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Producers and TV Executives Reveal What It’s Like Working With Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay Lohan is making a comeback.

The former child star and tabloid magnet, now 32-years-old and living permanently in Dubai, is reinventing herself with a hospitality business in Greece. With the debut of her latest beach club in Mykonos, Lohan is making a return to the spotlight with an MTV reality show, “Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club,” which premieres Tuesday at 8 p.m.

The show follows Lohan as a businesswoman and entrepreneur, and shows a new side of her: sober and serious.

The tables have turned, and now Lohan — who a decade ago was infamously sent a scathing letter from a Hollywood producer for not showing up to the set of one of her films in 2007 — is cracking the whip on her wild staff of bartenders she employs at her latest beach club, reprimanding the bunch in the first episode for having a drunken pool party when they should be prepping for work.

“That was a funny idea to me, going from being this club girl — because that’s what people always said about me because I was young and experiencing life — to now just taking over them and seeing the opposite end of the stick,” Lohan tells Variety during her cover interview. “It’s more fun for me to go out and see everyone be crazy.”

Aside from becoming a reality star, Lohan is keeping busy creating projects for herself, including producing and starring in “Frame,” a film shooting in Saudi Arabia, and optioning “The Honeymoon” novel for a screen adaptation. She also has a prominent role in the second season of the British comedy series “Sick Note,” which is on Netflix.

“Sick Note” creators Nat Saunders and James Serafinowicz admit they had read press reports of bad behavior on set, but they didn’t hesitate to cast Lohan, who was their first choice for the role. “We just thought she’s had problems in the past, but it was a long time ago, and now she’s sorted herself out,” they say, noting that Lohan was a collaborative team player with stellar acting chops and great comedic timing. “It’s such a cliche, but she’s just got it — whatever ‘it’ is, there’s just something about her.”

After working with Lohan, Saunders and Serafinowicz say they’ve been contacted by people in the industry curious about what it was like to work with Lohan. Not only would they cast her again, but they believe she has experienced a double standard in Hollywood.

“Look at Johnny Depp. He’s in one of the biggest franchises. Think back to the days of Robert Downey Jr. or other people who have had hard times. They went through those types of things and it took awhile before they bounced back, but they came back with that extra level of wisdom and worldliness to bring to their roles,” says Serafinowicz. “She’s only in her early 30s, so she’s got time to make that comeback.”

“The press and our industry is harder on women. With Lindsay, it does feel like there’s a bit more vitriol,” Saunders adds. “Like the whole Britney Spears thing — people call it a ‘meltdown.’ Guys got rewarded for that kind of behavior and girls would be called names for similar behavior. Obviously we’re not condoning DUIs, but Lindsay has openly talked about that she’s come out the other end. It definitely feels like that’s behind her, and it’s really interesting to think what the next phase is going to be for her.”

Nina Diaz, president of programming and development for MTV, VH1, and Logo Group, echoes the “Sick Note” duo’s sentiment, and spoke positively about working with Lohan on her new reality show. “Our experience from the first time we met was only how invested in the project and committed she was,” Diaz says.

Here, MTV executive Diaz speaks more about working with Lohan on “Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club.”

What is the backstory of how the show came about?

An MTV talent executive read that Lindsay was opening up the beach club in Mykonos and immediately brought it to execs at MTV in development and wanted to know if we’d be interested in a show. MTV called to find out if she’d consider and the response came back so positive. We were excited and Lindsay was excited, and it was like, let’s go. That call happened in May and we were shooting by summer. She was immediately excited and interested, and she loved the idea. She really embraced it, was invested from the start and was ready to dive in and was a great partner to work with.

Is the fact that people will see another side of her a reason for her doing the show?

Absolutely. And she also wanted to empower others. She talks about the journey of where she came from and some of the struggles right there on that beach that she overcame and built into something positive and bigger and better, so she’s still growing and she’s still a great work in progress. I think that [about] encouragement that she gives to her staff about how to grow and nurture.

Lindsay is an executive producer on the show. Was she involved in the creative process of developing the series?

Every step of the way, she was involved and we consulted with her on how we could bring it all to life.

How do you think her past troubled experiences in the spotlight influence her as a boss at the beach club?

She’s got incredible resiliency. She has a thick skin. We forget, she’s only 32 years old, so actually, she is not that far away from where a lot of her staff is. She has an eye. She says now the cameras are flipped. She knows what it’s like to navigate through a lot of ups and downs, and have a lot of expectations put on you at a very young age, but also, have big aspirations and big goals and [know] how to achieve them.

There’s obviously a lot of exposure that comes from reality TV. We’ve seen it with the Kardashians, creating an entire empire. Do you think this reality show will boost Lohan’s brand?

It’s a new side. She’s been out of the spotlight for awhile, so there’s a real curiosity. At the same time, everyone has a soft spot for her and is rooting for her. She legitimately built herself into a mogul. That’s some of what you get to see in Lindsay as a boss, but also she is so authentic and so relatable and she brings her whole self to everything that she’s doing. She cares. She’s inclusive. She’s involved. She has such an amazing way with her staff and the way that she wants to see them grow and support them, but also what her expectations are. I think people will really be pleasantly surprised and thrilled to see that she’s found another great success for herself.

Do you think people are rooting to see the Lindsay Lohan success story, and is that why you think this series will be a success?

Totally. There is the comfort food of it and we already come with a connection to her. There’s also the curiosity of what she’s been up to. She’s this international mogul, which is pretty amazing that she’s created this whole empire abroad.

The last time that Lohan did a reality show, with OWN in 2014, it was short-lived. Was there hesitation in doing an unscripted show with her, since her last reality show wasn’t a big success?

No. We loved where she was in her life and how she showed up for us.

What do you think makes her relatable?

She’s vulnerable, she’s funny, she’s caring, she’s insightful, she’s wise — which obviously comes from growing up so fast. She’s self-deprecating, she can be nurturing, but also she is witty and she’s not here for the BS. We all grew up on her movies — “Parent Trap” and “Freaky Friday” and “Mean Girls” — so she’s kind of a friend in your head and then when you watch her on the show, you think, “That’s somebody that I want to be friends with and I want to be around and would want to work for.”

Was there any hesitation in doing a show with Lohan, given past reports of her behavior on set?

For us, there was none. We wanted to do this show, and we also know that we’re meeting somebody where they are right now.

Did you find any of those reports to be reflective of your experience?

No. She was very proactive. She was very invested in who was going to be part of the show, what we were going to cover in the show, what was happening back at the house with the staff. Twenty-four-seven, she wanted to know what was happening with them — if there was a conflict or issues — she wanted to be kept abreast and she would come down to the house to talk about something. That’s exactly what you would want from anyone working on an unscripted show.

Was she on time to set?

Yes, whatever we needed, she was living there — she had a villa and the staff had a villa. The production team, Bunim/Murray, was living there. It was sort of like this village and like neighbors next door, so it was a lot of everybody driving by each other, and Lindsay was always available.

You’re an executive in a position of power where you can hire people. After working with her, would you recommend others give Lohan a second chance?

Yes. We had a great experience. We made what we think is a really amazing show and we’re very excited about the show. And most reality timelines do not move that quickly, so that speaks volumes to her as well, because we had to do this in such a short period of time, which requires a large commitment and she jumped in full throttle.

If the show is a success, would you want to do more episodes? 

Our hope is that this is going to be a great success and the audience will love it as much as we love it, and there will be more to come.

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