.
Allison Kugel: Have you been to the actual exterior house in San Francisco?
Jodie Sweetin: I’ve been inside that actual house in San Francisco. [Full House and Fuller House Creator] Jeff Franklin had actually bought it at one point, and we all put our hands in cement in the backyard. The neighbors do not love that. Previous owners had painted the house so it looked nothing like the Full House house you saw on the show, because there would be up to 1,000 people at a time driving by the house on city tours.
Allison Kugel: As you were growing up and going through adolescence, did you ever have a crush on one of the guys on the show?
Jodie Sweetin: No, they were like family. People always asked, “Oh my God, wasn’t John Stamos so cute?” I’ve known John since I was five. I’ve seen him roll into work in old t-shirts and sweatpants with holes in them, and not looking all that cute. He was always just John to me. I know him too well to think he’s hot. He’s a big dork and I love him. You get to know people so well that you’re like, “Oh my God! No, no, no,” when it comes to that stuff. I know he is good looking, but I’ve seen things, and that would be like having a weird crush on your uncle.
Allison Kugel: Noted (laughs). When you are out and about, do you fly under the radar or are you easily recognized?
Jodie Sweetin: I’m pretty easily recognizable, just because, thank God, I haven’t changed that much in my appearance. I’m going to be 40 in January, and thankfully, I would like to say I have aged fairly well, so people definitely recognize me. When Fuller House made its debut, people definitely started recognizing me much more again because they came to know me as an adult version of Stephanie. Also, with the Hallmark movies and just getting back to work as an adult, I definitely get recognized a lot more, but not to the point where I can’t go to the grocery store. Gosh, I can’t even imagine. I know there are a lot of people that are super, super famous like that, and to me that sounds really overwhelming.
Allison Kugel: You know what is so tragic about that? I love going to the grocery store. Whole Foods is like Disneyland to me (laugh).
Jodie Sweetin: There is a sense of normalcy that comes with doing those sorts of things, and I think sometimes it’s hard when you lose that. I know as a kid it was hard for me to go to a mall. It was hard for me to go certain places as a kid, like Disneyland. I couldn’t do it without a guide, or without whatever, because as a kid the show was everywhere. It was ABC primetime Friday night. Everybody had appointment television and you watched everything, so it was definitely different as a kid. I got recognized a lot more.
Allison Kugel: What is that like as a kid?
Jodie Sweetin: It was weird to me, only because I didn’t watch the show. I wasn’t super impressed with being on TV, not that I was ungrateful for it. I just thought, “I don’t know what the big deal is. I just have a job and other people watch it.” I thought it was normal. It was what I’d always known. Then realizing the extent to which the show grew… even as an adult, we went over to Japan and the show is huge in Japan, to the point where we got off the plane and there were 300 people at the airport in Tokyo waiting for us. It was like being The Beatles. Or you get into a cab in Japan and there is Full House dubbed in Japanese playing on the little screen. That stuff is crazy, and as a kid you’re kind of not as aware of the world around you anyway. It wasn’t like I was looking at magazines with myself in them. I knew that they were out there, but I didn’t realize just how popular it was until it became impossible to go to places like Disneyland, Disney World, the mall, or things like that as a kid. You say to yourself, “Oh well, that’s weird. I guess I can’t really blend in like that anymore.”
Allison Kugel: When you see famous kids now in the tabloids or posted on social media, do you ever think, “Oh, I remember that. I know what’s going through that kid’s head?” Whether it’s the Kardashian/Jenner kids or whoever?
Jodie Sweetin: For kids like that who are born into notoriety, into a famous family with famous parents, I started working when I was three, so it’s just always been what I know. I think there is almost more of a shock when it happens to you a little later in life, when you’ve spent your entire life being normal, and now you’re like, “What the hell is this?” When you grow up with it, it’s just par for the course. I was attacked as a kid in the tabloids. I can’t stand tabloid magazines or even social media these days. I think anyone who goes after these kids, whether it’s how they dress on the red carpet, or how someone is parenting them when they are out in public, leave them alone. It’s really bothersome. It’s a celebrity’s kid and that just happens to be their parents. They didn’t ask to be given all this attention. Back off or respect when the parents say, “Please don’t photograph my kid. Don’t put pictures of them in magazines.” People should respect that.
Allison Kugel: I don’t think people make the connection, like how would they feel if it was their kid?
Jodie Sweetin: I think with social media as it is now, it’s the same thing. Everyone wants to see the worst, or the over-inflated best. Look, there are plenty of times I’ve had to yell at my kids in the grocery store. I know someone is recognizing me or is watching me, and I’m thinking, “Look, my kids are being bad and Stephanie Tanner had to yell at her kids in the grocery store. I’m sorry.”
