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Shepherd Revisits Stewart for 'Behind Bars'

(Posted September 24, 2005 by Leah Yoakum)

LOS ANGELES ( - She may be playing Martha Stewart again, but that doesn't mean Cybill Shepherd wants to get near her.

"I know that if she came in the room right now, I might make a fast exit," the Golden Globe Award-winning "Moonlighting" alumna says about the domestic diva. After receiving kudos for her performance in the 2003 NBC docudrama "Martha, Inc.: The Story of Martha Stewart," Shepherd reprises the role in "Martha Behind Bars" Sunday, Sept. 25, on CBS.

The new film deals with Stewart's trial and conviction for lying to investigators about a stock sale, and her consequent term at West Virginia's Alderson Federal Prison (aka "Camp Cupcake") that began last October and ended in March. She then spent almost six months under house arrest at her home in Bedford, N.Y., and still has two years of probation to serve.

"I never thought I'd get a chance to play Martha Stewart again," Shepherd says. "I just figured I had been so incredibly fortunate to have gotten to play such a great part, based on such a complicated and extraordinary woman. When it came up that I might have the opportunity to play her again, I was thrilled beyond belief. I went to Beverly Hills and promptly spent thousands and thousands of dollars on shoes that are very uncomfortable to wear; now my daughter has [them] in her closet."

So why wouldn't Shepherd want to meet up with Stewart, now doing dual home-screen duty on NBC's "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" and the syndicated "Martha"? "I'm just not too concerned about it. It's kind of not part of my job. I'm not in the same circles as Martha Stewart or Bruce Willis (Shepherd's 'Moonlighting' co-star), for that matter. I'm not knocking that, I'm just saying I live in the Valley. I'm not worried about it, [but] if I did run into her, I would wear a bulletproof vest."

Maybe that's because of the critical praise Shepherd earned for her first round as Stewart, who was charged after her Dec. 27, 2001, sale of her shares of ImClone, which plunged on the stock market the next day when approval of its new cancer drug was rejected by the Food and Drug Administration. While she considered looking at her first Stewart movie to prepare for the second, Shepherd ultimately didn't. "I decided that the best way to approach this movie was as if it was a completely different character. Therefore, I could bring to it a freshness. From the minute I found out I may be getting this offer, all I did was watch and read about Martha like I had never done it before."

Shepherd found differences that led her to play Stewart in a new manner, especially in moderating the rage the actress terms "an aspect of Martha Stewart's history of taking it out on people. The first film covered more of that particular territory; with the second movie, it wasn't needed. Both portrayals are compassionate, but the first one covered a whole crazy era in her life when she was experiencing the stress of becoming so successful. It's a very difficult thing to handle."

Shepherd knows that from her own "Moonlighting" days, when she was one of television's top stars. Even in a Country Music Television appearance last month, her former "Cybill" co-star Tom Wopat suggested Shepherd had "maybe too much power" on that 1995-98 CBS sitcom.

Still, she doesn't cop to having any regrets. "It seems that in this year of my career -- my 35th -- it's almost like suddenly maybe I have a body of work. The 'Moonlighting' DVD comes out, I hear they're going to turn 'Taxi Driver' into a video game, and I've been doing quite a few interviews.

"I guess some people have realized that I started very young," Shepherd adds. "I've been in this business a long time, and I've worked very hard to make sure that when opportunity knocked, I would get right through that door and out." For Shepherd, that is symbolized in part by "Cybill," repeated often in recent months on Oxygen.

"It is absolutely a milestone for me," she says of that series. "I took five years between 'Moonlighting' and 'Cybill' before going back on a network, and I was very concerned that I should have a chance to be the heart of the show, so that I could fall in the mud and take the pies in the face. It helped me to explore what I think is one of my most important talents, which is as a collaborator. People think I'm one way, but it turns out I ain't."

The same self-assessment informed Shepherd's approach to revisiting Martha Stewart. "Suddenly having something bring you up short, like going to prison, I've not done in real life," the performer reasons, "but just playing it was one of the most nerve-racking things I've ever had to imagine I would do. It gives you a chance to reflect.

"I can't really know for sure about Martha Stewart, but that time of quiet could have been a kind of introspection. I really felt a lot in common with Martha Stewart. Also, we [both] have blonde hair."

Source: Zap2it

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