Molly Ringwald: Leaving the pink behind

PALM SPRINGS -- It was truly a surreal moment. I was startled awake a few weekends ago by my cell phone ringing. That in and of itself wasn’t too extraordinary. But I have a feature that announces who’s calling and as I stirred from my subconscious slumber my phone announced in its eerie digital voice: Molly Gianopoulos – better known as Molly Ringwald. My eyes flew open and I almost fell out of bed to answer it.

Molly was supposed to call me for our interview the afternoon before but as things can get haywired, there was a miscommunication and she thought it was for Sunday.

It ended up that it was her husband Panio on the other end of the line, apologizing for her missing the appointed day, and asking what time would be good for me to do the interview and we settled on the original time of 2 pm.

I needed a caffeine infusion and to blow out my sleepy cobwebs before our chat. Then it truly hit me – I was going to talk with the actress who had singlehandedly helped define my adolescence back in the Eighties. I can remember watching Molly and the rest of the Brat Pack in "The Breakfast Club" and thinking it was OK to be different. It was a seminal message for someone like me who never felt like I fit in with my peers.

The teenage muse of John Hughes is now a happily married mother of three. She has a starring role in the hit tween TV show, "The Secret Life of The American Teenager," and has written her first book, "Getting The Pretty Back" which was published last year. But the reason for my interview wasn’t so much about her career but rather her more important role as a LGBT ally. Molly and her husband have been vocal, energetic and visual supporters for gay marriage. It’s the reason why she will be honored with the Equality Ally Award at the 2011 Palm Springs Equality Awards on Oct. 15 at the Riviera Resort & Spa at 6 pm.

I know, I know, it’s hard to look that far into the fall when we’re on the brink of triple digit temps, but it’s never too early to get the buzz going for a terrific fundraiser and a worthy cause. You can get your tickets in advance, before it sells out, at Equality California’s website:

So finally on Sunday afternoon I got the chance to chat with one of my favorite actresses about her advocacy, writing and her dubious foray into skin care. And it was well worth the wait.
The BottomLine:You're receiving the Equality Advocate Award in October for your supprot of the LGBT community and marriage equality movement. How does it feel to be honored by the Palm Springs Equality Awards for your ally efforts?

Molly Ringwald: It’s really gratifying for me. It’s really nice to be awarded for something that is so important to me. And to be acknowledged by the community for being a supporter of them and of marriage equality, it really matters a lot to me. It’s something that I’ve been putting out there for a long time and it’s nice to have that acknowledged.
You were involved from the beginning in gay marriage rights, that's for sure. What compelled you to make your No on Prop 8 PSA back in 2008?

Which one? I’ve done several PSAs.

It was the one you did before Prop 8 was passed.

It was just really important to me. My best friend, the person I’ve actually been friends with the longest in my life – who’s my child’s godfather – is married to a man and they have the best marriage of anybody that I know. They have the marriage that you just kind of dream about and they work at it. [Their marriage] is just really inspiring and for me, for them to be told their marriage is less than a heterosexual marriage just seems absolutely ludicrous to me.

And also I have three kids now, and in fact Matt’s goddaughter Matilda is in a PSA with me and my husband. It’s something that I’m raising them with the idea that anybody can be married. It’s kind of nice because she doesn’t know anything different. It’s such a radical idea to me because I grew up in a different generation and even though my parents are not homophobic, they’re incredibly tolerant, but they grew up in a different generation as well. Now my kids are growing up in a generation that [gay marriage] to them is normal and anyone who would say anything else would be kind of strange, you know?

It’s very important to me as a mother to raise kids with values that matter to me and gay marriage is way up there.
Can you take us back to what your reaction was when Prop 8 passed – were you stunned?

I was matter of fact…but I do feel it was like we lost the battle but not the war. Eventually it will be as strange to people [not allowing gay marriage] as slavery is to us now. People will look back upon it and think ‘How was that possible? How did these laws discriminate against gay marriage?’
Yeah, hopefully that will be the case for your the next generation.

Yeah, it’s funny but I remember asking my mom why she wasn’t out protesting and doing marches because she was very much against the Vietnam War and didn’t participate in protests. And I asked her why and she said, ‘Because I have a family.’

I feel the exact opposite. Now that I have a family I want them to look back on it and remember their mom was one of the people who did something about marriage rights.
What's your take on the pro-Prop 8 supporters seeking to reverse Judge Walker's decision on the grounds he's gay?