Allison Kugel: (Laugh) Speaking of kids. I listened to your podcast, Never Thought I’d Say This, and you cover a lot of funny mom moments and stories.
Jodie Sweetin: Yes. We talk about parenting, motherhood, and single motherhood, in particular. My best friend and co-host, Celia Behar, and I both have boyfriends now, but we had been single moms for a while, and we dive into the adventures of parenting that nobody tells you about that are sometimes pretty awful. Also, we are very honest in our own parenting fails. We are not the Instagram, Pinterest, lunchbox making parents. We are the ones that are screaming as we are all running out the door, or somebody is late, or someone forgot something. We have a lot of fun with it. I’m really proud of what we do with our podcast.
Allison Kugel: And how did the podcast come about? Did you just say to her, “Will you host this podcast with me?”
Jodie Sweetin: Celia and I were tossing around the idea because we would be telling these parenting stories and it would be like, “Oh my God, I never thought I would have to say this to another human being.” There is so much about parenting no one ever tells you, like the weird things you have to teach little humans. You say to yourself, “Oh, that’s right, they don’t come pre-programmed. I have to do all this stuff like potty training, teaching manners, and that you can’t just whip it out in the grocery store because you have to pee.” You don’t think about having to train a human being.
Allison Kugel: What is the best lesson that you have learned from your kids? Something they have taught you?
Jodie Sweetin: I watch my kids all the time and my girls have good boundaries; they stand up for themselves and speak their minds. Particularly my older one, she has always been that kid that would say, “I don’t like that.” Not necessarily in a bratty way, but like, “Nope, I’m not doing this.” I didn’t get those skills until I was in my 30s. I’ve watched my girls demonstrate that and I’d like to think it’s because they see how I am in my life now. They are still middle school girls so it’s all up in the air, but for the most part they have a very good sense of self. I learn that from them all the time. They express themselves in their clothes, in their room, whatever it is, and I admire them for that because I think as a kid and well into my twenties, and probably early thirties, I cared way too much what people thought of me. I know there are elements of peer pressure for them we well, but I’m just so proud of how they stand up for themselves and say, “This is who I am, and this is what I like.”
Allison Kugel: I feel like girls today don’t suffer from the disease of politeness that our generation did.
Jodie Sweetin: Our generation learned from our mom’s generation. Again, it was very much like, “Girls don’t say that. Girls are polite.” Not until my mid to late thirties did I say, “Wait, I get to have boundaries? I get to say what I don’t like? I don’t have to hang out with people I don’t want to or go on a date with somebody because I don’t want to make them feel bad? I don’t have to be nice to somebody who says something horrible to me? I don’t have to do any of that? Oh wow, what a gift.” My daughters have very firm boundaries, and they are so wonderfully expressive in who they are. I give them the freedom to be that.
Allison Kugel: Before your current relationship, how did you navigate dating as a single mom? Did you separate church and state like nobody meets my kids and all of that?
Jodie Sweetin: I didn’t do that as much, but I’ve learned over the years how to do it better. I’m a single mom but their dads are in their lives, so it wasn’t like I had them all the time.
Allison Kugel: Let me correct that, we’re not single moms, but moms who happen to be single and dating. I don’t want to take that distinction away from single moms doing it all.
Jodie Sweetin: Right, a mom who is single. I think as my girls have gotten older, and my boyfriend and I have been together for four years now, and he really did an amazing job with it all. At first, we had a long-distance relationship too. He was in Brooklyn, and I was here in LA for 3 ½ years, and so it was slow and it was nice. He was very good at letting them warm up to him and not having to force a relationship. I think that is the hard thing as a mom. You’re thinking, “Everyone just get along. I really like this person.” I’m not sacrificing my kids, but how do I make everybody happy. At the end of the day, you’ll put up with your own kids’ nonsense. I can tune my kids out. The other day I was watching this show and one of them had the music super loud and my boyfriend said, “I can’t. I can’t. It’s too much.” I said, “Yeah, you’re right. It is really obnoxiously loud.” It was shaking the walls, so I thought “Yeah you’ve got to say something.”
Allison Kugel: When was the first time your girls realized you were a public person?
Jodie Sweetin: My kids have always known it. Even when they were little, their birth announcements were out there in public. Just the fact that they were born, they can Google themselves, where most kids can’t really do that. They always knew mommy is a famous person. If anything, they are so unimpressed by it and really just feel like, “Uh, mom you’re not cool.” I’ll reply, “Oh, I know I’m not. It’s okay.” I luckily have grown old enough that I don’t need to be cool anymore. That pressure is lifted. But they love supporting me. They love watching me shoot something, but they love it more for the craft services. They don’t really care about what I’m actually shooting (laugh). They love the perks, and they are super grateful for the fun stuff we get to do because of it. I think sometimes it is hard for them because their friends say, “Oh My God, that’s your mom?” They’ll say, “She’s still a mom.”
