Turner Classic Movies
Baxter, Meredith - Interview
Written by James Colt Harrison   

united_-meredith_baxter-200.jpgMeredith Baxter has been entertaining fans for more than 40 years with her stage, television and film roles. Before all the fame and adulation, she was a typical blond California surfer girl-type who was rebellious, carefree, and living like a hippie in those free-love days. Baxter has set down all those experiences and her life as an actress, a nearly broke young mother, and the daughter of a successful TV actress in the new autobiography Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering. I caught up with the lovely actress recently to talk about her life and her compelling and honest book.

James Harrison: I read your new book Untied and found many parts of it are very funny. Did you inherit your sense of humor from your mom or dad?

Meredith Baxter: Well, thank you!  I probably got it from my father. He had a great sense of ‘pun,' and my brothers and I tried to outdo each other with the puns as well. We'd do word-sparring games. We inspired quick-thinking repartee with each other. Any attention I could garner from that was desirable.

JH: Your mother was a beautiful actress named Whitney Blake from the 1950s TV show Hazel. You relate that you did not have the best relationship with her.

MB: She was not a bad woman, by any means. We were just not great on relationships. I never felt any influence from her about becoming an actress. She neither encouraged nor discouraged me.

JH: Why did you become an actress?

MB: When I was looking to get out of my first marriage I felt I had to be able to support myself. I grew up in an industry that was a possibility, and my stepfather was an agent. I asked him to send me out on jobs. I was cute, blonde, had big boobs, and nobody looked beyond that! I learned as I went, and at one point decided I could do it.

JH: I know you just don't walk into a studio and ask for a job. Your stepdad-agent must have been a great help.

MB: Oh, I couldn't have done it without him. He started calling in favors. You know, so much of show business is about contacts. I was very lucky."

JH: Once you become a woman of a 'certain age' in Hollywood, is it difficult to find age-appropriate role?

MB: If there is one job that comes up, all 60 of the women who have any kind of visibility in the business and are in that age group are all up for the same role. Even if they want a grandmother, they want you to be a young 50. I don't care what the part is. I like to work!

JH: In the TV movie A Woman Scorned, you played murderess Betty Broderick who killed her ex-husband and his new wife. How was that to play?

MB: She apparently still has some fans out there. It was challenging because she is a character with no boundaries. If someone does anything they want; if they think it serves their needs without consideration of other people and how it's damaging them, you have a lot of leeway to be anybody you want to be. I don't know that she didn't have a conscience, but she was aware of what she needed. Her needs were so great that they tended to outshine anybody else's. I think she was up for parole this year, but it was denied. I would have to say she was probably one of the most fun characters I have played. Maybe ‘fun' isn't necessarily the right word!

JH: You've been married several times and have five beautiful children. I n your book Untied, you were not only hard on yourself, but also on ex-husband David Birney.

MB: Who? To tell you the truth, I really went easy on him and protected him. I didn't say many of the things he did. I only wrote about things where I could illustrate what my thinking was and how I excused his behavior. I took the blame on myself. Horrible things happened, but I did not write about them.

JH: Were you afraid to get out of your situation as many other women have been?

MB: It's men and women. When you are in an abusive relationship, you have no voice. It's something that is not exclusive only to women. It's about the dynamics that happen. He needed to be with someone he could bully and push around. I could only be with someone who had a strong pushy personality. I needed to be small. I couldn't say anything, and I had to be non-threatening.

JH: After several husbands and five children, you had a personal revelation. Did you wake up one morning and say, Oh, I think I'll be a lesbian?

MB: I had a relationship with a woman in 2003, and it was just because I liked her so much. It was a sexual relationship but my interaction with her never felt emotional. I just thought she was the greatest person. I learned nothing and went and got married again for four years."

JH: But then other women caught your interest?

MB: The truth was, I had to be in a place where my mother had passed away, and my two youngest kids were out of the house. I wasn't frightened of anyone like I was my mother. I wasn't responsible for anybody, so I was free for the first time. It never occurred to me that I was a lesbian. I wanted to know who I was in the world. After my relationship started (with contractor Nancy Locke) I never questioned it. That explains that!




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