Morgan Fairchild acts it up [classic article]

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In a business known for its fickleness, Morgan Fairchild’s beauty and quirky style have kept her ever-busy for decades. Today’s audience knows Fairchild for her recurring cameo on “Friends,” playing Chandler’s mother. She also helped Old Navy rev up its image in her many commercials. The Dallas native began acting as a child. From the age of 10, she performed in children’s and dinner theater and stock productions. Six weeks after moving to New York, Fairchild landed a role in “Search for Tomorrow.” Fairchild then moved to Los Angeles.

She’s best known for her endless series of TV guest spots. Shows she has appeared on include: “Mork & Mindy,” “Roseanne,” “Dallas” (Jenna Wade), “Barnaby Jones,” “Happy Days,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Police Woman,” “Switch,” “Kojak,” “Perry Mason,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Lois & Clark,” “Empty Nest” and “Diagnosis Murder.” Morgan landed the key role of Constance Weldon Carlyle in “Flamingo Road,” for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress. In addition, she made over a dozen appearances on television specials with Bob Hope.

Morgan returned to the stage November 1999, costarring with Faith Ford and Crystal Bernard in the Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy “Crimes of the Heart,” directed by Gary Marshall. She stretched her dramatic muscles with her acclaimed portrayal of Skye in the off-Broadway play, “Geniuses,” named one of the top 10 plays of the year by Time Magazine and The New York Times.

In addition to her accomplishments as an actress, Morgan is an activist for several political and social causes. She starred in an informational video, “Safe Sex for Men and Women,” about AIDS education and prevention. She is on the Board of Governors of Aids Project Los Angeles and Board of Directors of American Foundation for AIDS Research. Former surgeon-general C. Everett Koop has asked her on occasion to substitute for him at AIDS events and she has hosted an AIDS awareness TV special with news anchorman Steve Bell. She is a frequent speaker on environmental issues of all kinds.

Morgan wrote a beauty book, “Super Looks” (Simon and Schuster).

Bankrate: Tell me about your latest projects.

Morgan Fairchild: I’ve got “Jungle Juice” in the can. It’s kind of a Caribbean Club Med movie. There’s another film, “Arizona Summer Camp” that I was in. Also, a movie called “Knuckle Sandwich” with John O’Hurley. They’re independent films and sometimes it takes a long time, years even, for them to come out. Sometimes things will get messed up on the financial end. You don’t even know when they’ll be coming out. I saw myself on cable in a movie I did; that’s the only way I knew the movie had been released. They don’t call you, they don’t care.

Bankrate: You started as a child actor; how did your parents manage your career?

Morgan Fairchild: Oh, they weren’t managing my career. My mom was an English teacher. She got me into children’s theater. I was never what you see backstage now, with the child actors. I feel sorry for them. They’re under a lot of pressure. I have several friends who were child actors and it’s a difficult transition from child to adolescence and then from adolescence to adult.

Bankrate: How has the business changed for women since you began?

Morgan Fairchild: I don’t know really that the business has changed for women, the business itself has changed. It went from the studio system to the quasi-studio system in the ’70s. There were independent film companies and they were swallowed up. The structure of the companies now, I think, if they could just do without actors, just computer-generate us, I think they’d be happy! The problem is they see actors only as a means to an end.

Bankrate: It used to be that stars would only do commercials maybe overseas, but now they’re quite open about it.

Morgan Fairchild: I think it’s been accepted to do them for a while. Of course, there was Olivier doing car commercials in the ’60s. Then, Jim Garner was doing commercials. They’re major stars. It’s been accepted for a long time. I decided that I needed to reintroduce myself every five years to fans. That’s why I’ll do some of the more outrageous roles, such as the lipstick lesbian on “Roseanne,” getting into food fights on “Cybill” or playing Chandler’s mom on “Friends” with Kathleen Turner as my husband.

Bankrate: How did you decide to do the Old Navy ads?

Morgan Fairchild: That’s self-evident. They serve a target demographic for me, boys 13 to 18. Every network wants this demographic.

Bankrate: You’ve been involved with AIDS charities, pro-choice and environmental causes. How did you pick these causes?

Morgan Fairchild: All my life, I’ve been interested in science, epidemiology and virus. I was on “Nightline,” speaking about retro viruses. I was before the Senate. I had to explain weather patterns. As a kid, I always wanted to be a paleontologist.

Bankrate: Do you have political ambitions?

Morgan Fairchild: I have no political ambitions. I’m very interested in the issues, though. You’d have to be stupid not to see that to affect the issues, you have to have an effect through politics. Politics affects funding, research.

Bankrate: Do you manage your own money?

Morgan Fairchild: I have a business manager.

Bankrate: Do you have investments?

Morgan Fairchild: I don’t have a lot of investments. I wouldn’t mind being a landlord, something basic. I have mutual funds for long-term.

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