“I’m really both,” she says in a sunny hotel room. “There’s a deep piece of me that wants to be very personal and not share everything with everybody and not put it out there. There’s a piece of me that wants to hold on and not to have to be out in front. But there’s another part of me that’s perfectly fine with it. It’s almost a dual personality,” she says, smiling.
“I’m not a party person. I’m a nerd. I’m not an extrovert in that way at all. The things I enjoy doing could be boring to somebody else.”
The actress, who’s starring in the Hallmark Channel’s first prime-time scripted series, “Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove,” says that while she was shy as a girl, she was equally determined.
“I used to joke that I wanted to join the circus. And I did — because we show up and when all the trailers are there in the morning on the set, they call that ‘the circus.’ And in a sense, I did join the circus because you’re traveling around and working with entertainers.”
When she was still in pigtails, she trudged to her local college to try out for a play. “It was a calling I had for a long time,” says MacDowell, who’s wearing a satin coat and plum sheath.
“And I talked to my parents and told them that I wanted to be an actor, but no one in my family was doing this. It was just something I had in my mind. I would put on shows in my garage. I took dance and would put on dance shows and get the neighbors to participate. Like a lot of kids I think that end up in the business, I think it was just in my genes,” she shrugs.
While in college she heard about the Elite Modeling Agency in New York, pocketed the $2,000 she had saved and hauled off to New York.
“My dad didn’t really want me to go because he wanted me to finish college, and I had no idea what I was going to do, but I said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m going.’ And I left. I didn’t even have a credit card.”
She blew most of her nest egg on a Ralph Lauren suit, thinking it was required for interviews. “That was a joke because all you need are jeans and a T-shirt,” she says. “Also they don’t wear any makeup because they want to see what you look like without anything. I looked in magazines and fixed my makeup and my hair and went in with the suit on and found that was all wrong.”
She was hired practically on the spot and found herself on a dizzying array of modeling assignments beginning in Paris. “The first guy I met was Olivier Chandon, heir to Moet et Chandon [champagne], and he was my best friend. He was very much like me. He didn’t drink, didn’t party. . . . I traveled all around. I had to go to all these countries by myself, travel around by myself. Nobody was helping me. I barely could talk to my family because to call home then cost a fortune. I got a great education.”
That education led to her film career, two marriages and three children. The collapse of her first marriage was devastating, she says.
“It’s not really something I like to talk about. It’s interesting I say ‘my divorce’ because the second marriage was so fast it just wasn’t the same. And divorce is horrible. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. I don’t think it’s anything that’s ever completely resolved. That’s something I’m actually able to do on the show, with [the character] Olivia — when Olivia goes through a divorce. . . . I was able to use some of my own experiences with the loss of the love of your life, the loss of the father of your children. It’s a huge part in the life of many women I know. I can usually tell when a woman is going through a divorce because they look so gaunt and tired and sad. It’s just a huge sadness. It’s horrible. It’s like death. You mourn, but the person’s still there.”
She probably won’t marry again, she says. “I’m a pretty traditional person, but I think we’ve come a long way in our ideas of what it means to be married or not married. . . . For me, it’s sad to say, but I would probably have a spiritual marriage but not a legal marriage, because I think so much about marriage starts to become about finances. It has nothing to do with God or feelings or the romantic side of marriage. It’s about who owns what, who gets what? So what’s the point?”
She enjoys her downtime at her ranch in Montana. “There are a lot of things I want to do there with conservation. My kids are really interested in conservation, and they love animals, so I think the connection I really want to make is through the land and having to do with wildlife. I’ve already made a substantial commitment to wildlife by putting my land in the easement. It won’t be developed. It will remain there in perpetuity — will be there for the wild life.”
— MCT Information Services
Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove
(one hour) airs Saturdays at 8 p.m. on Hallmark Channel.