October 21, 2021 - 3:25 pm
Updated October 22, 2021 - 8:57 am
She is late. It’s Zoom time in the L.A. suburbs, but the lighting in Heather Locklear’s living room needs to be adjusted. Someone brings in the perfect cushy chair.
At age 60 and 2½ years sober, she’s no diva. It’s just that Locklear wants to get it right. Even during the tougher times, she held it together by reaching for what she calls “imperfectly perfect.” “I would always say, ‘The sun will come up. The sun will go down. I will be alive when it comes up again.’
“It was my way of saying, ‘Heather, you’re going to be OK. Everything will work out,’ ” said the “Melrose Place” sex symbol, who wasn’t sure she would work again after a five-year hiatus. Then came her new hit Lifetime movie (currently playing), the aptly titled “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.” In the film based on a real-life story, Locklear stars as Kristine Carlson, whose husband, Richard Carlson, penned the bestselling self-help book by that name. He died unexpectedly at age 45, leaving Kristine responsible for spreading a new message about bouncing back.
No one knows that like Locklear, divorced from Bon Jovi rocker Richie Sambora and now engaged to her high school boyfriend Chris Heisser.
In jeans and a white button-down, looking impossibly young, Locklear snuggled in her favorite chair to talk about her own resilience.
Review-Journal: Are you surprised to be back on TV?
Locklear: There was a time when I thought, “I’m not so sure I’m going to work again.” I didn’t know if there would be any offers for me. And then this came to me. I feel like I was praying for something good. I didn’t want to just do dumb stuff. Many things come along that aren’t my kind of sitcoms. It was super important for me to do something with spirituality in it, which perfectly describes this project. Honestly, I don’t know how it landed in my lap. I just knew it was something special and I said, “I can do this.”
Do you ever call any acting friends for advice?
I called my friend Valerie Bertinelli and said, “I’m so scared. Can I remember lines?” The truth was, I hadn’t worked for a long time. On the set, it came back to me in seconds. It was like riding a bike. Just that easy. I don’t know why I was so fearful about the lines because the true hard part is getting the emotions across.
Did you meet the real Kristine Carlson, who lost her husband at such a young age.
I flew to her house and we spent a long night talking until dawn. I even told her that I couldn’t get through the book right away because it made me cry and cry. She broke down crying just talking about it. Meeting her was such a joy, and she is such a light in my life. She showed me Richard’s jacket, which still hangs in her office. It has been there for 15 years. And she told me different stories. We even talked about moments I was afraid to play. Then I got to have coffee with her in bed the next morning. That’s what she did with Richard each day. They would sit in bed, talk and meditate. Doing that with her felt so unique and special. We’re friends now. She’s coming out for my 60th birthday party to stay with me.
How did you handle the tough emotional scenes?
The second day on set, I had to do the scene where Richard passes. I was told, “Think about how you would feel if a child died.” I’m sorry. I couldn’t even go there. That is my biggest fear. I can’t go there. So I went back to the pages of the book and read and reread that part over and over again. I talked to Kristine on the phone. In the end, I don’t even know where I went. Maybe the spirit of Richard took over.
What do you know at age 60 that you didn’t know at 20?
First, you have to make peace with imperfection. The other thing is you need to remain open to learning something new every single day. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. And I also know how important it is to really connect with people. Finally, don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s good advice, especially during this time. We’ve all had a year and a half of sitting still and dealing with the pandemic. You really can’t sweat the small stuff during times like now. If you take that into your day then you’re going to be happier.
You have a clear perspective on Hollywood, too.
I’ve learned over the years that making a living is not the same thing as making a life. And I’ve learned that life and making a living sometime gives you second chances.
You’ve always been a sex symbol, but both men and women idolize you. What is it about you that attracts both sexes?
I’ve always been a woman’s woman. At the same time, I’ve always been competitive with men, but not in a way that men are bad. I just want to compete with them. I race them. I want to win. It’s fun. Deep down, I have nothing but love for both men and women. At the same time, I love to open my arms to my sisterhood out there. No bashing of men. I love men, too.
Tell us about your fiance.
He was my high school boyfriend and we hadn’t connected for 40 years. And then we did connect and I realized that he felt like home. I even told him, “You’re my man for the rest of my life, whether we get married or not.” Being together is all that matters to me.
What’s the perfect Sunday for you?
The perfect Sunday is just living in the moment. Maybe I’m outdoors on a perfectly sunny California day with Chris and we’re antiquing or hiking. Then we come home and my daughter, who is at USC getting her master’s in psychology, is hanging out at the house. It’s the people who make the day.
You didn’t really turn 60.
I’m grateful to turn 60. I don’t care about the numbers. I feel young, which is what matters. And I feel good. I know that no matter what happens or how bad it seems today, life goes on and it will be better tomorrow.