The following output was transcribed from our audio recording.
Although the transcription is largely accurate, it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
It is posted to aid in understanding the interview but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
Christian Brescia 00:02
Hey everybody, welcome back to this episode of Mondays with Mindy, Mindy.
Mindy Cohn 00:05
Hey Christian. Today we're gonna have a conversation with actress, director, producer, politician and former president of the Screen Actors Guild, Melissa Gilbert.
Christian Brescia 00:15
Mindy Cohn 00:15
Yeah, born and raised in Los Angeles. Melissa began her career as a child actress. There seems to be a little bit of a theme in season four here. She began in the late 1960s, appearing in numerous commercials and guest roles and television but in 1974, she began a 10 year run starring as Laura and goals on the NBC hit series Little House on the Prairie. During that run, She also appeared in several popular television movies, including the award winning the Diary of Anne Frank and of course her amazing performance with Anne Bancroft in the miracle worker. After little house, Melissa continued to work in front and behind the camera regularly and for her contributions to the television industry received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame nice. Her most recent credits include turns on stage both regionally and Off Broadway. Melissa served as the president of my Union, the Screen Actors Guild for two terms. In 2015, Melissa announced her campaign for to run for Michigan's eighth congressional district, but had to drop out Unfortunately, due to health issues. She currently lives with her husband after Timothy busfield on their property in upstate New York.
Christian Brescia 01:26
Well, I'm very excited to meet her.
Mindy Cohn 01:29
I haven't seen her in decades. So I'm looking forward to it to!
Christian Brescia 01:35
Ladies and gentlemen big round of applause for Melissa Gilbert.
Mindy Cohn 01:40
Welcome. Hello, gorgeous. Hi, lovey. You look amazing. I shouldn't be shocked. But you do.
Melissa Gilbert 01:47
Oh, thank you. So you know, I I'm also I'm blessed to be married to an incredibly talented director who's also learned how to light rooms.
Mindy Cohn 02:00
Yes, thank you, Tim. Thank you. So we start each episode, Christian and I came up with kind of like, 20 questions. I picked five randomly and we just kind of start gabbing. Oh, great. Okay, yeah, that's how we start. Yeah. Um, Melissa, what's your favorite place in the world and why?
Melissa Gilbert 02:17
It's interesting. Before COVID, I would have said, some exotic place that I'd been on vacation. But since COVID, I've fallen so much more in love with home. It's especially our place upstate, because now it's become this wonderful. We have, you know, our chickens and our vegetable garden. And now Spring is here. And we're starting to plan our new summer project. And we're always building something and creating something up there. This year. We're taking four huge shipping containers ourselves, and turning them into a giant barn slash storage facility and siding it with old barn wood and we're learning to do all these crazy DIY projects. And it's sort of like it reminds me a lot of the show. I grew up on it feel like I've gone back to it but real this time, I don't have a special effects guy making the fire for me. Yeah.
Mindy Cohn 03:12
Yeah. Listen, those shipping containers are no joke. My dear friend, Doug one into he has a ranch in Marfa. And he dug it into the ground and turns it into a swimming pool.
Melissa Gilbert 03:22
Yet you can actually turn them into swimming pools in ground and above ground. They're insane.
Mindy Cohn 03:28
But I I'm kind of loving this barn idea. Holy
Melissa Gilbert 03:30
hell. Yeah. It's gonna be really fun. It's gonna be really fun. I don't know if any animals will live in their nest. But never know. You never know. Yeah.
Mindy Cohn 03:41
Okay, this, I'm interested in that. Who is the most fascinating person you've met? I mean, you've got a long list there, kiddo, Holy crow.
Melissa Gilbert 03:54
There's so many because I have so many different lives, right? All of the wonderfully talented actors and actresses and directors and people I work with. There's the teachers who inspired me. There's my own relatives. And then there's all the people I met in my varying leadership positions, whether it's gonna
Mindy Cohn 04:15
say politicians, yeah, whether I was running for Congress or president of Screen Actors Guild.
