Jennifer Love Hewitt is a rarity in Hollywood: a child star who transitioned to adult roles and has remained stable and successful for more than 30 years.
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After experiencing 1990s superstardom on TV in Party Of Five and in movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Can’t Hardly Wait, Hewitt suffered career setbacks in the early 2000s. But just when it looked like her greatest success might be behind her, she landed the role for which many viewers know her best: medium Melinda Gordon in Ghost Whisperer.
Now in her 40s, the industry veteran has been a singer, songwriter, actress, producer, director, and author. And the woman voted “sexiest” by the readers of Maxim has recently added “mother of two” to her resume. All the while she’s maintained the girl-next-door charm that’s won over audiences for a generation.
Here are some surprising facts about a star we love:
1. She has famous family members.
Hewitt is the only performer in her family, but she has her share of well-known distant relatives. Her grandmother’s cousin was Patsy Cline, the legendary voice of hits like “Crazy.” “She’s the only person in my family who has ever sung,” Hewitt said in 1998. “Somehow it skipped all of those generations and came to me.” Other notable relatives include Jesse James and Harry S. Truman.
2. She got her start on the Disney Channel.
Hewitt moved from Texas to Hollywood at age 10 (along with her newly divorced mom and older brother) to pursue a career as a performer. She was soon cast in the teen variety series Kids Incorporated on the Disney Channel, joining an ensemble headlined by 14-year-old Fergie (then known as Stacy Ferguson). Also featured in the cast was Eric Balfour, who would later appear with Hewitt in Trojan War (1997) and Can’t Hardly Wait (1998). “I thought she was just too young to do the show,” Kids creator Tom Lynch said in an interview. “But when Jennifer sang, out of this little body came a voice that was huge.”
3. She released her first album at age 12.
Hewitt’s first credit as a recording artist was as a background vocalist on the number-one single “Toy Soldiers,” by Kids Incorporated grad Martika. Two years later, Hewitt recorded her first solo album for an international record label. Love Songs included a cover of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” which became a hit in Japan and Europe, and a track written by pop superstar Debbie Gibson. JLH’s first American album Let’s Go Bang was released by Atlantic in 1995 followed by Jennifer Love Hewitt in 1996.
4. She was credited as “Love Hewitt” for the first few years of her career.
In 1993, 14-year-old JLH was cast opposite Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act 2, her first role in a major studio film. It was also the first time her name appeared in the credits as Jennifer Love Hewitt. “My mother was just going to name me ‘Love Hewitt,’” she said in 2002. “But my brother [Todd] was nine at the time, and he was afraid people would think I was a freak.” He suggested “Jennifer,” the name of a neighborhood girl he had a crush on. “Love” became her middle name and life-long nickname.
5. She was the sixth wheel on Party Of Five.
After roles on a number of short-lived primetime series, JLH joined the cast of Fox’s Party of Five in the drama’s second season. The 16-year-old played Sarah Reeves, the love interest of series star Scott Wolf. Hewitt and Wolf had first worked together on an episode of Kids Incorporated four years earlier. JLH left Party Of Five in its final season to headline the spin-off Time Of Your Life, with future stars Jennifer Garner( Alias) and Pauley Perrette ( NCIS).
6. A horror film made her a movie star.
A year after Party Of Five cast mate Neve Campbell starred in the horror blockbuster Scream, Hewitt landed the lead in I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997). JLH played the “final girl” to survive an attack by a killer dressed like the guy on the fish stick box. The film was a box office smash and spawned a sequel a year later. I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) included the single “How Do I Deal,” Love’s highest charting song to-date in the U.S.
7. She played Audrey Hepburn.
In 2000, Jennifer Love Hewitt produced her first film: the three-hour TV movie The Audrey Hepburn Story for ABC. At age 20, Hewitt cast herself as the iconic star, recreating scenes from classics like Roman Holiday and Breakfast At Tiffany’s. A decade later, JLH celebrated her 30 thbirthday with a Hepburn-themed party.
8. Her role in Ghost Whisperer was predicted in a séance.
Fox cancelled Time Of Your Life in 2000, airing only 12 of 19 produced episodes. Hewitt’s next few films were box office disappointments and her 2002 album Bare Naked under-performed. In 2004, Hewitt and eight friends attended a séance at the Magic Castle nightclub in Hollywood. “The spirits feel connected to you,” the medium told her. When Hewitt returned home that night, a package was waiting. It contained the script for Ghost Whisperer, a TV series in which she communicated with spirits.
9. She married her co-star.
After Ghost Whisperer ended its five-season run in 2010, JLH took on her most adult role so far: a suburban Texas prostitute with a coke habit in the TV Movie The Client List. A series followed in 2012 with some of the movie’s rougher edges softened. Actor Brian Hallisay played her husband on the series, and the two began dating during the first season. They married in 2013 and have two children: Autumn and Atticus.
10. She had a Ghost Whisperer reunion with Aisha Tyler.
Following the two-year run of The Client List, Hewitt was cast in CBS’s Criminal Minds as a former FBI agent. She left after one season to have her second child and was replaced by Aisha Tyler, who had played Andrea Marino on Ghost Whisperer. Although the two actresses didn’t share screen time on Criminal Minds, they did appear together on CBS’ The Talk in 2014. They reminisced about their frequent visits to a local karaoke bar while filming Ghost Whisperer and performed a duet of “Something To Talk About,” the first song they ever sang together.