December 22-24, 1989
By Sue Reilly
On ‘China Beach,’ a show that’s the critics’ choice, Marg Helgenberger is the critics’ choice. With her flaming red hair and cheekbones sharp enough to cut steak, Helgenberger lights up the tube every Wednesday (10 p.m EST on ABC) as ‘China Beach’’s cynical tart, K.C. She plays another toughie in Steven Spielberg’s just-released movie, ‘Always,’ with Holly Hunter and Richard Dreyfuss. She’s a one-of-the-boys airplane mechanic – which is further proof of her acting skills, since Helgenberger is really just an all-American gal from Nebraska.
Were you nervous reading for Spielberg for the role in always?
I had spent a lot of time figuring out how to tell him what a genius I thought he was – without sounding gushy. But before I could say anything, he told me what a fan he is of ‘China Beach’ and started talking about my work. He’s very accessible. And he’s very cute.
Funny. When I asked him what it was like in Moses Lake where they would be shooting, he said it was like the place the Jolly Green Giant used to step down to earth.
Were you around when the romance developed between Spielberg and Hunter?
I wasn’t around the two of them that much.
That’s a very vague reply.
I hope so.
On ‘China Beach,’ Dana Delany plays the saint to your sinner, she begin the angel of mercy who brings comfort to the men. Is there any competition between you?
(Laughing) I think K.C. would say she brings comfort to the men, but for a price. Dana and I work well together. There’s a chemistry that just cooks, and we play it for all it’s worth.
What’s a nice girl like you doing in a part like K.C.?
Half the fun of acting is being someone totally unlike who you are. K.C.’s got a real attitude. She doesn’t take any stuff from anyone. She’s tough and cynical, but she’s got a lot of moxie. Once I get on those tight, short dresses, I start talking sexier and walking sexier.
What did you have to do to get the role?
I had to come into a room with a group of men and parade around. It was a little intimidating. I did that a couple of times and every time the group of men got a little bigger.
What did they say to you?
They just kept looking at the clothes, saying, “It should be shorter. It should be tighter.”
You had two very strong episodes this season, ‘The Unquiet Earth’ and ‘Skin Deep,’ with Emmy nominations written all over them.
I hope. ‘The Unquiet Earth’ was physically exhausting. We were working in a tunnel and it was hot and filthy. When I got signed up for the part of K.C. I thought the most physical thing I would have to do was writhe around in bed.
Were you disappointed Dana was the only one nominated for an Emmy this past year?
I anticipated a lot more nominations, and after Dana was nominated she felt a lot of people had been snubbed. She called me to tell me she was sorry that I wasn’t on the list.
You’re happily married (to director-actor Alan Rosenberg). What’s your home life like?
Both of us are up to there with trying to get our new house built. And then there’s Daisy, our Dalmatian. She’s sort of like the Dennis the Menace of dogs. And I work 40 hours a week on the series – it can be from early in the morning until late at night, or just a couple of hours.
Have you ever worked together?
We were in ‘Ryan’s Hope’ together. But we weren’t involved until we got to Hollywood.
Are the people in North Bend, Neb., where you grew up, shocked by your television role?
There is a fan club, so not all of them. I think my mom is getting a vicarious thrill out of it.
What’s your father do?
He was in meat all his life, a meat inspector and butcher. On summer vacations I worked in meat packing and rolling flanks. (Laughter) Some things never change.
*Special thanks to Kelly Willows for transcribing this article. A scan of it can also be found here.