Melissa Gilbert 04:21
I mean, who comes to mind in this moment? Anyone stand up to things that first popped in my head, I mean, King Hussein of Jordan. And I'm and President Obama were like, but he wasn't president. He was nowhere near president. When I met him. I met him at it. I was on the AFL CIO Executive Council, and we had a convention in Chicago, and he was a senator, and he was our keynote speaker. And I remember listening to him speak. I'm like, nauseous saying this myself and turning to Ted Kennedy, and saying,
Mindy Cohn 04:53
Yeah, oops, dropped another one. Yeah, excuse me. Let me pick up that name. I love it. I love it.
Melissa Gilbert 05:00
I turned to him and I said, Oh, he's amazing. Like, I would know this, but it's no, that's the whole those experiences are mind boggling that I look back on it and go oh, yeah, you know, while I'm at out cleaning poop out of the chicken coop, now, I think back to those ones and go, Wow, where am I?
Mindy Cohn 05:22
Listen, and I have to say not to gloss over King Hussein, who I think is one of the most amazing humanitarian, incredible leaders, no,
Melissa Gilbert 05:31
oh, extraordinary leader. And he came to the US when I was president of Screen Actors Guild. And they had a big they had these big meetings for him to meet all of the leaders of Hollywood. Yeah, I had the option of going to the ladies lunch with Queen, his wife, oh my gosh, who I adore and worship as well. or hanging out with the dude's and going to the luncheon for the king. And I mean, I'd love a lady who lunches. Oh, no president right now, I
Mindy Cohn 06:00
think I should go hang out with the guests. And because you asked, I think you make the right decision. So then, there you go. Yes. Um, Melissa, when was the last time you cried?
Melissa Gilbert 06:11
Yesterday. I cry on the daily. I just
Mindy Cohn 06:14
do mostly cry out of happiness or sadness, which is your most frequent,
Melissa Gilbert 06:20
mostly happiness, because I'm most I'm happy most of the time. But I have a tendency to do like the I do like a Holly Hunter. broadcast news kind of cry. Just comes out of nowhere. We're all like, filming and all of a sudden I just go over.
Mindy Cohn 06:39
Oh, it's so fantastic. Yes, I usually warn the person that I'm with. I'm thinking proper weep is happening because I'm usually moved by something. So that but i think he just bested me. That is phenomenal.
Melissa Gilbert 06:51
Yeah. You know what, yesterday, I don't know when the show airs. But yesterday was a really big day for America. And that's why I cried yesterday. For us chronologically was the day of the Derrick Shelvin verdict. And I guess
Mindy Cohn 07:02
so this will this episode will launch probably in a few weeks, but I still think this will still be under No, but I still think this will be a weipa bone trend headline news? Yeah,
Melissa Gilbert 07:14
forever. Just the results. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, forever. What's it should be? Yeah, yeah.
Mindy Cohn 07:18
Um, who do you admire and why? Again, just in this moment, today, as it comes to you, we won't hold you to it.
Melissa Gilbert 07:25
I admire. There's a few people that come to mind immediately. I admire my husband. Because of his ability to be, I would say 98% of the time. So easy going. And so
Mindy Cohn 07:39
just chill. He's just
Melissa Gilbert 07:42
very chill. necessary. It's really necessary, especially when you're with, you know, a lunatic who's just kind of, you know, a little bit all over the place. And I admire all of our children. We have seven children altogether. Wow. Yeah, he has three, I have four. And we have three grandkids and another one coming. I love watching who these people are now. They're like, they're my favorite people to hang out with. They're funny. They're smart, they're compassionate. They're active and activated. They're socially conscious. And they're so far the ones who are parents are much better parents than we ever were. And I just I so admire who they are. I just think they're great humans. How
Mindy Cohn 08:27
fun is everyone in the general vicinity? Are you spread out all over?
Melissa Gilbert 08:32
So spread out? That's the that's so hard, because we have two kids here. My youngest, Michael is here in the city. Just now that we're getting through the pandemic. He came here to start his acting career. Great. so talented. And not because I'm his mom. I mean, like, I would say, I'm excited. I see Mike do some bad performances and not this one. So he's here Tim's son Willie bazefield is here on Dakota and his wife are in Austin, Texas. Tim's daughter, Daisy, her husband, their two kids and his son, Sam busfield. They're in Sacramento and my kids Lee and Sam box lightner. And Sam's wife Andrea and their daughter. My granddaughter LaBelle are in LA. Oh, what? Oh, wow.
