Rita Wilson has spent much of her life on screen in Hollywood — her first on-camera role came as a teenager in a 1972 episode of "The Brady Bunch." But after decades in front of and behind the camera, she began a new chapter as a singer and songwriter. She's just released her fourth studio album, "Halfway to Home," and is in the middle of a tour around the country.
Wilson got her big "Brady Bunch" break through cheerleading. A girl she knew who had an audition for the show asked Wilson to teach her a cheer. When the pair went to the audition, she said, she was asked to perform.
"I'm like, 'okay.'" She said. "So I went in, I didn't get the part that she was up for, which was the girlfriend, but I got the part of the cheerleader that won, and that's how I got my Screen Actors Guild card."
Wilson told "CBS This Morning" that throughout her career, she "always wanted" to be a singer – but that for a long time, she was "too scared" to do it. "Everything is scary. It's making a change, and also figuring that you've been doing one thing – and can you do something else and be welcomed doing it?"
Now that she's taken the leap, she said, she works with "amazing" co-writers in Nashville and Los Angeles to form her songs. "It's an amazing process because I describe it as this: […] it's like you walk into a room and you meet a complete stranger," she said. "You fall in love. You strip naked emotionally. You make beautiful musical intercourse, and you leave with a gorgeous song baby." That process, she said, usually takes about four hours.
"It's really interesting because you do get a lot of people together, and it's very intimate," she added, "because you are coming up with stories that are very very personal."
One of her songs, "Throw Me a Party," was inspired by one of those personal stories:. "I had breast cancer, and when I was diagnosed, you don't know what the result is going to be," she said, so "you have these serious conversations with the people that you love."
One of those people is Wilson's husband, Tom Hanks. Wilson said she told Hanks that "if I should go before you, I want you to be super, super sad for like a really long time — but I also want a big party." It wasn't until she posted the video, she added, that she realized how much the feeling of wanting a party resonated with other people.
Now, Wilson is cancer-free, which she says makes it easier to perform the song. "I think the farther you get away from your diagnosis and your surgery, you get a little bit lighter," she said, "so it gets a little bit easier."
"One of the songs I love is "The Spark," said "CBS This Morning" co-host Tony Dokoupil, who pointed out the lyric: "We got the fire and it still feels the same. Been through it all and you can't put out this flame."
The lyric references Wilson's relationship with Hanks, her husband of 31 years. "I think we both like each other a lot, like that's a foundation," she said. "We really like each other. We're still attracted to each other. We make each other laugh. Anybody who's in a long marriage knows that it's not all perfect all the time. You definitely have challenges, but we made a commitment to each other, and I think that's a huge thing."