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Star: MIMI KENNEDY

Current Role: Eleanor Alexander, SAVANNAH

Birthday: September 25

Hometown: Rochester, NY

TV Roles: Rich witch Ruth Sloan on HOMEFRONT

Stockard Channing's sister on JUST FRIENDS

Lar Park Lincoln's mother on KNOTS LANDING

Pat Lawford Kennedy in ROBERT KENNEDY AND HIS TIMES

Family Ties: Husband, Larry Dilg; children, Molly and Cisco

Between Gigs: She became a Story Editor for KNOTS LANDING

Kindred Spirit: AMC's Ruth Warrick (Phoebe) is her cousin by marriage

THE BOOK OF RUTHS

In her heartwarming, new autobiography, TV's favorite Snooty Matriarch, Mimi Kennedy, talks about her cult role of RUTH Sloan ... her famous Cousin RUTHIE ... and how to stay happily married in Hollywood without becoming totally RUTHless!

If you're a fan of actress/writer Mimi Kennedy, then her new book - "Taken to the Stage: The Education of an Actress" (Smith and Kraus, $24.95) -- is must-reading. Badger your local librarian till you're blue in the face, if you have to. Kennedy's anecdotes about her encounters with Ruth Warrick (Phoebe, AMC) and the late William Roerick (Henry, GL) are truly magical -- plus there's loads of dish on all the Hollywood bigwigs who've crossed her path. Best of all, Kennedy's 20-year-plus love story with hubby Larry Dilg is a wonderful hoot! We caught up with the SAVANNAH Viper Laureate for a recent Q&A:

DIGEST ONLINE: What prompted you to write the book?

KENNEDY: When I was nursing my first child, I remember seeing this Ingmar Bergman movie, "Fanny and Alexander." [In the film] an actor who's dying says, "Why was I acting?" and then dies. And I thought, "Oh, God, I'm asking that same question," and he didn't look happy to be trying to figure it out in the face of eternity. So I thought I wanted an answer to that question. My career had slowed down, and I was auditioning for things that were depressing me a lot, and I wanted to pass something on to the next generation. I had this real feeling that I had loved acting and show business more than any other human being I ever knew, just about. I mean, all actors feel that way. I passionately loved my calling, my vocation, but I had doubts about it.

DIGEST ONLINE: You have such a wonderful narrative style. Did the book take long to write?

KENNEDY: Two years. It was very anguished over.

DIGEST ONLINE: Are you a disciplined writer, or do you have to start with, "First I make the coffee, then I sharpen the pencils, then I turn my computer on, then I check on the kids?"

KENNEDY: No, I was disciplined. I was driven by the anxiety of financial ruin and excitement about prose. The first draft took a year, and I polished as I went. I re-wrote some of those paragraphs 150 times, playing around with the flow of nouns and verbs and syntax, because I consider prose like poetry, and I was adamant about mine.

DIGEST ONLINE: In the book, you talk about meeting "Cousin Ruth" and how she inspired you to become an actress, and later helped you when you came to New York. You know, she also penned her autobiography ["Confessions of Phoebe Tyler"]. So you have that common....

KENNEDY: I know, and it was completely coincidental. As a matter of fact, today I have as my project that I finally must write and tell her of this book.

DIGEST ONLINE: In some ways HOMEFRONT's Ruth Sloan and ALL MY CHILDREN's Phoebe Tyler are similar characters. They're both rich, snobbish, and controlling. Phoebe's really just a much earlier version. Did that thought ever strike you?

KENNEDY: Yes, absolutely. [In writing the book] I realized that Ruth and I were bonded by many similarities that had not occurred to me until I was 47 -- or 46, when I began the book -- and writing it down. The irony is tremendous, and I am so glad that you and other readers who will appreciate it. Ruth once told my father that Orson Welles [had called her] "the only real lady in Hollywood." It occurs to me now that the reason she was popular in daytime soaps -- and the reason I enjoyed success as Ruth Sloan -- was because there's so little use for real ladies in Hollywood, they have some great employment as bitches on soap operas.

DIGEST ONLINE: One of your first TV breaks was playing Stockard Channing's wisecracking sister on the short-lived 1979 sitcom, JUST FRIENDS. Why do you think the show failed?

KENNEDY: It was a very wild time in Hollywood. I think that the production aspect of that show suffered from a lot of rash decision- making. The set was wonderful and [so was] Stockard. I would give anything to go back to that time and to have a long run as Stockard's sister. I really loved her. She was funny, and we got each other's jokes, and I was much younger and less experienced than she. It was a great, great cast, and it was a very smart show. Isn't Brooke Shields out now with a show now called "Suddenly Susan"? And Susan was Stockard's character's name. I just think, well, it's cycling back around, the idea of those kinds of smart, vaguely WASPy women.