Mindy Cohn 09:18
You are literally coast to coast. Yeah,
Melissa Gilbert 09:21
we are pre COVID tried to get together all of us at least once a year for some reason. Yeah, yeah. So now that things are kind of easing though. We're Tim and I are planning across country because there's a grandbaby coming in June. So we want to be there for that in Yes,
Mindy Cohn 09:36
of course. Congratulations in advance. It's just everything. Um, among your friends. What are you best known for? Two things, my sense of humor. I mean, I
Melissa Gilbert 09:47
will literally I'll go anything for a laugh. I walk into a wall if it'll make people laugh that's raised by stand up comics.
Mindy Cohn 09:54
So that about me because I was on the weeping show. You know, they just assumed that My Gran, I can attest it's been a minute, but I can attest that you are quite delicious Lee funny. Oh, bless your heart and very good wit as well, not just the physical. Thank you. Oh my god, what was the second thing?
Melissa Gilbert 10:13
ask me the question again. See, and I have no memory anymore. No, please. The question was among your friends, what are you best known for? Oh, my ability to absorb and share medical knowledge.
Mindy Cohn 10:25
Oh, they call me Dr. Mel.
Melissa Gilbert 10:27
I'm like a walking encyclopedia. I wanted to be a doctor. I applied to colleges pre med, I was gonna go I wanted to be specifically a pediatric neurosurgeon. Um, don't ask me why it's 17. That was it. Until I realized this hobby I had was actually a career. Yeah, sat me down and was like, you know, you have a production company, and you've done all of these movies on your own already. You could keep doing that and maybe play a doctor on television. So I consequently I absorb everything. If I have a medical crisis, I remember everything or anybody around me, I'm the first one that they call in as an advocate. And I'm get between everybody in the doctors and
Mindy Cohn 11:10
really kind of interesting, but only to me. No, it's been obviously your friends. Because that's fabulous to have somebody that can do that. Um, what about politics? When did you start plugging in to being a political,
Melissa Gilbert 11:25
I was not, at least I didn't consider myself to be a political person. All my childhood, I was activist because my mother, God bless her when we were kids. And we were working kids. She got us involved in a lot of different organizations pretty early, as more of a way to teach my brother and my sister and I how blessed we weren't how important it was to be of service to others, because we're so fortunate lives that we had. So you know, it started with doing work with the Special Olympics, just all kinds of different organizations that helped children, but the politics, I didn't really
Mindy Cohn 12:07
Melissa Gilbert 12:08
until I hit my early 20s. And I did a movie of the week. Um, the subject matter was about it was about abortion. And it was in the 80s. And it was with George C. Scott and Jacqueline beset myself. And people got really mad that we had done this movie, it was about a mother and our stepmother and stepdaughter, both who got pregnant the same time. Father, the judge wanted the daughter to have the baby. And then when he found out that his young wife was pregnant, he wanted her to have an abortion, or get a divorce. So that that conflict, and it was really controversial. And I thought, well, why? Yeah, I started digging in deeper. And that's when part that activist part started, and then it just snowballed from there.
Mindy Cohn 12:54
Yeah. And then I mean, being president of the Guild, obviously, is its own lane. But did that set court sort of give you the, I don't know, lack of a better word ego to sort of like move forward with your voice more assuredly. You really dealt with in both your terms dealt with some stuff?
