Meredith Baxter is best known for her television work, especially with ABC's Family and NBC's Family Ties. She has now become a part of our family by coming out of the closet officially. She talked to Windy City Times about the experience, even providing exclusive information.
Windy City Times: Hello, Meredith. I watched you on TV for years. I was fairly small when Family was out. You won an Emmy for it?
Meredith Baxter: No, I didn't win an Emmy. They sort of misrepresented it but I think they didn't mean to. I have been nominated three times in the past.
WCT: Well, being nominated is great.
Meredith Baxter: Nominated is actually better because those are my peers, the winners are chosen by a committee.
WCT: What led you to audition for Family Ties?
Meredith Baxter: They came to me. I was very lucky.
WCT: Since then you have been doing a lot of charity work and raising awareness for breast cancer.
Meredith Baxter: I have been a speaker for hire for breast-cancer awareness [and] domestic violence, and speak from life experience. Not that I have such a riveting life, but I have had lessons that were unique to me that I have learned. So it is very interesting for me to share them.
WCT: Do you want to become a speaker for LGBT issues now?
Meredith Baxter: I have. I have been working with HRC [the Human Rights Campaign] and for Outfest. I am going to do some more events as soon as I go back.
WCT: Great. So let's talk about the whole thing with [Internet gossip columnist] Perez Hilton. Did he put you on the spot?
Meredith Baxter: I went on this cruise that part of We Have To Stop Now, which you may not know about but it is a web series. We were filming on the cruise. It was a lesbian series so I thought I am courting this, I understand what I am doing. I was thinking I would have to address it when I get off the cruise. I didn't know if I should put an ad in the paper. I didn't know what you do in a situation like this!
WCT: Well, sure.
Meredith Baxter: I called my manager when I got off the cruise and approached the subject and he said, "By the way, Perez Hilton, The Star, The Globe and The Enquirer are calling us and want to the know the story. They have pictures of you and your girlfriend." I didn't know what was supposed to happen; I wasn't going to deny anything. I just wanted a quiet lifeyou know, as we do. I was not looking for anything. Because there was a threat of The Enquirer particularly going public with it and making up a story. They will take a grain of truth and make what they want out of it. It becomes ugly, sneaky and I didn't want that.
[Tears up] I am feeling now what I felt that day when Howard Bragman, who was my PR guy, became my public-relations person because he is very good with bringing out LGBT [individuals] in the community. He said the first thing we need to do is get you on the Today show. I said, "What? No, no, nothis is not right. I shouldn't have to do this."
WCT: You were forced into coming out, which is not fair.
Meredith Baxter: Yes, well life isn't fair, but it was baptism by fire. I had to work myself into getting okay with going on there. I don't know if you saw it but it was horrifying! Matt Lauer asked, "Is there something you want to tell us?" I was thinking, "Aren't you going to say it?" But it was fine. He was lovely. I have to say that was the worst. It has been fabulous ever since. I have a freedom now that I never expected.
WCT: Now you will have new fans that can support you that you didn't have before.
Meredith Baxter: That's right.
WCT: Whatever you would like to promote your gay fans can stand behind you now.
Meredith Baxter: Okay, then I will start with you and tell you that I am promoting a book. It will not be out until April but I have to start now. It is called Who Knew and it is not just about coming outit is about my life. The belief system that we develop as a child based on whatever is happening to us so it is universal, not just my story. I made some very negative choices in the past.
WCT: Well, we all have.
Meredith Baxter: I just did an interview with someone and they asked if I was living a lie all those years that I was married. I said, "When you live a life as unexamined as mine I could have been a frog and not have known it." So it was not a surprise and when it dawned on me that it made a lot of sense. Not that I was trying not to be a lesbian but it felt really right.
WCT: Oh, I know. The first time I kissed a guy I cried. I had been pushing everything back for so long.
Meredith Baxter: That makes me want to cry; it is so touching for you to say that.
WCT: How far along are you in the writing process for your book?
Meredith Baxter: I just delivered the third draft.
WCT: Oh, so you are coming right along. Well, you have to come back to Chicago on a book tour. I look forward to reading it when it comes out.
Meredith Baxter: Thanks so much.