TV Guide - Sept. 7, 1991
By Timothy Carlson
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,
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.
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.
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.”
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,”
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."
Maggie O'Connell (Janine Turner) and Dr. Fleischman (Morrow) chat
-- and shiver -- over drinks.
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,"
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.
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.
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
(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
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.