Where Are They Now?
By: Julie Ryan Evans
Although most recognizable for her role on Northern Exposure as Maggie O’Connell, Janine Turner’s career has run the gamut. From television roles on iconic shows like Dallas, General Hospital and Strong Medicine to movies like Cliffhanger and Leave It to Beaver, to a spot on People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People list, we’ve seen her do it all.
But while her face is well-known, it’s not one found in the tabloids each week. Nor will you find her thrust in the center of Hollywood drama. Instead as a single mother, she made a deliberate choice years ago to remove herself from the center of it all for the sake of her daughter, Juliette, now 10. She chose shoveling manure on a Texas ranch instead of sunbathing at a Malibu mansion, and hasn’t regretted it for one moment.
BettyConfidential.com recently caught up with Turner to discuss career changes she has made over the years and some of her recent projects.
BC: Looking back over your career, what’s your favorite role that you played?
Turner: While Dallas was my big break, my favorite acting experience was that of Maggie O’Connell on Northern Exposure. There was something great about Maggie. It was the first time we saw a strong woman out there chopping her own wood, killing deer and repairing her own toilet. She was something else.
I held out for a lot of years for the right part. I had $8 left to my name before Northern Exposure; I was at my wit’s end and ready to throw in the towel.
BC: How did becoming a mother-a single mother-change your career?
Turner: It changed everything because she is my gift from God, my blessing. I make my agent’s hair stand on end, because my daughter always comes first. I always think, “how will this benefit my daughter?” During Strong Medicine I felt like I was missing the delicate young years of her life. So we moved back to Texas and I home schooled her. I wanted her to have a foundation of faith and an extended family around her.
It’s tough sometimes because career is what pays the bills. But faith has become a cornerstone of my career… of my life.
BC: You recently wrote a book, Holding Her Head High: Single Mothers Who Championed Their Children and Changed History, which was released recently. What inspired you to write it?
Turner: I came across data from the 2003 U.S. Census that showed 43 percent of mothers were single mothers. That’s really high; it such a huge phenomenon. So I researched women through history who were also single mothers. We think it’s a modern situation, but these women (in my book) traveled across country in wagons, in a time of terrible diseases, with people dying around them; they didn’t have the right to vote or the rights to their children. When I read about these amazing women, I thought, “Wow they did it. I can do it.”
And they were brilliant women-women like Rachel Lavein Fawcett, the abandoned single mother of Alexander Hamilton; and Belva Lockwood, a widow and the first woman to run for president in the United States. I hope that hearing these stories will really rally the women who are single mothers today and help their children. They let us know we’re not alone.
BC: You were appointed by President Bush to serve on the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. How is volunteerism important to you?
Turner: It’s ironic because I got the appointment about the same time I started the book. And I realized the women I gravitated toward (for inclusion in the book) were all stewards of their wounds. They didn’t just live for themselves, but to help their countries and humanity.
So often we get bogged down in life, but it’s when we reach out to help others that we find true meaning. You know that feeling get from helping someone-that kind of warm feeling? I believe that feeling is God, and that’s what’s life is about.
BC: Looking back, do you have any regrets?
Turner: Of course you have those. I think as you grow and try to say on the right path and take inventory and look back you see how emotional and impetuous you were. But the path you take is what was meant to be, and mine took me to my gift-my daughter.
BC: What’s next for you?
Turner: I’d like to continue serving my country and continue to do speaking engagements in hopes of inspiring others. I want to write another book… perhaps one about modern day single mothers. My current book ends in the 1930s, because I ran out of room.
I’d also love to do Broadway or a sitcom-something really funny and fun. Really whatever God has planned for me.
Tell us: How has Janine Turner’s story of single motherhood inspired you?