Actress breaks ‘Kate Jackson Doll’ (Minneapolis Tribune – 1981)

  • Minneapolis Tribune – February 15, 1981 (Page 30)
  • Actress breaks ‘Kate Jackson Doll’

Charleston S.C. – Sitting in Charleston under a hair dryer, preparing to go out into 105 – degree heat and pretend that it was a cool spring day, Kate Jackson told us how her acting career was back on the track.

She stars as Linda Rivers, a 26-year old high school teacher who has a controversial love affair with a 18-year-old student, in “Thin Ice” at 8 p.m. on the “CBS Tuesday Night Movies.”

As she prepared for a scene with Lillian Gish, legendary star who portrays her grandmother, Jackson reflected on her career.

She was born in Birmingham, Ala., and attended college at Ole Miss, but she didn’t participate in theater ventures there. “The theater people were considered weird people,” Jackson said, “I hope that’s no longer true. But when I was in school, all the talented kids who played the flute or wanted to act where made fun of. I worry about the sensitive people who are so easily crushed, simply because the values of our society are so misplaced.

“My way around that was to just not tell anyone I wanted to be an actress. I figured I would just go and do it, and then the other people could talk about it.”

That’s what she did. At 19 she moved to New York, where she enrolled in a two-year course at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. When she graduated, her class’s graduation speaker was Gish.


“I remember she said she couldn’t stand behind the podium because she was too short,” Jackson recalled, “so she stepped around and stood in front of it. Then she proceeded to say wonderful, encouraging things to us, just the very things you would expect a sensitive woman to say to graduates who have a dream that is to extremely difficult to achieve.”

After a nine-month stint on “Dark Shadows” daytime series, Jackson became the female lead in the police action series “The Rookies,” which ran from 1972 to 1976. She went straight from that into the role of Sabrina Carver on “Charlie’s Angels,” starring for three seasons until 1979. During her stint on this series, she admitted, she began to lose perspective on her career.

“I don’t want to knock that series,” she began, “because that show did a lot of good things for me. But during those years I got distracted by the very things that I had always promised myself I would be never distracted by – namely, the hype and the huge amounts of money.

“It becomes funny money. It doesn’t mean anything. Yet, at the same time, it’s pretty hard to quit. It’s hard to look a million dollars in the face and tell it to get into somebody else’s pocket.

“But that third year, I was beginning the question why I disliked the thing that I knew I loved most in the world – acting. I’d reached a point where I not only didn’t love to act, I didn’t even know why I acted.

“You tend to lose perspective when there’s a Kate Jackson Doll. But I knew that I had become an actress in order to communicate with people. I didn’t want to be a Kate Jackson Doll. I didn’t want to be a Kate Jackson lunch box.

“Now,” she said, “once again I’m working for the right reasons – because of the artist that I hope is inside me. And on this particular project I find again all the reasons that I wanted to become an actress in the first place. Now I know why I act, and love it again.

In Tuesday’s movie Jackson portrays Linda Rivers, a South Carolina history teacher whose husband died three years earlier. Rather than renew an active social life, she lives with her grandmother (Gish) and focuses her energies on teaching. By chance during spring vacation, she spends time with 18-year-old Paul McCormick (Gerard Prendergast), one of her students. Almost against her will, they fall in love and enter into an involvement.

Fully aware of the danger in their relationship, Linda and Paul go to great lengths to keep their involvement discreet. But when news of their affair leaks, a community controversy erupts that dramatically alters their lives and compels the couple to confront the seriousness of their actions.

Gish recalled the script “beautiful and intelligent.” She said, “I feel so guilty. My agents are darling with me. They send me scripts by the dozen. If I were starving, maybe I would have to do them. But I’m not, so I don’t.

“Then I was sent ‘Thin Ice’. I said I’d be delighted to be in it because at last, here was a script for adults.”


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