interview by Douglas Eby
Amanda Bearse is now working on season 8 of "Married With Children", onscreen playing the role of Marcy, the Bundy's next door neighbor. She talks about her experiences as both an actor and director on the show, and reactions to her coming out as a lesbian.
"I began my professional acting career in daytime television - on "All My Children" - and that started my interest in multi camera work. I started directing during season 6, and we're now doing season number 8. I studied directing at USC and at AFI Extension.
At the Crystal Awards year before last they remarked that when Women in Film first started around twenty years ago, there were only about three women directors who made films that year, and the number has grown to about ten times that, but we still have a long way to go.
As a woman, I do have a certain sensitivity to people's feelings, and as a director you set the tone emotionally for how the work is going to go on a day to day basis. My temperament as a woman does benefit me. It's a calm set - it's fun, it's light. We take our work very seriously and people know that I am a professional about what I do, I don't take it casually - but we're there to have a good time. And I don't think I bring a lot of baggage with me.
I'd also like to think I do pay attention to what's going on, not only with my actors, but with my crew people. Everybody wants to feel listened to and counted. We do have a predominantly male crew, but there are a number of women to be counted.
I saw that my character had built-in limitations. I was playing a secondary character and, the way the show was structured, that was not going to change - it wouldn't shift focus so I would get a leading role. I thought with directing that, first of all, I might have an ability for it, because when I watched other people's performances, it stimulated me with ideas, and we've always been the kind of cast where we're open with each other in talking about our choices as actors. And directing has expanded my life on "Married With Children" in a way that wasn't going to happen for me on camera. When I step behind the camera it's a whole new world.
Fortunately everyone remained flexible when I went into that new position, especially my cast - they were very supportive. The opportunity to direct was a trial by fire - it always is, you just have to jump in and do it. But if I hadn't done it well I wouldn't have gotten a second chance.
I didn't see having a child as something to be fit into my life; it was more how could I make my life work for the child. I waited until I was in my mid-thirties to have my first child. I had a career, and didn't want to leave my job, but also knew what the demands were going to be in time and energy.
My baby was born right at the beginning of my hiatus, so we got the first four months to be with one another full time [she is now 5 1/2 months old]. I can't even think of a better work environment than the one I have to bring up a child. I have a nursery for her so I can take her to the show.
I'm in a committed relationship with another woman and we have a balance between our two careers. She is a freelance commercial producer and can to some extent arrange her schedule. We also have a nanny. I didn't want to have a child that would be raised by someone else. My partner and I spend the majority of the time with her.
My coming out was sort of initiated by the tabloids finding out about the adoption of my baby daughter. They had already known about my living in a gay relationship. I gave a press conference to say that, yes there was some information that was put out there about me that I want to confirm, and I also want to confirm that I don't have any shame around being homosexual, and it doesn't affect the way I do my job.
There's been an enormous positive response from the gay community, and I'm getting a lot of offers from various organizations to speak or be on panels. When I can make it count, I will.
I think the more commonplace we can make people being honest about their sexuality, the better off it will be for human rights and civil rights for everyone.
It would be naive of me to think there wouldn't be some negativity around it. The show has received to date several pieces of hate mail. But I consider that low number is progress. I think if there is going to be some reaction it will have to do with money. That's what fuels our industry. That's what so many decisions boil down to."
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