Melissa Gilbert 13:13
Yeah, I did. It gave me I don't know if I would say ego necessarily, definitely chutzpah to do it. Even better word ins to know that if I could navigate that political landscape, and it was I mean, well, yeah. factions. We had the warring. Yep. And then, you know, learning the things that I learned not just that, but learning how to negotiate a $250 million collective bargaining agreement. I mean,
Christian Brescia 13:37
who does not many people do that? Yeah,
Melissa Gilbert 13:40
right. And there's no training for it. You don't go to sag president school, get elected and you do it? Yeah. Right. Just to know it. And from there, sitting on the AFL CIO, Executive Council on the California Film Commission, that was like, major
Mindy Cohn 13:55
Melissa Gilbert 13:56
Yeah. And once I had all of that down, and had an understanding what I was dealing with, I thought, oh, like, I could
Mindy Cohn 14:02
do this. Yeah. Do you see yourself acting wise? And I know you write and produce and direct and all that but just speaking actress to actress, do you see yourself picking that back up? What I think yes, never stopped. In fact, I meant with full steam ahead. concentrated effort.
Melissa Gilbert 14:20
Yes. Except I you know what having you and I know you're gonna get this because you've been acting since you were a zygote as well. Having had this long career, I lack a bit of the competitive edge. You know, I don't get as excited to go through the whole I mean, I will go through the audition process if need be. And I love the actual work, like being here in New York before COVID doing all sorts of plays all over the city. I did a one woman show in the West Village a comedy. I'd never thought I could do anything like that. And I had the time My life scared the crap out of me.
Mindy Cohn 15:02
Yeah, bravo. Love it.
Melissa Gilbert 15:03
So I will still do it. I just did not as ambitious about it anymore. And I really am enjoying. I feel like I didn't really not that I didn't have a childhood. But I didn't have a very relaxed childhood. There's a lot of pressure. And so I'm really enjoying not having a lot of pressure now, especially if it's grown and gone. I'm sort of kind of going with the flow a bit more. But I do when I work when I do work. I absolutely love it. Love it. Yeah.
Mindy Cohn 15:35
Well, I asked that because I asked the question that I get asked a lot and my answers the same as yours. Like, I've never stopped so seemingly to the public in the outside world. You know, my biggest I think misunderstanding out there is people assume that I'm not working because I don't want to, which I find hilarious. Yeah, it's just like, it's not up to me, kiddos, you know. So that so I just I yeah, I wanted to have you answer the questions that I get asked too, because of course, I want to like deep dive in that find and steal your answers. Probably.
Melissa Gilbert 16:08
People also say do I don't know if you hear this a lot. When are we going to see you on television again? Like, no, like that part of me die? Yes. No, I have to kind of say, Well, like I can't, you know, and I have said on occasion. I can't I'm in the middle of doing a play right now. And I can't do that. Excellent.
Mindy Cohn 16:25
That's the best answer ever. Yes.
Melissa Gilbert 16:27
And let's be honest, I mean, at once as a female actor, which is the politically correct name for Oh, yes.
Mindy Cohn 16:35
Now, no actress anymore. Yes, I learned that when I was the presidency, of sag.
Melissa Gilbert 16:42
You know, as we age, the opportunities get fewer and farther between for roles in general, but for really interesting roles. So there's that to contend with, too. And there's still just as many of us as there were when we were in our 20s. But there are fewer roles, and we're all still vying for them. Yeah. So
Mindy Cohn 16:58
that's all all the time. Agreed? Agreed? Is there, I want to give me a different word than failure, because I really don't identify with that. But was there something that happened in felt like adulthood, that you now look back on and say, that was a really big lesson learned, or a disappointment or a
Christian Brescia 17:17
blessing in disguise
Mindy Cohn 17:18
doesn't have to be professional, it could be personal, but a point in your life where you went, I never want to go through that again. But on the flip side, now that I have space from it, I've learned dot dot dot,
Melissa Gilbert 17:29
did I ask that in a good way, sort of everything that has caused suffering in any way, shape, or form, whether it's looking back on a film that I did that I just did not have the life experience to portray or that I, you know, phoned in and did wasn't paying attention to Lesson learned, I won't be doing that again. Same thing with relationships. I mean, it's no secret that I chose the wrong partners, but the sort of mismatched partners for a really long time, and there was always a lack of compatibility, that spurred in me, this kind of need to conquer it, okay, well, I'm going to change him, and he's going to be the way I want him to be. That'll be my guy. And it never worked. And I finally really had to let that one go and think, okay, I'm just going to be on my own. And then, you know, in walk him who checked all the boxes, even the ones I didn't even know, I was missing, right? There was no more being with who I was so diametrically opposed and trying to enter them into the person I wanted them to be.
