Saddle up time y’all! We are fixing to hit the best of the American West with our tour guide, Debbe Dunning.
Beauty, brawn, and brains, some of the enviable qualities the former ABC TV series ‘Home Improvement’ star (1992-97) Debbe Dunning has in spades in her new series, Debbe Dunning’s Dude Ranch Round-Up.
Her character was the vivacious helpmate Heidi who was a fan favorite along with Tim “The Toolman” Taylor, and she was introduced after Pamela Anderson (Lisa) said her goodbyes to the show.
She returns with an action-filled new show that takes us to the hidden gems of the West, the classic dude ranches where a days work is also part of the scenic fun.
Crowned Miss Burbank (1984), Dunning worked the circuit of pageants until she caught the eye of a commercial casting director, eventually leading to her smallscreen work.
Dunning not only rides and ropes, but shows us the intricacies of successful fly fishing, the unabashed joys of skeet shooting, and the heart-racing thrills of white water rafting on a winding river carving through a deep ravine.
Her appreciation for this nature and all its trappings is sincere, and it seeps through as you watch her explore the lesser known getaways to reveal the gems America still has to offer.
We got to speak with Debbe about her adventurous new series:
Monsters and Critics: How do you describe this show? Is it a tutorial or an adventure in the day of the life with Debbe?
Debbe Dunning: I would most describe the show as a travel adventure. A show where I take you along with me to experience all of the amenities each dude ranch has to offer along with the incredible scenery, food, and activities.
M&C: What are the subjects covered in Dude Ranch Round-Up, are you the Anthony Bourdain of the American West?
DD: Some of the things we cover in a week at each ranch is first of all the history, the atmosphere, the adventure, the food, and the incredible differences and experiences of each and every one of these dude ranches.
Anthony Bourdain does an incredible job at what he does. I hope to someday live up his stature.
M&C: How did a nice girl from Burbank become such a horse wrangler? When did your love affair with horses begin?
DD: I grew up in Burbank and there were horse properties all around me. I’ve always had a love for horses when I was filming Home Improvement I kept my horse across the street at the equestrian center.
So between scene changes, I would usually have a good amount of time off to spend with my horse.
M&C: Was the Heidi the Tool Time girl role on ABC’s hit sitcom Home Improvement your first acting job?
DD: No the tool time girl was not my first job by any means. I started doing music videos (Winger “Miles Away”) under-fives, guest spots, tons of commercials and actually Heidi was not my first appearance on Home Improvement.
I actually appeared the first year as a different character named “Kiki Vonfurstenwallenscheinlaw” and I appeared in the episode where Tim was forbidden to look at any other women for one night.
M&C: Biggest secret and best bargains for people looking for a fantastic getaway with or without kids are….
DD: The greatest secret that each of these dude ranches has in common is that they usually have a kids program.
You can spend as much or as little time with your parents or your children as you like.
Although, the best thing about it is how close you become as a family through this western cowboy experience.
M&C: Tough one… Your favorite western state is?
DD: This is a tough question for me because I have been blessed with being able to see so many in these past 10 months.
Nashville, Wyoming, and Montana all come to mind because they are all surrounded by these incredible mountains and I just love country music and it seems to play in every restaurant and bar there.
M&C: Talk about your work as the reigning champion of the American Gladiators Celebrity Challenge two years running. What was that like, can you talk about that experience?
DD: When I competed for American Gladiators I went in knowing absolutely no idea how hard that was going to be.
After every event, it seemed as if the challenges continued to get harder and harder.
The only reason I think I won is because I was scared for my life.
Going in the first time was easy because I didn’t know what to expect. The second year I was scared to death so I actually trained for it a little bit.
I think my main motivation was about the $10,000 I would win to donate to any charity of my choice.
M&C: When you arrive at a ranch, what is your favorite physical activity to try out or take part in?
DD: I love when I arrive at a ranch going down to the stable and meeting my horse.
I honestly cannot wait to saddle up. One of my favorite activities is team penning.
M&C: You see the news about Harvey Weinstein, has this kind of unwanted attention and pressure ever been an issue in your career as you came up? What are your thoughts about it all?
DD: I feel sorry for these women who are coming out now that they didn’t say anything at the time but I do understand the competition and the pressure completely and how sometimes when you’re first starting out you might be afraid to speak up because of being blackballed.
M&C: You have three children, can you talk about the work involved in being on camera, and raising three children? What are some of your life hacks that make it all work you can share with your fans?
DD: Yes I do have three beautiful children, I feel very blessed.
I will tell you it is hard to juggle college, high school and elementary. I think I’ve been very successful as a mother because I am very strict and open with my children.
They know that they can tell me anything at any time and I try to handle each of their situations individually because we are not all made from the same mold.
I think if you set boundaries at an early age it makes the course of parenting a lot easier as they grow older and they feel more secure.
I love being a mom. When I was on Home Improvement I was able to bring my daughter to work with me every day since she was 2 weeks old. I never missed a moment.
And with my new show, I have been able to incorporate each one of them into a one on one. It’s been an incredible journey.
Debbe Dunning’s Dude Ranch Round-Up premieres Wednesday, November 1st at 9 pm ET/6pm PT on RFD-TV