|Kelly Preston, Doug McKeon, Chris Nash and Stewart in 1985's Mischief.|
You intended to merely dance in the 1980 musical spectacular The Apple, but were instead handed the leading role! Just how heady an experience was that for you? Was it overwhelming at times or were you energetically along for the ride? After the movie's release, did you ever again see or hear from costar George Gilmour?
"I just happened to show up for the dance audition for The Apple with a couple of friends who I met on their way there. I decided to tag along. I was completely unprepared but wanted to experience that kind of professional audition as a dancer. The director thought I looked right for the lead role, so he auditioned me right there and then. It was a crazy experience, like nothing I’d ever experienced before, but it all happened so fast that I didn’t really have time to think about it. I just went along for the ride and I loved every minute of it! I did see George once or twice after filming but I haven’t seen or spoken to him in decades. He is a wonderful, talented man."
In the wake of The Apple, now situated in California, you had the occasion to appear in a teensploitation/party type of flick called The Beach Girls (1982) in which your chief contribution seemed to be kissing a fellow actor for a lengthy take and then gathering around a bonfire. Was that a fun and frolicsome time on set or was it a hot mess?
|Stewart is seen at far left.|
"I think long running soap operas with the same cast definitely becomes like a very close family. It is tough work so it’s great to have a good support system! DOOL was probably the hardest job I had in acting. We shot a 60 minute show in a day. If you have a big storyline you might need to know 50 pages of dialogue for one episode. Memorizing that kind of thing is hard!! I am in awe of soap opera actors!"
Before too long, big screen opportunities came calling again, including The Last Starfighter and Night of the Comet (both 1984.) These are but two of several fondly remembered sci-fi oriented films of yours which have amassed a cult following. Do you attend conventions and, if so, do the fans surprise you with their enthusiasm and knowledge of the movies in question?
"I have attended conventions and the fans are astounding in their knowledge and enthusiasm. I often joke that they know my characters and movies way better than I do. I am so grateful to have been a part of these charming, character driven movies that have touched so many people in an often profound way. I love talking to the fans and hearing their thoughts. I never expected that these movies would have the impact that they have to so many people. It’s incredibly gratifying."
[Editor's Note: Night of the Comet had the distinction of featuring two young female leads against not only a horde of zombies, but a sinister group of scientists, making it a unique action film of its time - and after!]
As pretty as you are, was this really the best date you could find to the Starfighter premiere?
In the mid-1980s, you entered the world of the then-popular TV miniseries. First came Hollywood Wives, a star-studded, highly-glitzy affair in which you were the wide-eyed young girl tossed into a world of money, power and fame (and, if I recall correctly, drugs!) First of all, what were these photo shoots like, in which you were elbow to elbow with a variety of famous and sometimes infamous actors and actresses? Any competition for the center spot, etc...? And what did you think when you first saw Andrew Stevens in his alter-ego role of the deranged, bearded twin?
|Predating the Geico caveman, Andrew Stevens as his own evil twin...|
|Stewart, alongside Mariette Hartley, in her second project with Rod Steiger, the 1989 TV-movie Passion and Paradise.|
|This same telefilm had her hurled into the arms of one Armand Assante, at the time riding a wave of successful TV projects such as Rage of Angels (1983), Evergreen (1985) and Napoleon and Josephine: A Love Story (1987.)|
Not long after, you were selected to play the teenaged version of Joan Collins' character in her miniseries Sins (1986.) Did working on her sister Jackie's Hollywood Wives play into this in any way? Were you selected by Joan (who was also producing) personally? As young Helene, you had to endure a lot of the torment of the character that later became vengeful once Joan took over. How harrowing was that?
|Stewart's Sin-ful selection led to an article in TV Guide wherein she shared recipes and dished about getting to meet La Collins!|
|Photographer John Findlater and Stewart divorced around this time after two years of marriage. It is her present husband Richard Allerton (who she wed in 1992) with whom she shares two children, Hanna (born in 1993) and Connor (born in 1996.)|
You seem to have worked with some really well-regarded actors in your early years, from Robert Preston to Robert Mitchum, Karl Malden to Shirley Knight to Rod Steiger, Also up and comers like James Spader, Holly Hunter, Jon Cryer. Are there any particular things that you learned from any of these people (or from others not mentioned) or that you particularly enjoyed about them?
|Robert Preston in The Last Starfighter (1984.)|
"Working with these actors you see why they are as highly regarded as they are! Robert Preston was a lovely, kind, giving actor. Lance Guest always speaks of him with such love and respect. I only met him on the set once because I had no scenes with him, but he literally seemed to glow. He kissed my hand!! Some of these actors would challenge me, some intimidated me but they were all amazing, professional actors that knew what they were doing. I tried to learn as much as I could just being around them. I still carry many lessons to this day!"
