Actress gets personal about preteen girls and 'Sarah'

Actress Glenn Close is notoriously edgy about her personal life, but when a project intersects with her passions she'll share private details that matter.

"I'm sure people who have sons feel strongly," she says, "but there are a lot of pressures on our young girls in this culture that I think are really, really bad." Her own daughter, Annie Maude, is about to become a teenager. "I take what my daughter's going through as very important."

The actress, who reprises her role as a farmer's wife in 1918 in CBS's "Sarah, Plain & Tall: Winter's End" (see review, right) says she is concerned about the pressures on preteens.

"They're told they have to look a certain way, they have to act a certain way, they certainly have to buy certain things," Ms. Close says. "It's very hard for them as they're going into adolescence to deal with all those pressures, which come from everywhere."

Her desire to continue the family-oriented story of Sarah and Jacob Witting and their two children, based on the Newbery award-winning children's book of the same title, comes from a sense of commitment to one of the major influences in children's lives. "I have huge respect for the power of television," she says. The first Hallmark Hall of Fame installment of "Sarah" aired in 1991 to high ratings.

"Kids are incredibly discerning about what is good and what is bad," she says, an observation drawn from her experiences with her own child and TV.

While she is best-known for her film acting, such as lead roles in "The Big Chill" and "101 Dalmatians," she began her performing career as a singer. During her college years, she toured with the religious singing group "Up With People." She got her first major film break after appearing on Broadway in "Barnum," as the wife of the American circus entrepreneur.

Singing still influences her work. "I think all good writing has a sense of music to it," she says. "Maybe what I've learned from musical theater enhances what I expect from a good piece of writing, which is to have a built-in rhythm."

A twelfth generation New Englander, Close was born in Greenwich, Conn., a town her ancestors helped found. But from there the traditional blue blood flowed a bit more unconventionally. When the budding actress was on the verge of becoming a teen herself, her parents aligned themselves with a religious movement that took the family to Zaire, where her surgeon father organized and ran a medical clinic for 16 years.

Close finished high school in the US, living with her grandmother. The influence of her parents' convictions has been profound, she says. "They're people who have always felt that one should give back positively to society, and they've lived their lives that way," she says. "They taught us that if much is given, you should give back."

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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