I imagine Kathleen Turner glided past the protesters outside without so much as a backward glance. The actress, 62, dressed in a silky black pantsuit arrived at the opening reception for the Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington’s new Northeast headquarters not like a movie star but definitely like a woman on a mission. The star of “Body Heat,” the sexiest actress to ever act, the woman who refuses to play “victims,” is hard to miss even when she’s just milling about the crowd of donors and supporters, including Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D).
Turner immediately grants a quick chat on one condition: We find seats. Then the actress, with her perfectly applied deep red lipstick and a voice like cabernet, delves into her first visit to Planned Parenthood, why white men are scared and plugging her new show at Arena Stage that sounds a lot like this election, “The Year of Magical Thinking.”
You’re like the original actorvist. You’ve been involved with Planned Parenthood for —
27 years, and People For the American Way 31 years, and then at home Citymeals on Wheels for — I’m not sure how many years — a lot. I’ve been here a long time.
What sparked your involvement, and what has sustained it?
My father was a Foreign Service officer, so it was a tradition in our house to serve. But with Planned Parenthood, specifically, when I came back to the United States, and I started school, my father had just died, and we had no money and no home in the U.S. So I went to Planned Parenthood because that was the only place I could really go.
For medical care or —
Well, I figured I was going to get sexually active, you know, I was 18, 19. I thought I’d take some precautions in any case. I figured I owed them. So wherever I’ve been and wherever I work, I show up at their affiliates. During the year, I travel between jobs for them.
Random question: In your 2008 memoir you tell the story of how you almost punched Senator Strom Thurmond —
Oh, I wish I had.
Absolutely. But that was over the National Endowment of the Arts. [Turner had traveled to Washington in 1990 to lobby for more arts funding and met with Thurmond, then a Republican senator from South Carolina who sat on the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee.] Well, he called me ‘little lady,’ and I didn’t like that.
So you wish you had clocked him?
Oh, I would have enjoyed it so much.
Speaking of throwing punches, the first presidential debate is coming up. Are you going to watch?
I think it will be rather interesting to see it with a group of people. To just sit in isolation in my temporary apartment. Yes, I could rant and rave freely, but it will be very good to understand other people’s reactions as well.
How do you predict it will go?
I’m quite sure that Hillary will be steady and have her material well in hand. But whether it will be possible to actually have a serious debate? I doubt it. I don’t know how you combat that.
What are your thoughts on the so-called “enthusiasm gap”?
I honestly do not understand the so-called distrust of Hillary. I really don’t. I understand the confusion over the emails and a lot of the procedural stuff that’s very iffy. But I don’t see how that adds up as distrust of her altogether. She’s one of the most extraordinary, accomplished women of our time. I really truly think a lot of this comes down to white men thinking that they’re losing all their power, and they’re scared s—less. I don’t think you can write that, but there you have it.