Allison Kugel: If you could travel back in time to any famous historical event and change the course of that event, where would you go and what would you attempt to change?
Jodie Sweetin: I feel like last year gave me so much material, just 2020 alone. Can we just skip 2020? I feel like the pain, the loss and the death was awful. Also, the impact that it has had on our kids. On our families. On our politics. On everything. I think it has brought some things to the surface that needed to be, but I also think it has forever altered the course of our lives in a very complicated way. Nobody in our immediate family got Covid, but I can only imagine if as semi-smooth sailing as it was for us, I can’t imagine what other people went through and I think that sort of collective trauma and pain has really affected us, and I think will really affect people’s mental health in ways that we haven’t seen yet. Mental health is a hugely important thing to me. I’m a big advocate for talking about it, destigmatizing it and so I think that is my concern right now. I know I was a mess during the pandemic. I was not a fully functioning person. It was awful.
Allison Kugel: I don’t know if I was a mess, but I got fatter (laugh).
Jodie Sweetin: (Laughs) I lost almost 37 pounds, because I’m a stress starver.
Allison Kugel: Are you serious?
Jodie Sweetin: But not in a good way. I just stopped eating. I couldn’t keep food down. I’ll be really honest about it; the pandemic was not good for me. I have severe anxiety and depression anyway, so it really didn’t do any favors for my mental health. I really struggled with it and for me it was a time of feeling really out of control and again I can’t imagine how it affected people who were working on the front lines.
Allison Kugel: I also suffer from anxiety and there is a history of alcoholism in my family. Back in the day, mental health was not something that was discussed and so I think the reason grandfather was an alcoholic is because he also had anxiety. Do you think at one point you self-medicated because of your anxiety and depression?
Jodie Sweetin: Yes, absolutely. I think that was a big part of it, was how do I deal with these feelings? How do I manage my own head that is just loud and negative and awful to me sometimes, but nobody else can hear it? You’re stuck in it. The thing about anxiety is, people think of panic attacks, but there can be a raging, screaming voice in your head all the time that you just can’t get quiet. You just don’t want to listen to this voice, and especially when mental health wasn’t talked about, it was worse. Having that wiring in your brain that something switches on when you’re an alcoholic and it feels like there is never enough. I can’t ever fill this hole because there is a bottom missing in the cup, and I just keep trying to fill it. I think that is something I’m really grateful for now, is the de-stigmatization of talking about mental health.
Allison Kugel: When did you get to the point when you realized you had to develop actual skills to heal yourself rather than numbing yourself?
Jodie Sweetin: That was my whole journey through sobriety. A lot of it is really looking at yourself, and what are the things that I do or behaviors that I’m trying to use to cope with my life? And how do I do this better? How do I interact with people better? How do I hold myself to a higher standard? How do I go back and make some of those things right so that I can alleviate that shame and terror that comes with all of it? Then, how do I go about life not creating those situations for myself in the future? That is a huge part of it. I’m always very honest that, for me, medication has been key. Otherwise, my struggle was so bad I wasn’t getting out of bed. Now that I know when I need to speak up for myself, even into my thirties, my early thirties feeling like I needed some therapy and I probably need a psychiatrist for some meds; all of these things to start taking better care of myself.
Allison Kugel: Do you pray, and if so, who or what do you pray to?
Jodie Sweetin: I don’t. I’m more of a meditative, still, and present sort of person. I’m not necessarily religious. For me, I find that higher power or something greater than myself when I’m at live music and everyone is enjoying themselves. The musicians are in so much joy playing something. Or when I’ve been out at a protest and I see thousands and thousands of people coming together to do something right, helping each other and taking care of each other. That, for me, are the moments when I see something greater than us and when we rise above our own selfish wants and needs to connect at a higher level.
Allison Kugel: What do you think you came into this life as Jodie Sweetin to learn, and what do you think you came into this life to teach?
Jodie Sweetin: Oh man. That is a great question. I think I came into this life to learn to genuinely be myself and to learn how to be kind to myself. I think once you learn how to do something, then you are able to teach it. I had this really long journey of figuring out some things about my own voice and my own strength, what it was I was passionate about and how to use that voice. Now I feel I have that opportunity to share that voice with others. Whether it’s the voice of going through addiction, of being a mom and feeling overwhelmed, of being an actress and what that represents to certain people, and working in social justice areas. I get to use that voice I’ve found to be an example to others, particularly for young woman of all kinds, to really stand in their truth and in their power, and to love yourself unconditionally no matter what your body looks like. For me, it’s very important that I post stuff on Instagram that is not filtered or with a bunch of makeup, because I genuinely like me. My message is, “Just be you. You are amazing and you get one body that is going to carry you through this life. Celebrate it, whatever it is capable of doing.”