November 23, 1997
The Atlanta Journal/The Atlanta Constitution
Mary Kay Place Ends Her Voluntary Exile
By Luaine Lee
Scripps Howard News Service
It’s happened again. A beautiful actress shows up with mousy hair, deep wrinkles on her face, no makeup and clothes that would look bad on Claudia Schiffer. Voila! A star is born.
It’s not that we haven’t seen Mary Kay Place for a long time. It’s not that she hasn’t turned in terrific performances. Movies such as The Big Chill and Citizen Ruth and TV shows such as “My So-Called Life” and “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” prove that Place can emote with the best of them. What’s more, she could swing from comedy to drama without a court order.
But as the harassed mother of a dying boy in John Grisham’s The Rainmaker, now in theaters, Place has joined the high rollers.
She harbors no expectations about that, she says. “You’re hoping people will appreciate the work, and it’ll inspire them to think of another interesting way you could do [something] in a movie,” she says.
Though the Tulsa, Okla., native has worked in film and television for 21 years, she wasn’t always “juiced up.”
In fact, after her role as a career woman searching for a man to father her child in The Big Chill, all the juice was gone.
“I did go into a burnout phase for about 10 years when I was just fried,” she says. “And it wasn’t exciting then. I needed all that time to really restore and build up.”
Since she had known – from elementary school – that she wanted to be in show business, she had never let up. First, she worked in production, then became a secretary for Norman Lear (“All in the Family”) and worked her way into writing scripts for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “M*A*S*H.”
In “Mary Hartman,” she played the indefatigable baby-doll Loretta with naïve country music dreams. Later, she directed for “Friends,” “Dream On” and “Baby Boom.”
In the early ‘80’s, Place literally worked herself into a panic. “It happened because I had no clue about working and resting, working and resting, letting the well refill. I was young and stupid. I did everything that was offered.
“There were times I said, “I don’t know if I’m supposed to be doing this or if I have the strength to endure this kind of lifestyle because it is so irrational in certain ways.”
While she co-starred in Smooth Talk, Private Benjamin, and Starting Over, she was also searching for some method in all this madness. She doesn’t ascribe to any religion, she says. She attends a Unitarian church in New York and a Presbyterian church in Los Angeles. “I explore many flavors. I’m interested in Buddhism, but basically I’m Christian,” she says. “I like the idea of forgiveness and think that’s a radical thought.”
Place, 50, says she had no problem looking frumpy for The Rainmaker. I didn’t think twice about it. It was a done deal because, of course, she couldn’t look good. She had to look horrible, had to look worn to a nub. There was nothing about her that had any business looking good. But that was never an issue.”