I think it’s crazy. I don’t think it will possibly happen I mean do you? I don’t think there’s any ground for it to gain any traction. It doesn’t make any sense at all and I think it’s a case of them grasping at straws at this point if that’s the best they can come up with.
I agree completely. Switching topics no, and hopefully my question isn't flogging a dead horse for you. You became such a beloved, generation-defining icon because of your roles in The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Sixteen Candles: Was that a burden or a blessing for you and your career?

I think it’s both, really. I feel that those films as you’ve pointed out are very special and I’d be crazy to say it’s not an honor to be in something that has lasted over the generations – they’ve passed the test of time and are still around today. And they really mean a lot to a lot of people so I’m definitely honored that I was the girl who inspired John Hughes who put me in these movies.

But yes, on the other hand I think it is a burden because they are just so well known and I’ve always been known as that teenage girl. For the longest time it was hard for people to see that I was grown up. For years people thought I was the age of these characters that I played.

But now that I’m a mother and playing a lot of mother roles I’m just in a different stage of life that people are starting to view me in a different light. But I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything again that will have the same impact of those films. So yeah, the short answer is both.
So do you find it a bit of karmic irony to now play the role as a mother to a teenager in your hit tv series “The Secret Life of the American Teenager?”

Yeah, it’s kind of strange. I wrote about this in my book a little bit where I find that I did so much in between [the TV series and her films] but so much of it was in the theatre so a lot of people didn’t see it because it was in New York. I also lived in Paris for awhile, then I lived in New York for awhile. And the thing that made a big splash and everybody noticed is me playing a mother – it almost seems like I went from a teenager to playing a mother of a teenager and everyone is asking ‘What happened in-between?’ [laughs]. It’s kind of funny and sort of ironic.

Well you just touched upon it a little but I think some people may be surprised to learn you're an accomplished singer.

Yeah, a lot of people don’t know I’m a singer. But right now I’m really focused – I wrote a book [“Getting The Pretty Back”, released in 2010] – it just came out in paperback and now I’m working on my second book. I’m still acting but I’m just really moving towards the writing now. I’m really loving that.
Do you find that writing feeds your creative side in ways that acting can't

It definitely feeds a creative side and it’s also a side of me that I find really challenging because I haven’t done it as much. I mean I’ve been writing all along but it’s not the same as the acting. Although I do use a lot of what’s made me a good actress in my writing in terms of understanding character and the subtleties involved. It uses that part of my brain and it’s definitely a challenge in a good way.
Are you taking your second book in a different direction than from your first one?

Oh yeah, it’s totally different – this one is fiction. “Getting The Pretty Back” was non-fiction and was more memoir based and very light and fun. This is a collection of short stories. My fiction is a lot darker and very character based. I really get into my characters. I’m really loving it and am about half way through right now.

Awesome. As a writer I can totally relate. I just love when you get lost in your own fiction –when you can only see what you're writing about—I liken it to an out-of-body experience.

It’s an amazing feeling isn’t it? It does kind of remind me of – I started acting when I was so young – and I remember that feeling of discovery and thinking, ‘Wow, I didn’t know this was possible, I didn’t know I could do this!’ And I really got excited by it.

I find myself feeling the same way when I write, like when I write a paragraph or a flourish and I think, 'Wow! That's amazing, I didn't know I could do this!' It's just really cool. Another thing I wanted to ask: You're one of those lucky women that are so ageless – any tips on maintaining such a youthful look?

It’s the same stuff that anybody else says. I work out. I try to eat right but I’m not crazy about it. I take really good care of my skin and luckily genetically I have pretty good skin.

And for me I think the most important thing is happiness. [Laughs]. That’s not something you can actually go out and buy. It’s something that you have to work on yourself but I really do think in terms of agelessness and staying young that goes a really long way. Just being at peace with yourself and making happiness a priority.
Speaking of skin, is it true you once tried to remove your freckles with sandpaper?

[Busts up laughing]. Yes. I was a pioneer in microdermabrasion.
Didn't that hurt like hell?

Well, yeah, I did it until it started to bleed a little bit then I stopped. There’s actually a little patch on my nose where I don’t have any freckles.
Any last words of wisdom you want to impart to our readers?

No, I think I about covered it. To the people of [Southern California] I would just say wear your sunscreen. Take care of your skin!

To read the original interview, click here.