You probably know
comedic actress Wendie Malick as model turned fashion editor Nina Van Horn on Just
Shoot Me, stepmother Ronnie Lawrence on Frasier, and as fame-obsessed soap star turned news
anchor Victoria Chase on TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland, also starring Jane Leeves, Valerie Bertinelli, and Betty White. But off-screen,
the award-winning, 61-year-old actress is honored and recognized for her work with
Planned Parenthood and The Humane Society, as well as her and her husband
Richard Erickson’s charitable gift fund, "A Drop in the Bucket, "
which supports a medical center in the Congo. Malick, who doesn’t look or act a
day over 40, spoke to Healthline about staying in shape inside and out, the
health benefits of animals, and the recent Planned Parenthood funding controversy.
It would surprise many of your fans to learn that you’re over 60. How do you stay so youthful?
I think everyone has a stage in their life where they find their groove. I think for me it’s been since I was 50. I feel much more comfortable in my own skin now than I used to.
Having been a model, was there anything that you learned, in terms of beauty and fitness, which you utilize today?
Oh, I’m much healthier now than I was. In those days the way you stayed in shape was that you just didn’t eat and you stayed up dancing till four in the morning, which was not terribly sustainable. You can abuse your body without repercussions when you’re young, but these days, staying in shape doesn’t come without effort. But I’m willing to put in the effort.
Do you follow a special diet?
People are always surprised that I love to eat. I eat good, healthy meals, and for me it’s protein, lots of fiber, lots of greens, and salads everyday. I eat fish, but that’s the only animal I eat.
I’ve read that you don’t eat sugar either.
I’m not big on sugar. My sugar intake comes in the form of wine. It used to be that model juice was white wine. But I find now, with red, that I probably drink it a little slower and that it has more restorative qualities. I love to drink Bombay Sapphire martinis — and I think you probably pick your poison.
What do you do for exercise?
I think the best thing you can do is have animals in your life. We have two dogs, three horses, and two miniature donkeys, and I start every day with animals out on the trails in the mountains, so it’s just a part of my life that restores me in more ways than physically. It’s also spiritually part of my ritual.
If someone crashed a Hot in Cleveland rehearsal what would they find on the crafts table?
Cynthia, the woman who runs our kitchen, knows that we all have a healthy amount of vanity and want to look great in these clothes and be the glamorous, fabulous broads who moved to Cleveland, so we always have a big jar of raw, fresh nuts, and there’s always fruit, a green, leafy salad of some sort every day, whole grain everything, and everything is very unprocessed.
Which women’s health issues would you like to see brought up on the show?
I would love to do one on a woman’s right to choose. I’ve been on the Board of Advocates for Planned Parenthood for most of my adult life and I believe very strongly that women should be allowed to determine what goes on in their own bodies. Also, obesity, which we are dealing with. Now the ways we deal with these issues are as quasi idiots. These are serious problems that we tackle in a comedic way.
But I think another thing that would be beneficial to broach are the benefits of laughter. I think people underestimate the benefits of laughter. It’s one of the reasons I’ve come to be very proud of the work I do, because I know how much I value the people who make me laugh before I go to sleep at night, and I know that without Jon Stewart, the world would be a far more difficult place to live in.
Your character Victoria Chase is not opposed to plastic surgery. What are your thoughts on the matter?
I think it’s a very individual choice and if it’s something that makes people feel better about themselves then I totally get it. But what I do think we’ve lost in our culture, and it’s the complete opposite of what our characters do, is embracing this stage in our lives and owning our experience. I think it’s funny because when we first did this show, [show creator] Suzanne [Martin] kept talking about how we’re the late 40-something women. But I said, ‘Let me play my age. Let me turn 60.’ It’s important to remind women out there that you don’t have to crawl under a rock at any given age.
Your character had a near death experience on a recent episode. How do you envision the afterlife?
