HAUNTING VOICES FROM BEYOND: MARG HELGENBERGER FAMILIAR WITH IDEA OF COMMUNICATING WITH THE DEAD
By Jerry Buck
The Free Lance-Star/TV Star
June 22, 1991
Marg Helgenberger, late of the canceled ‘China Beach,’ says the theme of communication with the dead in Lifetime’s ‘Death Dreams’ is hauntingly familiar to her.
In the supernatural thriller, which debuts on the cable channel Tuesday, Miss Helgenberger plays a mother whose daughter speaks from the grave to reveal that her apparent accidental death was in fact murder.
The movie, based on a William Katz novel, also stars Christopher Reeve as Miss Helgenberger’s husband, Taylor Fry as the daughter and Fionnula Flanagan as an eccentric psychiatrist.
‘Death Dreams’ offers a sweeter, gentler view of Miss Helgenberger. Her Emmy-winning character K.C. on ‘China Beach’ was a hustler in every sense of the word.
“This woman has a continuing relationship with her daughter that reminds me of when my father died,” Miss Helgenberger said. “My mother felt a relationship with him. This has never happened to me, but it’s happened to my family and to my friends.”
“A week before I got the script, a friend told me her mother had had an out-of-body experience following an accident. Immediately after my father died, my mother woke me in the middle of the night and asked, ‘Where’s Hughie?’ She asks him for advice.”
‘Death Dreams’ is an engaging yarn in which the supernatural aspects are presented in a straightforward style that makes them seem believable. Miss Helgenberger is quite convincing as a mother and wife torn between believing her daughter’s spirit and her spiritless husband.
Reeve continues to distance himself from his ‘Superman’ role, revealing a dark side as a man who seeks absolute control over everyone around him.
‘Death Dreams’ arrives at a time when movies about ghosts and afterlife are in vogue. ‘Ghost’ made a spectacular $500 million worldwide last year. Other pictures include ‘The Rapture,’ ‘Switch,’ ‘The Butcher’s Wife’ and nearly a dozen others due this year.
Miss Helgenberger did ‘Death Dreams’ immediately after finishing work on ‘China Beach.’
“I liked the script and I liked the work of the director, Martin Donovan,” she said. “He’s directed ‘Apartment Zero,’ which was an unconventional thriller. I talked to him, and unlike a lot of people in Hollywood, he was so enthusiastic and positive about his work. He had so many ideas. I knew I was in good hands.”
“I’m a new mother and this is a story of mother-daughter bonding. I felt I could play the role better now because I am a mother,” said Miss Helgenberger. She and her husband, actor-director Alan Rosenberg, have a 7-month-old song, Hugh Howard Rosenberg.
Miss Helgenberger grew up in North Bend, Neb., where she ‘goofed around’ in school plays looking for attention. She took up acting seriously at Northwestern University. There she was seen by a casting agent for ABC, which resulted in a role on ‘Ryan’s Hope.”
She met her husband while appearing on the soap opera, which is taped in New York.
“He was on the show for a month,” she said. “We became friends, and four years later, when I moved to Los Angeles, we started going out.”
Miss Helgenberger also starred in another series, ‘Shell Game’ with James Read and Margot Kidder, which ran for only six episodes in 1987.
She has a movie coming out in a few months, ‘Crooked Hearts,’ which was filmed last year. Included in the cast are Peter Coyote, Cindy Pickett and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
“I play a waitress who has an affair with Peter Coyote,” she said. “It takes place over about 10 years.”
This summer, she appears in an episode of HBO’s ‘Tales From the Crypt.’ And ‘China Beach’ is back for seven more shows before ending its run on ABC.