Mindy Cohn 18:29
That's it. Yeah, that's big. Yeah, I have to say, for me that did Oh, and also just even professionally, people that I are the kinds of people that I thought I wanted to work with. And then given the opportunity, I work with them. And I realize this does not feel the way that I imagined it in my mind or that I thought it would go and so I'm going to hands off that and just say yes to what comes my way that's supposed to happen instead of just trying to like tackle and fight for it. And, you know,
Melissa Gilbert 18:54
I think expectations may be one of the big lessons to learn, eventually try and live without expectations. You know, well, you're gonna end up getting crushed in some way. Yeah, many of them are true. Um, Melissa, who
Mindy Cohn 19:09
are what inspires you? You know, right
Melissa Gilbert 19:11
now, as we're sitting here, like, what comes to mind when I say inspire frontline health care workers? Oh, yeah. Look at me. The fact that these people are out there doing what they're doing on a daily basis caring for all of us, but continuing to care for a portion of the nation that doesn't care, either. Yes, well out there and that they will still treat anyone regardless of where they're from, what their background is, who they are. I have so much admiration for them and what they do. I know, Jim, and I both volunteer upstate at a vaccination site. Oh, yeah. We I'm a greeter. And I wear my little greeter fast and I have my mask on and nobody knows it's me. And I just hit dances and they jump around. The only time people know it's me is if someone has Little bit of a bad reaction or has a hard time the nurses know to tell them. Do you know who's here?
Mindy Cohn 20:06
Oh, that's amazing. Fantastic. a superpower. Yeah, exactly. It's totally a superpower. I love that. That's what have you guys been bingeing on or have you? Is there something that you guys have been watching that I'm right now I'm
Melissa Gilbert 20:22
we're always a little bit behind because at our house upstate we have we have satellite internet so we can't stream anything. So we have an office up there in a little town called berryville. We have high speed internet there. And we have high speed internet here in the city. So I'm late to everything. I'm currently bingeing Ted lasso,
Mindy Cohn 20:41
loving it. I have been bragging about it since it came on. Thank you for Yeah, it's sublime. I can from him. I can't I have no idea. He had that in him. And I'm so proud. And what I love about it is the story. You know, it's all his friends. He's doing it with all his best mates. And they all wrote it and produce it. And I'm just like, obsessed.
Christian Brescia 21:03
Yeah. Season Two is just announced on Tuesday, Monday or Tuesday?
Melissa Gilbert 21:07
Yeah. Review at that. They say supposed to be great that I haven't seen. Yeah,
Mindy Cohn 21:11
they're shooting two and three.
Melissa Gilbert 21:13
I haven't finished season one yet. Yeah. Right before that my binge before that, which I was also late for. I
Mindy Cohn 21:19
wish it's great. Oh, fantastic. So good. That you're doing the comedy thing? Yeah. No, but the choices too. Yeah. Cuz I got into some heavy dramas, which I love. But, you know, not checking the mood, they're not the best thing to be doing.
Melissa Gilbert 21:33
I mean, I have a tendency, actually, honestly, I watch a lot of documentaries, and particularly medical ones, because you know, Dr. Bowers, well, I got into, you know, surgeon's cut, which is a fantastic documentary. And I watched documentaries on hospice, because I'm also a hospice volunteer. And I watch, you know, I watch documentaries on pediatric oncology. So that kind of stuff is really heavy. So given the chance, I'll I'll binge comedy, especially if it's funny. We had comedy is
Mindy Cohn 22:01
yes, one of the worst thing. I want to ask this question, because I fall into the vortex of the farm where I think I'm gonna, you know, I'll just go for a couple of weeks, because I'm going to, then I'm going to have to go into the city. And truly, I never more unhappy than when I'm leaving. And I could be up there forever. And who knew? Who knew Mindy could be a farmer? Do you find your days up there? Sort of like, melting once the I mean, I really next pandemic, the only mistake I made was not getting on a plane fast enough and getting to the farm, because I really, I really would have done better there than here. Just emotionally, psychologically, all of that stuff. Do you have that same thing where you're just find yourself? Oh, my gosh, man surpassed them. We're still here. doing our due here. Yeah. Yeah.
