CHINA BEACH ‘TART’ ENJOYS MOM ROLE IN DEATH DREAMS
By Susan King
The Pittsburgh Press
June 23, 1991
Marg Helgenberger sees a definite pattern in her career.
“I go from slut to a mother to a slut to a mother,” she said, breaking into a giggle.
Most TV viewers from Helgenberger for her Emmy-winning turn as the cynical prostitute K.C. in ABC’s recently canceled Vietnam War series ‘China Beach.’
“But right before I got ‘China Beach,’ I played a mother with two sons in that Dennis Weaver series ‘Buck James,’” Helgenberger said. She’s a devoted mom again this week in Lifetime’s supernatural thriller ‘Death Dreams,’ her first outing since ‘China Beach.’
The week after this interview Helgenberger was filming an episode of HBO’s ‘Tales From the Crypt,’ directed by Walter Hill, in which she plays – what else? – a fallen woman.
“So it’s back to slut world again!” she whooped. But Helgenberger seems to take this quirky typecasting in stride. “I think women can be both,” she said.
Relaxing in her manager’s West Hollywood apartment, the petite redhead seemed the mom-type. Over the next hour the discussion frequently turned to the apple of her eye, 8-month-old Hughie, her son with husband and actor Alan Rosenberg.
In fact, it was her newfound maternal instincts that drew her to ‘Death Dreams,’ in which she plays a married woman who has an out-of-body experience when she is clinically dead for six minutes after a car crash. Returning home from the hospital, she discovers she’s able to communicate with her young daughter, who recently drowned. Christopher Reeve plays her husband who doubts his wife’s sanity.
“I have a baby now and the love and the bond between a mother and child…I wanted to do a project like this right now because I was feeling all of these things,” Helgenberger said, curling up on the couch. “I wanted to take advantage of that.”
Before Hughie’s birth, Helgenberger said, she believes she wouldn’t have been capable of giving the performance she does in ‘Death Dreams.’
‘Death Dreams’ also fascinated Helgenberger because the mother of one of her girlfriends recently had an out-of-body experience.
“She was on a hunt and her horse tripped, threw her to the ground and landed on top of her and basically crushed her,” Helgenberger said. “She described this experience as her soul leaving her from the ambulance and racing to the cosmos and seeing these white gauzy creatures that grabbed her and pulled her back to the ambulance and then shut the doors.”
“She, along with everybody I talked to that had an out-of-body experience, they all said it was great and they didn’t want to come back. It was like it was tension-free.”
“The same girlfriend had one when she was 11 and even she thought, ‘I don’t have to worry about tests.’ You don’t think kids have that kind of pressure.”
‘China Beach’ made a brief return earlier this month after a seven-month hiatus as ABC began airing the remaining new episodes. The cancellation after four seasons was no surprise, Helgenberger said.
“Supposedly, Bob Iger (president of ABC) had said to John Sacret Young (executive producer of ‘China Beach’) that this is probably going to be your last year and do whatever you want to do. We were all aware of that. I think this year was a great opportunity for a lot of the actors like Brian Wimmer, Bob Picardo and Michael Boatman. They got a chance to really expand their range. It has always been a good show for me and Dana Delany.”
‘China Beach’ also spoiled Helgenberger. “I got to do everything on that show,” she said. “K.C. even had a baby, but not in the conventional way. She had it, but wasn’t interested in it. But I do get reunited (in an upcoming episode) with my daughter when she is a teenager.”
Helgenberger isn’t eager to do another series right now because of Hughie. “Having a baby is really time-consuming. Everybody talks about the guilt they feel. That is alive and well – the guilt with leaving a baby behind while you’re at work. It’s a big-time commitment.”
She has her eye on feature films, but admits that television offers her the meatier parts.
“It’s because I am known for my TV work,” she said. “There are already these women who are known for their feature work and, of course, the really great parts go to the big stars.”
Helgenberger shrugged her shoulders. “Most of the good roles go to the guys.”
“Hollywood is a sexist place. It’s a sexist time. I think conservatism has a lot to do with that. It’s frustrating.”
(Los Angeles / distributed by L.A. Times-Washington Post News Service)