By LYNN ELBER
LOS ANGELES — Dina Eastwood has heard the question repeatedly: Why put her family and superstar husband Clint Eastwood on display for a reality TV show, generally the province of D-list or wannabe celebrities?
The answer is simple, she said. “Mrs. Eastwood & Company,” the E! series debuting 10 p.m. EDT Sunday, is her bid for stardom – not for herself, but for a vocal group, Overtone, that has become her passion.
“I had a midlife crisis and I adopted a boy band,” said the breezily candid Eastwood. “I was edgy, I didn’t know what I was doing. Clint was accelerating how many movies a year he was doing. Our youngest daughter was getting to the point she doesn’t want to be around me as much.”
Eastwood, 46, discovered Overtone at a concert in Capetown, South Africa, where her husband of 18 years was making the 2009 film “Invictus” with Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela. The six-member group ended up a prominent part of the movie’s soundtrack and Dina Eastwood made the leap to manager.
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“They’re very good-looking and the best vocal group Clint and I have ever heard,” she said. “I was thinking what a cute little reality show about a haggard mom who doesn’t know what she’s doing, leading this cute band around trying to … get them successful.”
Overtone singer Eduard Leonard said the group is awed by the opportunity and by their patrons, especially Clint Eastwood.
“At first it was terribly intimidating to be in his presence,” Leonard said. “We still have to pinch ourselves.”
Although Dina Eastwood pitched “Mrs. Eastwood & Company” as a showcase for Overtone, she decided the gender balance, of a half-dozen men and her, was off. So the “& Company” was expanded to include Morgan, her 15-year-old daughter with Eastwood, and her stepdaughter Francesca, 18, (Clint Eastwood’s daughter with actress Frances Fisher).
The teenagers were game – reality TV is in their generation’s DNA, as Dina Eastwood sees it – but the Eastwoods and Fisher vetted the girls’ involvement before deciding it was appropriate for them, she said.
Also in the mix are Groucho Marx’s granddaughter (married to Dina Eastwood’s brother, Dominic Ruiz, Overtone’s road manager); a tart-tongued housekeeper who could have come straight from Sitcom Central Casting; a pet menagerie including a tortoise and a pig; and access to the Eastwood’s Carmel home on California’s greatest stretch of coastline.
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What’s largely missing is the presence of Oscar-winning filmmaker Eastwood, who was in Atlanta starring in the movie “Trouble With the Curve” for eight of the 10 weeks of “Mrs. Eastwood & Company” filming. That doesn’t signal disapproval, Dina Eastwood said.
He supported her decision to do the show, after providing “every single warning you can possibly give someone,” she said. “That being said, he’s also given me the freedom to go ahead and try something new and on my own.”
Although she’s a TV veteran (a longtime newscaster who still fills in at a Carmel station, despite her status as a celebrity wife), Eastwood had some uneasiness about venturing into the “unknown” world of reality TV and putting her family at risk.
She warned E! and production company Bunim/Murray (“The Real World,” “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”) that the Eastwood clan wasn’t dysfunctional and “it could be boring. They were willing to try something like that.”
She was also firm about protecting her husband’s stature. “It’s about absolute respect for him … and his image, and not wanting to touch that,” she said, noting that he called the shots on his involvement.
“Clint graciously threw me a bone and decided to appear in a couple of episodes. Other times I’d want him to appear and he’d say, `Nope, I don’t want to,'” she said.
In episode one, the highest drama stems from Dina Eastwood’s determination to talk Morgan out of getting her bellybutton pierced. Promo clips signal more fireworks, including what Dina Eastwood calls “the most intense argument of my life with another adult,” over a child’s bloody nose.
But don’t expect her show to go the way of “Jersey Shore,” Eastwood said: “There’s no sordid activity going on.”
Overtone members Leonard, Emile Welman, Shane Smit, Riaan Weyers, Ernie Bates and Valentino Ponsonby were the impetus for the series but, Clint Eastwood’s non-presence notwithstanding, viewers will learn a bit about his family.
“People have an idea of how the Eastwoods are,” said Leonard. “This will help viewers see they are not a conventional Hollywood family. They are very down to earth and have hearts of gold.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.