Patricia Sheridan's Breakfast With ... Morgan Fairchild
September 15, 2014 12:00 AM
By Patricia Sheridan / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Texas-born actress Morgan Fairchild took her career from daytime soap operas to prime time with breakout roles on “Dallas” and “Falcon Crest” in the late 1970s and ’80s. The former Patsy Ann McClenny went on to guest star on many other series and went back to her soap roots with a role on ”General Hospital.“ At 64, she stars in a Hallmark Channel original movie, “Perfect on Paper,” which airs Sept. 20 at 9 p.m.
You play a romance writer in “Perfect on Paper,” and it occurred to me that you have never written a memoir. Do you think you might do that?
I might. People have approached me about it over the years. The problem is I am not really keen on dishing dirt. I would rather write about people I have known and a lot of the funny stories and stars I have worked with. Of course, they don’t want to hear that. They want to hear dirt, at least, publishers.
You once told me you were a science nerd at heart. Any regrets about the career path you chose?
It is always interesting to look back. I have thought about it over the years. What if I had gone ahead and gotten a medical degree or [one in] paleontology or researching viruses, which is one of my big passions? You never know. The circumstances of my life at the time — being married very young and having to support a husband and his mother — I didn’t really have that choice. I could have chosen not to get married. That would have done it.
I look at a lot of friends in my business, where it is very difficult especially for women over 40, and then I look at a lot of my science friends who are having a lot of trouble getting grants and doing the kind of research they want to do. So I don’t know that I would have been the one to find a breakthrough although it always interested me.
With baby boomers, who are older now, still being the portion of the population with money and influence, why is there an obsession with youth, especially in Hollywood?
I do think a lot of the baby boomers think aging is cool. Unfortunately, the people who control a lot of the studios and networks are not baby boomers. They are the young ones who I think are missing a huge audience demographic. The older people are the ones who actually watch TV. Young people watch it on computers or their watches [laughs].
They wonder why they are losing market share. They have the disposable income and a lot of them are still working. Our generation has refused to grow up. We have refused to conform. There are women in their 70s, 80s wearing jeans. It’s a demographic out there to be mined for entertainment, travel, and some businesses are catching on.
When you would shop for a wardrobe for a character, particularly in the “Falcon Crest” days, did you find you liked the character’s taste so much it became your own?
[Laughing] Sometimes because I was trying to make it cutting edge. On “Falcon Crest,” Jane Wyman was much more conservative, and one day I came down and I was supposed to be dressed for a party or something. I was in a red leather miniskirt suit with the big shoulder pads and my Wendy Gell big jeweled cuffs and big necklace and big earrings and spiked heels, and somebody said, “Oh my God, you have to go change. Jane will hate that!” Before I could go, Jane walks on the set in an A-line dress and pearls and comes over and looks me up and down and says, “Now this is what the show needs — a little damned glitz!”
So I have to ask, does anyone ever call you Patsy anymore?
Not if they want a response [laughs].
Was it weird for your friends and family when you changed your name?
Probably. Nobody really said it. Maybe for the first year or two, some people had trouble with it — mainly the people who think it is going to insinuate them and show you how clever they are. So sometimes it’s quite off-putting. They try to be overly familiar in an email or a text or a tweet or something. They don’t realize how irritating it is to me.
Once you became an actress and made it, did it change you in any fundamental way?
No, it didn’t really. Because I got married very young, I didn’t really get to go to college. I went to college part time, so it’s not like I had the usual transitions in life that people have. Mine were more jumbled, and consequently a lot of my choices were driven by the fact that I was supporting people. People were depending on me from the time I was like 18. When I was a kid, I would be sometimes working four or five jobs a day. I would do a fashion show in the morning, a photo shoot in the afternoon, a play at night and then wait tables at the dinner theater. I was always working.
So is it hard for you to relax?
Not really. You know, at this age, you don’t feel the pressure of when you are a young kid and you are trying to make it and you are afraid life is passing you by. I mean, most actors my age are just happy to be working. Other people want to retire and go travel or something. Actors just want to keep working.
Is it because it is like playing?
That is kind of a misnomer. It is very hard work, but it is fun. You want to find something you enjoy doing and figure out how to make a living at it. If it looks fun, we are doing it well.
So in the end, are you content?
I don’t know if I’d ever be content, but you know, happy. Happy, yeah. And I am grateful that I have had the longevity in the business that I’ve had and people still seem interested and that I am still working.
Patricia Sheridan: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2613 or follow her on Twitter at @pasheridan.
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