DIGEST ONLINE: Let's talk about HOMEFRONT for a minute. In the book, you mentioned that you originally audtioned for the role of Anne Metcalfe. Anne was a devout Catholic, devoted homemaker, and the total antithesis of snooty Ruth. Ultimately, Wendy Phillips got the role of Anne. Was there a sense of gladitorial competition between you and Wendy

KENNEDY: When you split hairs over who could present Anne Metcalf [best] to the public, Wendy Phillips won hands down. I could never have done Anne, have portrayed her as Wendy did, and it was very hard for Bernard Lechowick and Lynn Latham [HOMEFRONT's creators] to tell me that. They said, "The reading that Wendy Phillips gave for Anne was the only rival to yours," and I knew they were basically saying, "It's her, not you; please come in for Mrs. Sloan." Actually, Wendy and I have become friends."

DIGEST ONLINE: And you both wound up on SAVANNAH. Wasn't she already playing the Burton housekeeper, Lucille, when you signed on as Eleanor? KENNEDY: Yes, she was. Now, here's another gladiator-actor story. When Wendy got the role last year, she was so happy, and I was a little envious. I hadn't finished my book and I worried, "Will I ever work again?" And then my friends [executive producers Jim and Diane Stanley, who'd been writers at KNOTS LANDING] asked me to come on SAVANNAH, but at that point Wendy wasn't sure what her future would be with SAVANNAH. I thought, "Oh my God, am I going to be in the position of ending up on SAVANNAH when Wendy's not there?" All I wanted to do was act with her again. And then she got her own role on a CBS show, a spinoff of TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL. She needed this badly, because it was on a higher economic scale. Everything that she needed for her family and her daughter was totally fulfilled by getting that role on a network show. So we two friends could be happy for each other's good fortune, instead of being quite torn, emotionally, about whether our good fortune was coming at the expense of someone else.

DIGEST ONLINE: Do you keep in touch with Ken Jenkins, who played your husband on HOMEFRONT?

KENNEDY I went over to Lynn Latham and Bernard Lechowick's house the other night just to sit around with them for a while. It was the first time I n two years, and they showed me some clips from HOMEFRONT. Ken was in one of them and I burst into tears. I miss him very much. [I feel like] he's an old husband of mine. He's very close to my heart, but I haven't spoken to him in a long time. We tend not to call each other because, to reiterate how it was the best show we've ever done, makes it difficult to go on with our present lives.

DIGEST ONLINE: HOMEFRONT was such a beautifully written, beautifully acted show, unlike anything else that was on TV at the time. Why do

you think it didn't have a longer shelf life? KENNEDY: The short answer is because the economics of entertainment don't always pay homage to the artistry of entertainment; there were many economic changes at Warner Brothers at that time, and at ABC. Lynn and Bernard are profoundly original producers, and they're not in a web of favors owed. You know what I mean? They try to keep themselved *not* enmeshed in a web of favors, so that they can be free to write the truth, and [say] this is the truth about 1945. I think for both Lynn and Bernard, [HOMEFRONT] was a paean to their parents and the love they had for their parents, despite a lot of difficulties, of course. It was a love-note to their parents.

DIGEST ONLINE: We've sometimes wondered if HOMEFRONT should have started as a long-arc show instead of a soap opera. Maybe if the producers had tried self-contained episodes for the first few months-- the way DALLAS and FALCON CREST did -- HOMEFRONT would have built an audience. If you missed a show, you wouldn't have felt totally in the dark when you tuned back in...

KENNEDY: I don't know how much that would have been [Lynn and Bernard's] choice. They're very smart, and I never heard them discuss whether or not to do that. my sense was that the network kept asking them for emphasis here, then emphasis there, so they may have been juggling a lot of stories to satisfy [network executives] -- you know, "We want to see more of her, less of her." I don't know. I never heard them talk about it. I do know one thing: They were made to take the [Mike Sloan Jr.] funeral episode off [the schedule as] the second episode. Mike's funeral, my son's funeral, was [supposed to be] the second episode, and it was so powerful. I thought it was shattering. It became the lost episode. The network said, "No, no. We're not going to do a funeral when everybody tunes in for the second episode. It's too depressing." So [Lynn and Bernard] had to move on to show three. Now, there were aspects of show two that introduced every single person in the town at the wake held in the Sloans' home. That went a long way in an hour to introducing you to River Run, Ohio. And that might have something to do with your perception of playing catch-up [with the story].

