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The Last Word: Willa Ford

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
Willa Ford (né Amanda Lee Williford) is a triple threat, having made her name as a model, singer, and actress.  After rising to stardom at the turn of the millennium following a tour with the Backstreet Boys and the release of her album, Willa Was Here, Ford appeared in the likes of FHM and Stuff magazines before starring in two successful reality series; in 2005 she hosted the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter”, the show that helped launch the UFC into the mainstream, then in 2006 she competed in season three of the hit “Dancing with the Stars”.  It was around this time that she became engaged to the Dallas Stars’ Mike Modano; the couple wed in 2007.  Up next for Willa: being terrorized by Jason Voorhees in the Michael Bay-produced remake of Friday the 13th, on DVD now.

So how much practice did you need to perfect your screams before filming Friday the 13th?
Willa Ford: (laughs) I think the scream comes naturally for any girl, don’t you?  It’s funny, I never practiced screaming once.  It’s the kind of thing that’s organic and you have to just do it and hope you don’t sound ridiculous and it comes out right.  It’s a scary script, so it was pretty easy. 

Were you a fan of the original series growing up, or do you even like horror movies in general?
No, I’m one of those people who can’t handle horror films very well. When I was a kid I remember seeing some scary movies like Friday the 13th because my brothers and sisters are 10 years older than me and I would sneak in while they were watching.  I was like six years old and peeked in while Jason or Freddy [Krueger] was on the screen and it just gave me nightmares forever.

Since shooting the film are you more uncomfortable around Marty Turco when he puts on his mask?
WF: (laughs) The masks are so different it makes me less uncomfortable.  It’s funny, though – in Marty’s house, he’s got this really cool collection of old hockey masks in the bar area.  I walked past it and kind of did a double take – it’s kind of what Jason looks like!

How bad are the odds that your character survives until even the midpoint of the movie?
WF: What are the odds that anyone lasts very long once they’re introduced onscreen in a horror movie, you know?  You’ve got to go watch it.  It’s one of those things where I don’t want to give anything away, but I am definitely not one of the first ones to go.

Let’s say you’re at Crystal Lake and Jason is on the rampage.  Give us three NHL players you’d want at your side to take on the big guy.

WF: Well, No. 1 is a guy that’s not around Dallas anymore, but I’d go with Aaron Downey.  He’s just a good dude and you know he’d lay his life out there for you.  Anything to do with Mike he would for sure!  Steve Ott kind of sees red – he’s kind of crazy when he gets upset so I’d want him there, too.  I need to pick someone big for my last one but most of the big ones are skill guys.  I like my rough and tough little guys!  My third choice would definitely have to be Derian Hatcher.   

Willa on  "Dancing with the Stars"
What was tougher; escaping the wrath of Jason or going head-to-head with Emmitt Smith and Jerry Springer every week on “Dancing with the Stars”?
WF: Definitely escaping Jason.  Jerry Springer was like Grandpa; he was so nice you couldn’t even handle it.  And Emmitt was just cool, like the loveable teddy bear.  It was an awesome experience.

You married Mike in 2007.  When and how did you first meet?
WF: We met seven summers ago at a charity event we were both involved in.  This girl told me, ‘You need to meet this guy’, but I remember saying at the time that there was such an age difference, I didn’t think I’d be interested.  She ended up giving him my phone number anyway and he called me, so we just started talking and he invited me to come visit Dallas. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I went.  One day we just kind of clicked and we’ve been together ever since. 

Were you already a hockey fan before meeting Mike?
WF: No, I had been to one Tampa Bay Lightning game in my life.  What’s exciting about hockey is that it’s growing in areas where we never thought it would grow.  In Tampa when I was growing up, it was never a really huge sport but we ended up getting the Lightning and it started growing and kids are now starting to skate younger and younger. 

How many Stars games do you get to per season?  Do you follow the League in general or just Dallas in particular?

WF: I go to every home game I can go to.  With all of the strikes that have been happening lately in our industry, I’ve been to more games than not and I love it.  I’m clearly not going to know as many stats as the hockey fan who has been studying forever, but I take it seriously because it’s my husband’s work.  Just like any wife would; if your husband was in finance, you’re going to be interested and learn more about that so I feel it’s important that I understand because when he comes home and needs someone to talk to I need to be a smart ear for him.  

Be honest, how often did you and Mike have Sean Avery over for dinner when he was on the team?

WF: We never had Sean over for dinner… That’s an interesting situation, actually, because before Sean came to Dallas, when he was in Los Angeles, he would scream obscenities to Mike about me on the ice.  Still, all was forgiven when he got here.  You know, he wasn’t good for the team, and his attitude truly hurt the club, but do I think that Sean doesn’t deserve another chance?  No, not at all.  What he said was ridiculous.  Everyone knows he’s ridiculous.  And at some point, he’s going to realize he was ridiculous, as well. 

