JoAnna Garcia Swisher Teases What’s To Come For Maddie In Sweet Magnolias Season 4

The actor and mom of two opened up to Scary Mommy about the big lesson she learned from her character this year, her handsome on-screen husband, and more.

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JoAnna Garcia Swisher has a knack for landing the kind of roles that make her feel like part of the family. For many of us, that started in 2001, when the world met her as Cheyenne Hart-Montgomery, the eldest daughter of Reba McEntire (queen!) on the sitcom Reba. Garcia Swisher has carried that cozy relatability throughout her career — which is arguably never more apparent than in her current gig on the wildly popular series Sweet Magnolias.

Just renewed for a fourth season on Netflix, Sweet Magnolias sees Garcia Swisher as Maddie Townsend: a woman in the small Southern town of Serenity, South Carolina, who (with a little help from her lifelong best friends Helen and Dana Sue) is adapting to life as a single mom after a messy divorce.

In real life, Garcia Swisher is happily married to husband Nick Swisher, with whom she shares daughters Emerson, born in 2013, and Sailor, born in 2016. And while their life, by all accounts, is far less dramatic than that of her on-screen alter ego, you get the impression that Garcia Swisher really is just as relatable as the characters she plays.

From empathizing with me over sleepless nights with a sick kid (she’s partnered with Abbott, the makers of BinaxNOW COVID-19 Self Tests) to getting flustered when her Great Dane’s barking interrupts us (“my dinosaur,” she lovingly calls him after apologizing), Garcia Swisher embodied her girl-next-door charm when we recently caught up via Zoom.

Scary Mommy: Everyone, my kid included, is sick right now. But all moms have a few hacks during cold and flu season to make their family feel better. What are yours?

JoAnna Garcia Swisher: I actually just recently had the flu, and one of my dearest friends is my personal doctor. He said that, honestly, the most dangerous part of being sick is making sure you get your rest and stay hydrated. It's so simple, but that's what we do. I've been asking my girls to even just fill up their water bottles at school a couple of times a day. Even if you can fill it up once, that would be really helpful.

SM: With so much going around, what’s your strategy when someone starts feeling sick?

JGS: I have the BinaxNOW COVID-19 self-test kits in my medicine cabinet … it's one of those things that just brings so much peace of mind this time of year. I work really well with information so that you can always decide the best next steps. When symptoms hit for anyone in our family, it’s usually the first thing we do [because] we want to know what we’re working with.

SM: Here’s hoping for a healthy year! Speaking of good years, you recently celebrated 13 years of marriage with Nick. How do you two keep your connection strong through all the different ages and stages?

JGS: We have a very real marriage; it's not always perfect. We've gone through so much together. Nick retired at a very early age, and that was definitely something to navigate. And I've lost both my parents in the last couple of years, so life happens.

I think just always staying true to what brought us together — we had very similar goals for the life that we wanted to create — and making time for each other, which isn't always romantic date nights or whatever it may be but really prioritizing our time together. One of the things that I'm so grateful for [about] Nick is he's a dreamer like I am, so it's been really just taking time to have the gratitude for how aligned we are in that.

But we still have our good days and bad days. We're a very real, normal couple building a life together and all that brings — the curve balls and all of the highs and the lows — but really just trying to take time for each other.

SM: All relationships obviously require growth, and the Magnolias definitely displayed that this season. How do you think the rift changed Maddie for the better, and what can we expect from her in Season 4?

JGS: It's funny because I really struggled with that storyline. It triggered some personal things because I am very much … I don't want to say I'm a meddler, but when I see people that are struggling around me, I really lean in and want to kind of fix things. And so, for me, I didn't think Maddie was overstepping on any level. The idea that she had to eat crow and learn from it was definitely a learning experience for me where I was holding space for someone not always trying to fix things. I think that she really learned that.

I also think a lot has happened to Maddie since we first came into her life, and a lot more is about to come her way. She's just trying to put it together. I really thought a lot about, OK, let's focus on what is really in front of us rather than distracting ourselves with so many other things that we don't have a ton of control over.

But I think this year Maddie's going to have another moment of how to dodge the bullets or juggle things, and it's going to be a really exciting year for her from what I understand.

SM: You’ve had so many good roles, but one of my all-time favorites is Cheyenne on Reba.

JGS: Me too!

SM: It seems like everyone is on board for a potential reboot. Any updates there?

JGS: I think that, creatively speaking, all of the people that were in front of the camera would love to be a part of something. We're still a very tight-knit crew and group of people, so we are very much involved in each other's lives. It feels like it would be just a great celebration, but we have to get the network and the studio to say yes. Maybe we should start a petition.

SM: Just tell us where to sign. What do you think Cheyenne would be doing today?

JGS: Oh, that's a really good question. I hope that she and Van would still be together. I don't know that she would still be a dentist, per se. I think that she probably would've given herself a little time to dream a little bit, and gotten herself into some hijinks. But I think that she and Van would still be together. I really do believe in that love story.

SM: Same. We couldn’t handle a Cheyenne and Van breakup...

JSG: I don't think I could either. I would really protest that.

SM: We’ve talked about Reba and Sweet Magnolias, but you’ve played a lot of different types of characters in your career. How do you approach these trickier conversations with your kids as they get older when it comes to things like onscreen kisses?

JGS: It's definitely something that, as of late, has been happening a little bit more. My younger daughter thinks that when I kiss Justin [Bruening] on Sweet Magnolias that we just bump noses.

A couple of their friends have been like, ‘Oh, I saw your mom kissing another man.’ And even moms who go wild for Justin. But Nick is the first one to be like, ‘He's gorgeous. Yes, he's a handsome man.’

I think a lot of it has a lot to do with knowing that Dad is A-OK with it. They see that my husband has a really great relationship with Justin, so it’s almost not as confusing for them as you would imagine. We love their family so much ... They're very much a part of our life, so it feels a lot more like a job and not so scandalous necessarily.

SM: How do you handle internet gossip with the girls?

JGS: My kids aren't on the internet at all right now, but I am sure that that will be something that we have to navigate as they get a little bit older.

My daughter did tell me the other day that [someone at school] said, ‘They don't just talk about your mommy on the internet; they talk about you too.’ So Emme, my oldest, was like, ‘Do they talk about me?’ And I was like, ‘In the most amazing way.’

My mama bear came out where I thought, OK. I know that those will just be fluid conversations, but at the end of the day, they know that both Nick and I have jobs that are a little bit more forward-facing, and we're more exposed to lots of different people. So I think that it's not as shocking for them. It's a little bit more like a natural progression.

This interview has been edited lightly for length and clarity.

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