Article:
Talk About Exposure...
Janine Turner is the breakout star of an amiable ensemble

 

 

 

 

TV Guide - Sept. 7, 1991
By Timothy Carlson

Janine Turner knew she'd made it when several guys came up to her,feigning they'd lost their voices, expecting her to kiss them. Turner's character, Maggie, you see, kissed the town's disc jockey and restored his voice when it was "stolen" by a beautiful woman in one episode of Northern Exposure this summer -- which makes about as much sense as any of the plots on the show.

"Only five percent of it seems bad," says Turner of the exposure Northern Exposure has brought her. "People come up because they love the show, and I have no privacy at times. But now my agent gets calls and I don't have to audition!" Clearly delighted with her new-found fame, she lets out a whooping siren of a laugh that she must have had since she was a kid.

She has a good reason to laugh. The 28-year-old model turned actress was walking the streets of New York trying to hock an engagement ring from actor Alec Baldwin, with whom she’d broken up, to pay her rent when the audition for Northern Exposure came along. “[Being that broke] was weird and awful, like out of a horror story,” says Turner. After the audition, she went home and cried, convinced that she wouldn’t get the role of no-nonsense bush pilot Maggie O’Connell. When producers Joshua Brand and John Falsey offered her the part, she cried even more. “Now that I’m getting all this attention,” she says, “I try to remain humble, because I know what it’s like to be broke and hungry.”

Always determined and independent, Turner left her Fort Worth, Texas home at 15 and joined the Wilhelmina modeling agency, Two year later she was off to Los Angeles to appear in Dallas. That part led to a string of steady, thorough undemanding, series roles, which she ultimately gave up to return to New York to study acting seriously. “I had no respect for what I was doing when I left. None,” Turner says.

That independent streak helped win her the role of Maggie. “We were looking for an attractive female lead,” says Brand. “But she also had to be credible as someone who is very self-reliant – who could succeed in Cicely, Alaska. Someone who had a natural beauty, Janine’s first concern was always to be protective of Maggie. She never wanted her to look like she had stepped out of a fashion magazine."

Above: Maggie O'Connell (Janine Turner) and Dr. Fleischman (Morrow) chat -- and shiver -- over drinks.

Turner has her fill of those glossy fashion rags during her brief time as a model. These days you can find her on the covers of magazines, as well as in the guest seat on talk shows. But it’s her acting talent and intelligence that have gotten her that exposure, not her looks. “I am aware as everyone of the enormous response to her,” says Brand. “She has a very bright future. But as her boss, I hope she keeps her head on straight.”

Brand, no doubt, would approve of how his star spent her summer hiatus. In the midst of her exploding fame, Turner decided to take some time off to visit her family in Texas. While there, she ended up buying a horse and falling in love with a cowboy. "I think this cowgirl phase is me going back and owning the good part of my childhood--the things I had to give up during the years it took me to get here," explains Turner.

That’s what brought her, one hot summer night, to Fort Worth’s Cowtown Coliseum to attend a small team-roping event. “I was fascinated!” says Turner. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s real and it’s earthy—and it’s so romantic.” Turner, whose previous romantic attachments included not only actor Baldwin, but also Mikhail Baryshnikov, took one look at cowboy roper Jay Palmer, 37, and got roped herself. She got his phone number and asked him to help her find a horse, which he did – a beautiful, smooth-tempered palomino names, coincidentally enough, Maggie. Perfect! And off they went. “We bought a saddle, went country-and-western dancing, attended Texas Rangers baseball games, swam at my mother’s pool, rode the horses.”

She also bought a pickup truck and a horse trailer. By July, it was time to report back to work, and Palmer agreed to hit the road with Turner on a four-day, 2100-mile odyssey back to Washington state, where the series is shot.

Every night on their cross-country journey, Palmer found the palomino another corral to bed down in while he and Turner “stayed in hotels where the doorknobs didn’t work very good, so you put a chair in front of them.” Police stopped them in Wyoming to inform them their taillights were stuck on, and the officers happily accepted autographed pictures of Turner. The next night, Palmer had Maggie slated to stay at a top-ranked rodeo cowboy’s ranch – in a pen with a steer. “I was very upset,” recalls Turner. “ I was afraid the horns would pierce her. Jay said, ‘she’ll be fine.’ Then he pleaded with me: ‘Please, when we get around real horse people, don’t talk to your horse that way.’ Because every night I tell Maggie: ‘I looove you!’” Then she would bid Maggie adieu with a kiss.

While Palmer showed Turner the ropes on horse ownership, Turner treated her cowboy to a taste of Hollywood. He was called on stage with her on The Arsenio Hall Show. “He was a fish out of water!” says the star of this fish-out-of-water series, letting loose another startling laugh.

Turner (above in a recent photo) worked as a fashion model before she took up acting. She wants to keep bush pilot Maggie O'Connell unglamorous.

Turner says she hasn’t been able to find the thread that links her three recent love interests: the movie star, the dancer and the cowboy. “But I believe you bring people into your life to teach you about things,” she says. “When I met Alec, I was 20. We got engaged. It was rushed, and it didn’t work. Alec taught me a lot about my emotions, about my childhood.”

She met Baryshnikov in 1986, at a Manhattan restaurant he co-owned, “Misha represented what I wanted to do with my life—the fire, the inspiration and the work ethic. He was someone I could emulate …”

Palmer, who returned to Texas when production began, taught Turner how real horse people talk to their mounts – among other things. Which probably won’t help her in the campaign she’s mounting to increase her character’s dramatic range on the show. So far, most of Maggie’s lives have consisted of the lightning verbal jabs she throws at Dr. Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow). This fall, she will get to expand her emotional range somewhat as her relationship with the good doctor warms up.

“Janine has said she wants to flex other [dramatic] muscles on the show,” admits Brand. “Some she will, and others she will [have to wait to] use in other jobs.”

 

One job that would give her all the dramatic range she dreams of is the lead in HBO’s “The Jean Seberg Story.” Although it is not a done deal yet, she is being considered for the part. Actress Seberg committed suicide in 1979, after undergoing years of FBI scrutiny for her political sympathies. “I cried when I read the script,” days Turner. "It’s a role that you relish and at the same time you go, ‘Oh God!’, because it will be really emotionally draining. But that is what I love. Besides, you don’t gain anything unless you risk yourself."

For now, she’s playing it safe in Cicely. After a long day on the set of Northern Exposure in suburban Redmond, Wash., outside Seattle, she heads over to the stables where she keeps Maggie. She smiles and sings to Maggie as she curries her golden mane. “Some people dye their horses’ manes a bright white. But I don’t want a Hollywood horse,” she says.Turner wouldn’t mind her share of Hollywood acclaim, however. As she slips the bit deftly into Maggie’s mouth – a recently learned skill – she laughs that whooping laugh of hers and says: “That’s what I won the Oscar for – putting in the bit. I want to thank my mother … my father …”

As she rides off, a small single-engine plane, much like the one Maggie flies on the show, passes overhead. “There goes Maggie, Maggie,” says Turner talking to her horse in a way that real horse people just might understand after all.

 

 

© Copyright, 2005 • Northern Exposure is Copyright Universal City Studios. All Rights Reserved. • Created 1/15//05