Lone Star State of Mind
BY Diane Anderson-Minshall
January 20 2012 2:16 PM ET
There’s something intoxicating about Holland Taylor, the actress who has become a Hollywood legend by specializing in sexy, feisty, elegant but ballsy characters on film, stage, and television. When she calls 10 minutes after you last spoke and says, “Let me ask you a hypothetical question,” she’s open to a conversational debate that can take hours — veering from politics to monogamy to the sociocultural quirks of Generation X — and you will not win.
Not just because the 69-year-old star of Two and a Half Men is still smoking hot well into middle age (which she is) but because she possesses a fiery intellect and spirited eloquence that’s rare in Hollywood. And she uses it for good, taking on passion projects (like her new one-woman show, Ann, about former Texas governor Ann Richards) and advocating for causes (a longtime supporter of AID for AIDS, Taylor was recently honored at its A Faire of the Heart event with an AIDS Celebrity Trailblazer Award).
“I just think to be honored, just for giving a you know tiny bit of time and money is just … ” Taylor pauses, a reflection she does often. There are no “ums” or “you knows” in her conversations, just thoughtful pauses before she continues. “The fact is the people who work to put on that evening, who donated their time and effort to do that, gave more than I did. So they are the ones that should be honored. All the workers in the field, all the people that as part of their regular life donate their time and effort for something — that’s who really deserves recognition and thanks.”
Taylor first came to fame as Tom Hanks’s ruthless boss, Ruth Dunbar, on Bosom Buddies, the quasi-drag comedy of the early ’80s. The Philadelphia native — whom The New Yorker called “the first vaudeville Gentile we ever saw” — had left New York’s theater scene to try her luck in Hollywood. Roles in films and TV have steadily come her way sense.
“Whatever comes my way I’ve often had to do,” she says. “It’s not like I have a trust fund I’m living on. I never had any dough except what I made. And goodness, my first 10 years as an actress were extremely very much a struggle. Playing character roles in movies, which I generally did, might mean you might work only two or three weeks or something. So it’s much easier to make a living in Hollywood, but it’s no snap of the fingers still — absolutely not.”
Though there’s a rich diversity in her characters (in films like The Truman Show and Legally Blonde, TV series including Men, Monk, and The Practice, for which she won and Emmy), there’s a kernel of Taylor in many of her defining roles — minus the self-indulgent bitchiness fans love about her turn as Evelyn, the matriarch on Men.
While the media hounded Men star Sheen over his bizarre behavior, Taylor stayed squarely in the actor’s corner. “I think of Charlie and [Men costars] Jon [Cryer] and Angus [T. Jones] as family, and I sort of feel very familial toward them,” she says. “And I miss Charlie very much. And the fact that Ashton [Kutcher, Sheen’s replacement] is really wonderful and inventive and a delightful person takes away nothing from the fact that Charlie was those things as well and I miss him.”