When I interviewed Arnett for this column, he said that when you visited him on the set of Will & Grace, you happened to be friends with fellow guest-star Janet Jackson. He assumed that you had met on the set of Good Times. True?
I was actually her tall skinny brother. I’m actually Jimmie Walker. People don’t know that. It was just a little face paint.
On VH1’s 100 Greatest Teen Stars you’re ranked 47th, sandwiched between Usher and Christina Aguilera. How do you feel about that placement?
Well, I guess that sandwich would be good depending on who’s behind me. As long as Christina’s behind me — if she doesn’t have a strap-on — I’m OK.
Being a teen star practically gives you an excuse to be out of control. Were you boring, or did we just not hear about your partying?
I just wasn’t a stupid idiot about it. If you’re going to get drunk and climb behind the wheel, stop your stupidity there and don’t take pulls off the bottle at red lights. I just never got caught — I’m lucky. Then I got my shit together in time.
What was your most “Corey Haim” moment?
I’m not going to tell you. I just said I got away with it all!
Do you have any sage advice for Britney and Lindsay? Because if they can’t turn to Jason Bateman, to whom can they turn?
Yeah, that’s true. But it doesn’t seem to me like they’re doing that much that’s all that bad. It’s just that there are a zillion more paparazzi around now. Unless they want to completely take themselves off the market by getting sober, getting married, and holding down a job, they’re going to be the poster children of what the industry is. Look, Lindsay’s not doing any acting, and until recently, Britney wasn’t making any music. So that’s their job: bad-behaving celebrity. They’re self-marketing. So why should they stop?
In the mid ’80s, you did a public service announcement for teen abstinence called "How Can I Tell If I’m Really in Love?" with your sister Justine. Were you really the best poster child for that message?
No, and I don’t know what the hell that was. Believe me, I’ve seen that on YouTube. It’s just awful. But it’s nice to see how flammable my hair was back then. Justine was working for Paramount, it was a Paramount thing, and they wanted us to do this crap they could sell on VHS. I loved the sound of my voice almost as much as I love it now, so I was like, Someone’s going to pay me to talk? Great!
I thought that actually might’ve been your gayest project — until I discovered the Ice Capades TV special you hosted with Alyssa Milano in 1989.
Oh, no, there’s more, Brandon. You need to search deeper. God, I thought I was so cool back then, and it’s amazing how many uncool things I did. I feel half as cool now, but my cool-edit button is so much sharper.
Did you feel like a sex symbol?
Anybody who was under the age of 20 and on television was a teen idol by definition, so I didn’t take any of that stuff personally. I did think I was pretty fucking cool, but I certainly didn’t think I was worthy of Scott Baio or Kirk Cameron adulation.