Melissa Gilbert 22:47
I mean, I can't tell you not just during the pandemic, but how many times it was it? Yeah. Saturday. Oh, I used to. I mean, I was actually thinking about this last weekend. I don't know. It was Sunday. And I got up at 630 and was doing stuff. And I used to I remember when my life was so regimented, that Monday through Friday, I would have to get up early and weekends. I always slept in, but up there, it's we go to sleep at like 10.
Mindy Cohn 23:13
Yeah. Listen, that's a late night for me. So you guys are rocking rock stars up there. Yeah, no, it's violently upsetting to me that I got very comfortable going to bed at 830 in the winter,
Melissa Gilbert 23:24
wake up. And when I say go to bed at 10 I moved from the recliner to the bed.
Mindy Cohn 23:33
Right. So you are in New York City? And what brings you to the city? Like, why are you there? Um, we come down for doctor's appointments and haircuts. So it
Melissa Gilbert 23:43
was physical time. And for me, it was my it was Malmo time of year. Yes. And
Mindy Cohn 23:49
that sort of it. We're going back up tomorrow. Yeah. So you just do a little drive thru. And
Melissa Gilbert 23:54
yeah, and especially now that we don't have to have meetings face to face anymore. Although Tim does have a face to face meeting tomorrow. And he was like, he was shooting a series. He was the his show was the first show back in New York City last year during the pandemic. So he was they were the first ones to film with the protocols and everything. So he was a lot last year.
Mindy Cohn 24:14
I didn't know Yeah, you didn't come down with him. No. Yeah. Why? Two days? Yeah. Yeah, no, agreed. Absolutely. Agreed. Well, I want to thank you so much from Christian and I just can't tell you what a perk, hap, whatever it's been to like to see your face. You are ageless, and I have such fond memories of us hanging out. I just I think you're incredible. And I'm just so thrilled that we got to reconnect. I'm so excited. I'm such
Melissa Gilbert 24:43
a fuddy duddy when it comes to things like social media and stuff. I mean, I have it because you have to have it and I post and I do like to stay connected especially during pandemic It was really nice to Yes, with people that way, but one of the greatest things is being able to go Hey, there she is claim
Mindy Cohn 25:01
I tell Christian all the time I said Honestly, it doesn't dawn on me first of all, as my granny rose would say, I'm only on the Instagram I'm not on the Facebook or the tech talk or anything else. So it's portion of the social media world but I am a little bit of a her when it comes to it, I kind of love it. Um, but to constantly refined people or just connect to people that I've been fans of, it's been so amazing. Yeah,
Melissa Gilbert 25:26
yeah, yeah. So it's a good thing. So I'm I will be forever grateful to the Instagram.
Mindy Cohn 25:32
Yes. On the web's name enabled us to connect again, because this is yes. And when and when I head east again, which hopefully will be after my birthday, our birthdays, because where our birthdays are, in May, is your birthday? May 20. Hey, right around the corner. Listen, I can't remember anything. But I remember that her birthday is in May. I mean, don't ask. I will hit you up because I would love to reconnect and we'd go to each other's you know, places Upstate.
Melissa Gilbert 26:02
I would absolutely love that. And I'm fully vexed. In fact, I am today is my second week after my second back. So I am
Mindy Cohn 26:11
fully fully boss lost with the maternal vaccine. Well, I am robust in many ways, but also in the way that you just described. So thank you. So I will be you know, tap tap tapping. Come summer.
Melissa Gilbert 26:25
Come see the chickens. Come hang out. I'm gonna have lots of really fun vegetables this year. That's my life. Okay.
Christian Brescia 26:32
Listen, gentlemen, we are so thankful to patter one more time. Melissa Gilbert.
Mindy Cohn 26:35
Yay. Oh, thanks, guys. Oh my gosh, the best.
Christian Brescia 26:41
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