Little known is the fact that you, joined with Julia Campbell and Ally Walker, filmed a TV pilot for The Witches of Eastwick (in the role originated by Michelle Pfeiffer.) The vast majority of your acting career, however, has been split between features, TV-movies and miniseries with only the very occasional American primetime TV series appearance (for example, no guest roles on one of the big soaps, on the almost obligatory Murder, She Wrote, a girlfriend of Jerry's on Seinfeld, a killer or victim on one of the endless CSI programs.) Is this by design or just the way things worked out?
"I have never had a specific plan for my career. I feel like that could be limiting. I never want to limit myself as an actor. I never want to be 'branded,' which seems to be a 'thing' these days. Of course there are many roles that I didn’t get that I would have loved to have but I could never complain about the path my life and career has taken. I am so grateful that I’ve been able to pursue something I truly love. I feel like there is so much possibility out there and I want to take advantage of it all."
In 1993 you worked with both Charles Bronson and Christopher Reeve in The Sea Wolf. Do you have any reflections about that experience with these two actors that almost no one would ordinarily associate with one another (or on Reeve, who was paralyzed only two years later)?
"The Sea Wolf was another wonderful experience. I did a lot of research into the time period and the character was something I hadn’t done before. It was fantastic being able to submerse myself into this very complicated character with a couple of incredible actors! Christopher Reeve was lovely, intense and talented. Charles was kind, sweet and not nearly as intimidating as you might think he is. We became great friends. Working with incredible actors forces you to really step up to the plate. Sadly, both he and Christopher Reeve have passed. Again, I feel so fortunate and grateful to have known and worked with these people."
Apart from a period in the early 2000s when you were focused on caring for your son and daughter, you have never stopped working! You've acted alongside one-time pretty boys who've continued to hone their craft (such as Grant Show, Rob Lowe, Billy Zane and Alec Baldwin) and I believe even two of The Golden Girls, Rue McClanahan and Betty White! Most recently, you joined Eric Roberts (with whom who worked on a TV-movie eight years prior) for the film When We Dance the Music Dies. What can you tell us about this and what sort of things do you look towards in the future?
|Miss Stewart in the forthcoming When We Dance the Music Dies, in which she plays the wife of William Ragsdale, once the young lead of Fright Night back in 1985!|
You survived the '80s, a time when RIGOROUS punishment was done to hair and you almost always utilized your own luscious locks for all the many and varied characters you played and yet you still have amazing hair that always looks wonderful... Secrets please for our many female readers?!
"Fortunately hair keeps growing! I’ve had every color, every style, every length under the sun, but part of the reason I’m OK with it is that I know hair will always grow out. …and it’s really fun!! I loved the ‘bigness’ of the 80’s. Big hair, big shoulders, bold colors, big makeup, crazy jewelry. It was a great time and I enjoyed every minute of it!"
You have often been described in the Canadian press as a "good girl." I always think of the words "appealing" and "fresh" when your name comes up. Did you ever play a down and dirty bitch role and, if not, do you want to?
"Absolutely! The darker characters are the MOST fun. Certainly, earlier in my career, I was cast as the girl next door but it wasn't long before I broke out of that mold with Night of the Comet. Especially as I get older there are more opportunities to play characters with lots of dimension. I’ve played alcoholics, bitches, you name it."
We know you like Modern Family and once played the mother of Nolan Gould in a telefilm [Ghoul, 2012.] It would be awesome to see you pop up there in a zany guest role!
"I would LOVE that!! I’m primarily in New York so that cuts me out of a lot of the series that shoot in LA. I plan to be more bi-coastal now that my children are grown."
Lastly, can you offer an explanation for this photo? Was it your own wedding?!
"The wedding gown photo was from a photo shoot I did for a magazine. I got to work with the incredible photographer Harry Langdon on this shoot. I worked with him several times over the years. Love him!"