That’s such a great question because I just lost a good friend on Christmas day. I was there and it was so profound. He had been battling cancer for years and on this day this man was filled with light and energy, up until the last moment. We don’t think he was conscious that last day, but his life force was so absolutely there… and then suddenly it wasn’t. You could feel this visceral whoosh and he was no longer there. It was a really profound thing. I think I’ve come to believe that your energy goes somewhere and does not extinguish and can’t be destroyed.
What is it like working with Betty White?
Valerie put it a great way. She said that every day it’s like having a master class in comedic acting. She is so delightful, and talk about someone who exudes light. She has a twinkle in her eye. This is a woman who has had a lot of joy in her life and has been generous and extravagantly kind and has a remarkably small ego. But she’s still a spitfire — a bawdy broad — and I just love her for it. I consider her a really close girlfriend. She’s helped me understand that age is just a number.
Are there any special considerations that must be made for her on the set?
I would say that the woman is working so hard. She only comes in Mondays for the read-through and then she doesn’t come back till Wednesday because she often has other things going on. I would say that the only thing is that on rare occasions she might be a little tired. She hasn’t slept enough or something, and sometimes – it’s usually because she’s dehydrated – she’s maybe a little bit unsteady. But for the most part she’s a rock star… and boy does she know how to ride a line.
When I google “Wendie Malick,” the first thing that comes up is your feet, more specifically video from a previous series of you getting reflexology treatment. Why are people so obsessed with your feet and what do you think of the health benefits of foot therapy?
You’re kidding. I never google myself because I find the whole thing so insane.
I’m shocked. Your character Victoria Chase googles herself all day long.
Oh god. That’s where we diverge. I never tweet. I never Facebook. Oh my god, you’re kidding. One of them is probably from ‘Big Day.’ I wonder if a foot fetishist put that up there. Who puts things on Google?
I have to say, though, that you have a lot of flattering comments about how attractive your feet are.
Oh, that’s so odd. You’re really freaking me out, Josh.
Have you ever had a reflexology session in real life?
Yes, I love it. I think it’s brilliant. I’m really big on acupuncture, too. I have a wonderful acupuncturist. I got rear-ended last summer and boy did he save my neck. It’s really quite extraordinary.
I’ve heard it works for animals, too.
Yes, I had someone come out and work on my horse, my older mare. We think she had a stroke and her neck was really out of alignment and he did some acupuncture on her neck and it really seemed to relieve some of the pressure. It worked on an old shepherd of ours for arthritis, too.
I’ve read that through your charity, A Drop in the Bucket, you and your husband support a medical center in the Congo. Have you ever been there?
I’ve been there five times. My husband was the one who built it over 20 years ago. As a kid he grew up in Congo because his parents were missionaries. He loved the people and went back and built them a medical center as an adult. That’s been the only place where people come from miles around to receive medical care.
As a member of the Board of Advocates for Planned Parenthood, what are your thoughts on Susan G. Komen for the Cure temporarily suspending funding for Planned Parenthood?
They’re both such wonderful organizations, so I hate to see a riff between them. It’s really a shame and Susan G. Komen has done so much good work. They’re such incredible women, who do such wonderful work and we need it now more than ever — particularly for women who just can’t afford basic medical care. So why now… I can’t remember what percentage… I think less than 10 percent goes towards abortion, but the vast majority is basic healthcare for women who need it and don’t have an alternative.
They can use all the money they can get to help women stay out of trouble and by not providing more preventative care across the spectrum we’re seeing so many more people in emergency rooms which ends up costing us so much more money in the long run. I think we’ve really lost our way in terms of healthcare in this country.
You’re also an animal rights advocate. How do you think pets keep you healthy?
They’ve done scientific studies that show your heart rate’s lowered, your blood pressure’s lowered… there’s something so soothing and calming and heart-opening about being around sentient beings, to just be around creatures with whom you don’t have to talk. With that unconditional love — I’m sure I learned that from my dog a s a little kid and continue to over the years — it’s unimaginable for me, a life without animals, and why I need to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.