Its been a long time since she was known as Meredith Baxter-Birney, and she portrayed the perfect mother on the popular sitcom Family Ties, to name one of her many TV projects.
The mother of five in real life, Baxter has dealt with three failed marriages, alcoholism and domestic abuse. She came out as a lesbian in 2009 and two years later wrote a page-turner of a memoir, Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering.
The 66-year-old has been in a committed relationship with Nancy Locke for the past eight years. She appears in the Hallmark Channel original movie Reading, Writing & Romance, which premieres Saturday at 9 p.m.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q. In Reading, Writing & Romance, you play the mother of a struggling actor. Did you struggle, or was it easier because your stepfather was in the business?
A. Yeah, I probably had it easier because my stepfather sent me out on jobs. I dont know that I got anything until he called in a favor. I really dont remember an awful lot from that time. He got me my first job, and I just started getting jobs after that. I was just in the right place at the right time. I was blond and I was cute and I had big breasts. I think that was all that was required.
Q. You were rejected on your very first audition as a child – you even had your hair dyed black – which you describe in your memoir Untied as heartbreaking. Why go back for more?
A. Isnt that funny? I dont know that it ever occurred to me. I didnt learn from past experiences, probably had to extrapolate from that and apply it. (Laughs) You know, I needed a job. I needed to make some money. I had no skills. I went into my family business.
Q. You are in a business where you get judged a lot. How did you deal with that?
A. I dont know. The truth is, I was so unconscious for so many years, and I was very fortunate. I got a lot of work. I didnt have to deal with rejection an awful lot, but Im kind of dealing with that now. I feel OK. It kind of rolls off me a little bit more. I dont want it so much now.
I think the hardest thing is the rejection for the way you look. I see that a lot in this business. Women get it. There is sexism. Older women are not hired. You have all the older guys. I just got one of these things for the Emmys, you know, all the different (DVDs) they send out for people to look at the shows and the different networks to vote. I open them up and start to look for some women my age. On one hand you can count the women my age: Anjelica Huston, Glenn Close, and I cant think of anybody else.
Q. Its interesting because that is the baby-boomer demographic, which is huge. So why arent the TV networks and Hollywood picking up on that?
A. I dont think they dont see it. I dont think they care. They arent interested. You know the thing is, the baby boomers, there are more of us than anybody else and they are the people with the disposable income right now, but everything is targeted to the younger people. You would think there would be more shows, more programs for people our age and women our age. But you become invisible.
Im 66 years old. Im not cute like that. Interesting how people actively dont see you now. Thank goodness it doesnt hurt me. If I were being hurt by it, it would be really painful. Its like, Wow, I didnt even kind of register on your screen there.