Willa with her husband Mike Modano.
Have you ever been to Montreal for a hockey game?
WF: The All-Star Game was the first Canadian hockey game I’ve been to. Both our sets of parents and our friends were there and with it being the Canadiens’ 100th season, it was like hysteria. Hockey in the States is such a different world.  Mike was just prepping me before, telling me how much fun it was going to be. Guy Carbonneau’s daughter, Anne-Marie Morrow, is a good friend of mine and she just loves the city, so she kind of gave me the lowdown on what to do and where to go.  

Mike is a born leader on the ice.  How does he display those qualities at home: is he more of a dishes guy or laundry guy?

WF: He’s more of a delegator is what he is. (laughs) He’ll look over and be like, ‘Gosh, that laundry is looking a little built up over there.’  He’s very meticulous and likes things clean, so he’s definitely more of a cleaner than a laundry guy.  And he isn’t one of these guys who don’t help out just because they’re in the middle of a season.
Your husband has some pretty nice locks. Who spends more time on their hair: you or him?
WF: (laughs) Who obsesses more over their hair is the question!  He’s more obsessed, but obviously mine takes more time.  You know, it’s funny, he doesn’t really put that much into it but he talks about it a lot. When it starts to get too long, I’ll say something and he’ll tell me he’s growing it out and I’m like, ‘Yeah, but in a helmet, it kind of looks like a mullet.’  For the fans, though, if things are going well, I’m not going to make him cut it.  Hockey is all about the beard and the hair, after all.

After you starred as the quarterback for the Dallas Desires in the 2005 lingerie bowl, who was a bigger draw among Dallas sports fans: you or Mike?
WF: Well unfortunately, we never actually went to Dallas with the Desires.  I just picked the team because I had been back and forth to Dallas a lot and I was close with Mike – but I didn’t pick his number because I thought that would be too weird.  That was an interesting experience because minus the fact that we had to wear lingerie, these were beautiful girls who would be out there practicing in the cold for like five days a week from October until the Super Bowl. I could throw like 30 yards and I had a couple of girls who were just insane receivers.  One of the running backs was just ridiculous – these were good athletes. We were training hard but it was fun to be part of a team.  I never really got to participate too much in sports so anytime I can do anything athletic I love it. 

You played Anna Nicole Smith in an as-yet unreleased biography about her life.  Toward the end she certainly wasn’t helped by the scrutiny she was under in the celebrity magazines that are so popular today; what do you make of the whole rise of paparazzi culture?
WF: In Los Angeles, it’s a bad situation for everybody because these magazines pay a ton of money to the paparazzi for getting the shots or getting the interviews. It really pays their bills at the end of the day and maybe they’re just trying to feed their kids. But they’re also putting everybody in jeopardy – say someone like Britney [Spears] and her children – and it’s really part of the breaking point for some of these people.  It becomes trying when you can’t even be seen with the wrong person or there will be rumors that someone is cheating on their wife or husband and it ultimately takes a toll on your life.  

It can’t be easy to have no control over what people write about you on message boards or in some of those magazines.  How much were you able to draw on personal experience for that kind of role?
WF: I’m in a place right now where it’s not so bad.  The great thing about living in Dallas – and Jessica Simpson and Tony Romo could tell you the same thing – when you’re in Dallas, you’re not really hounded like you are in LA. In Dallas, you can walk around and no one follows you; people talk about you being there after you’ve been there but it’s a big town with a small town feel. 
With Anna Nicole, there was a lot to relate to there in the story. I felt connected in the sense that her career was based on something that was much less than what she was as a person.  Her career was based on her looks and her sexuality and being a Playmate and she was much more than that.  The fact that people couldn’t see that led her to start playing into being dumb and less than what she was and she lost herself in that. 

You were the host of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, the reality series that helped bring the UFC into the mainstream.  Could you tell at the time the series was being taped that it had the potential to become the influence it is today?
WF: When we started with it and talked to the President we knew it would be the key to getting it into the mainstream, but we didn’t know if it would work or not.  It’s hard for most people to watch initially because all they see is two guys in a cage beating each other to death, but that’s really not the situation. Being around it and seeing the training, it’s just like any other sport.  They work very, very hard and diligently and there’s a precise manner to it.  The sport is more than just hands and feet – it’s also about brains. The right punch at the right time, the right moves.

Any funny recollections you have of making that show?  Some of the challenges and scripted segments certainly seem quaint when you look back on them today.
WF: I was the host, so I wasn’t allowed in the house.  I think my favorite memories from that show are of hanging out with Chuck [Lidell] and Randy [Couture]. I remember during my first week in Vegas, Randy sat down with me and we watched footage after footage and he taught me how to call.  Like: “Now he’s going into an arm bar”, and he would teach me all of the moves and he showed me the Triangle and they would all laugh because seeing me doing the Triangle is kind of vulgar. (laughs)

Follow Willa’s projects through her profile on If you dare, head to 

This article, written by Shauna Denis, was published in CANADIENS magazine Vol 23 No. 4

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