Uta Hagen says the advice she gives to her granddaughter in ABC's "Seasonal Differences" is advice she would give her own daughter: "Keep to reason and keep talking and don't close doors."
German-born Hagen, 68, an award-winning actress of the American stage, plays the grandmother of a Jewish teen-ager (Megan Follows) in ABC's Afterschool Special this week. The story, based loosely on a real event, concerns anti-Semitism and the issue of separation of church and state.
"I play a Nazi concentration camp victim who got away from the camp and now lives in a small suburban community," she explained. But Grandmother's remarks are not about the nativity scene that has been constructed on the lawn of the local high school. "My advice is in relationship to her boyfriend -- she is Jewish, and her boyfriend is not Jewish and gets involved on the fringes ... "
Hagen noted that "the years of the holocaust were an intense period of my life because of friends in Europe. My husband is Jewish ... a refugee. It's still very much alive to me. During the Nazi persecution in Europe, my very best friends were all refugees."
Her husband, Herbert Berghof, also lost his parents in Nazi concentration camps.
Hagen, who has a 16-year-old granddaughter of her own, praised the work of co-star Megan Follows and remarked that "I thought it was a very interesting script, a very pertinent script about race relations in America today."
Among Hagen's many awards are two Tonys, for the role of Georgie Elgin in "The Country Girl" in 1951 and for the role of Martha in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" in 1963; New York Drama Critics' Award, Donaldson Award and Outer Circle Award, all in 1951, and the London Critics Award in 1964. She was named to the Theatre Hall of Fame six years ago. Last year, she gained a Daytime Emmy nomination for her appearance in four episodes of "One Life to Live."
Hagen, celebrating her 50th year in the American theater and still primarily a stage actress, will appear in March at New York's Roundabout Theater. Her book, Respect for Acting, is considered a manual for thespians. (Her cookbook, Love for Cooking, "is unfortunately out of print," she noted). Since 1947, she has taught drama at the Herbert Berghof Studio in New York.