DIGEST ONLINE: What do you think the future holds for SAVANNAH?

KENNEDY: I think SAVANNAH is going to do very well on the terms required of it from Warner Brothers. Aaron Spelling is, I think, an impresario on the order of Sol Hurok. [fyi: the great theater and ballet producer.] If they were a star somewhere in the world, Sol got a hold of them and said, "Here's a contract." Aaron Spelling has some of that sort of grand showmanship thing. If he wants to sheperd this project, he can do for Warner Brothers network what MELROSE and 90210 did for Fox.

DIGEST ONLINE: Do you commute to Atlanta from L.A. to do the show?

KENNEDY: Yes, I fly to Atlanta and then I fly home. I used to be terrified of flying. Now I'm happy enough to suppress my phobia.

DIGEST ONLINE: You've been happily married to the same man for nearly 20 years, raised two children and carved out an acting and writing resume that's extremely impressive. I think everyone wants to know your secret....

KENNEDY: My next book, actually, is going to be about marriage. I married a man who came from a very different family structure [from my Irish Catholic background], not dysfunctional, not tortured, but different. Methodist. You know, no dancing, no alcohol. And he too was a rebel -- he played rock and roll, when I met him. Our marriage, 18 years now, has not been what I would have had, had I married a nice Irish Catholic prince. I really like intimacy and marriage. I was wild and I knew I had to get married or I would have been crazy; and my religious self would not have allowed for that kind of loss of anchor. And Larry and I seemed destined, quite frankly. Our relationship wasn't [easy]. I just didn't fall into this happy, sofas and upper-middle-class palace. I had to work and I've had to do a lot of the child-care work. He's a dedicated teacher with a strain of "the man gets to do his job, come home, have dinner, do some more of his job, come upstairs and play for an hour and go to sleep." Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute! I wanted cocktails at five and... but, on the other hand, I didn't want to have two martinis and then make my children do whatever. Our lives are very different from the life that I grew up in, and it's made me constantly challenge myself. I just really believe that in some lifetimes you just - I don't know if we have more than one, I really don't -- but some lives are really passionately opening up all the time. You just have to use everything you've got. I think that's why I'm an actress who finally confessed to having other aspects of my life, which were more important and which fed into my career. It's nothing to be excessively proud about. In fact, it has resulted in a lot of humbling situations. I do know, Teri Garr said something interesting to me. She read the book and then she said, "You know, Mimi, you found a way to be happy." And that's what actors look for. We're looking for a way to be happy, and when we are lionized and made into celebrities, boy, are we happy. But it doesn't go on for 40 years straight, so then we have to become unhappy. We are made unhappy by the very people who told us that we were the cat's meow. It's not like [producers and casting people] say, "Now I never want anything to do with you." They say, "Now would you please take the supporting role? It's a great supporting role?" But you want to say, "Wait a minute, I was the toast of the -- I was the lead, I was the one making the most money." And then we're not happy, because we feel like the not-favored child. Actors always have known that feeling.

MIMI KENNEDY'S CAREER AT A GLANCE...

"Savannah" (1995) TV Series .... Eleanor Alexander

"Joe's Life" (1993) TV Series .... Barb

Flashfire (1993) .... Kate Cantrell

Death Becomes Her (1992) ....

"Homefront" (1991) TV Series .... Ruth Sloan

Sins of the Mother (1991) (TV) .... Karen

"Family Man, The" (1990) TV Series

Promise to Keep, A (1990) (TV) .... Annie

Pump Up the Volume (1990) .... Marla Hunter

Chances Are (1989) .... Sally

Immediate Family (1989) .... Eli's Mom ... aka Parental Guidance (1989)

"Family Man" (1988) TV Series .... Andrea

Baby Girl Scott (1987) (TV) .... Jane

Bride of Boogedy (1987) (TV) .... Mom

"Robert Kennedy & His Times" (1985) (mini) TV Series .... Pat Kennedy

"Spencer" (1984) TV Series .... Doris Winger

"Two of Us, The" (1981) TV Series .... Nan Gallagher

Thin Ice (1981) (TV)

"Big Show, The" (1980) TV Series .... Regular Performer

"Stockard Channing in Just Friends" (1979) TV Series .... Victoria

Getting Married (1978) (TV)

"3 Girls 3" (1977) TV Series


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Updated 1/19/09  

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