Judge Lynn Toler is the stern frontwoman who negotiates divorce proceedings between mercurial couples on Divorce Court. Fancast talked to the Harvard University grad about the show, how she got the TV opportunity, and what advice she would give to two celeb couples who have recently been in the news.
What’s Divorce Court?
Divorce Court is a court show, its contingent; it’s just about people getting divorced. All the people are real; they actually have to send us their marriage license so we know they’re not goofing around. Even though one couple got through but we caught them right in time. It’s about resolving conflict on two levels. One being the emotional conflict that goes with divorcing and two is some particular item that is important to them like Fluffy the dog. They both want the dog and we decide who gets it. So that’s what it is, an emotional court show.
And how did you get involved?
I don’t know what the normal process is like; I can tell you what happened on my end. I had been a judge in Cleveland Heights in 2001 and I got a telephone call. Someone said we thought you were interesting. Why don’t you come out to LA to test for a show? I did it. It was power of attorney, it didn’t stay on very long but they knew about me. And so five years later I was at the same court and they called me up and said would you like to try out for Divorce Court?
Do you watch a lot of TV?
You know what, I end up watching Turner Classic Movies and the money station. TCM which I’m watching now in black and white and I watch the money station even though my husband has banned me from it because I get so upset watching the stock market. I watch court shows. I’ve always watched Judge Judy. But I watch all of them now because it’s my job so I like to know what else is going on.
Is Judge Judy someone you look up to or strive to be more like her?
I wouldn’t try to be like her because nobody can do Judy the way Judy does Judy. She teaches me to be a better me. You can not imitate her you can just do better at what you do. I think the thing is that there are a lot of judge shows on and the ones that stay on a while are the ones where each judge has their own independent and individual personality.
What do you think about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie?
I wish I was her and I wish I had him. Who doesn’t? They seem like they’re handling their fame well. I think they’ve adopted a very lot of kids in a very short order. I’m a fan of step parenthood like you make a lot of mistakes but you make one mistake with the first one and then you don’t make that mistake again. You kind of get all of the mistakes out of the system so by the time you get to number six you kind of have it worked out a little bit. Having them all at once to me is not optimal but they have a lot of help that I never had. I love that they adopted a black kid. I just love that. Especially even in America there are a lot of black kids who just can’t find a home. I’m a big believer in cross racial adoption because you know you’ll wait for years and years for a white baby and the little black babies just can’t find anywhere to go. I think they set a wonderful shining example of hey this is cool. And people will follow that. They shouldn’t necessarily but they do and I think it’s a positive thing.
If they were on your show getting a divorce with that many kids how do you think it would go?
If I could have I would have told them not to do it that way so that they could work out the kinks one kid at a time. But now that you have done it you have to make all of your desires secondary to handling this entire group that you have. You have to teach them to be independent because there are so many of them. I think the most important thing those two would have to teach their kids is that they are not as important as the world will tell them they are. Because they are their kids they’re going to get a lot of doors open for them for nothing, for free. And people are going to go gaga over them just because of who they are. And if you don’t teach them that you’re just a regular person they might fall down like a lot of kids with famous people do because they don’t know how to work for something. They kind of get a little spoiled by the rest of the world and that’s our fault for doing that. I think I would tell them to watch out for that more than anything else.
How do you feel about the Chris Brown and Rihanna situation?
I think that it’s incredibly sad and it is an opportunity for women and young girls to have that conversation because by the time a woman is in love it’s usually too late to tell them to get out even if it’s a bad situation. You have to tell them when they’re 11, 12, or 13 before that guy shows up. Here are the signs, this is what you do, so having it happen to someone famous is an opportunity, if we take it, to speak to our young girls before it becomes and issues in their lives that if you have a relationship that has these certain triggers or signs don’t even get involved. Don’t fall in love with him, run before you fall in love. It’s a sad thing to happen and we can’t take it back but we should use it as an opportunity to educate.
When can we catch your show?
It depends on where you live. You can do to divorcecourt.com and they’ll say where to watch. It’s syndicated so it will be on different channels. Usually on Fox or MyNet. But you can find the time for your area on the web site.
Are you working on anything else?
Well I blog a lot. I blog daily about what’s going on with the show, behind the scenes of the show, and what goes on in my house. It’s at www.judgelynn.com and I talk about my husband and my kids. People will also write in and ask me questions on what they should do and I answer them. I really like doing that. I’ve never blogged before but I do it as a daily journal. I think it’s fun and I like talking to people.