No longer a crime-fighting Angel, Cheryl Ladd is fighting for family unity in her new Lifetime movie, The Christmas Contract. And that’s fitting, since her daughter, Jordan Ladd, 43, co-stars. “It was the most time we’ve spent together since she left home,” Cheryl, 67, reveals to Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “We’re great friends and have adult-women conversations. She’s unlike anyone else and knows how to make me laugh.”
There’s a lot for Cheryl to smile about with her family these days. She’s been married for nearly 38 years to her second husband, Brian Russell, 74, and thanks to his daughter, Lindsay, 42, she says, “I now have three grandchildren because she has kids, and I love being a grandmother!”
We caught up with Cheryl to chat about her memories of Charlie’s Angels and the secret to her happy marriage. “I am a saint and Brian is a very patient man,” she quips. “Make sure to include how hard I’m laughing when I tell you this!” Scroll down to read our exclusive Q&A interview with Cheryl!
How fun was it acting with your daughter in your new movie?
We stayed in this beautiful hotel in Louisiana right next door to each other. We had slumber parties! She always says, “Mom, remember when you…” and it makes me laugh every time.
You’ve done more than 80 screen roles. What comes to mind when I say you’ve been at this for more than 45 years?
Two things: one, I am old, and two, it went fast! I got my Screen Actors Guild card when I was 19. But even the hardest times were good.
How did you make it from your first job on the animated show Josie and the Pussycats to Charlie’s Angels?
I was 19 when I got that part and 25 when I was cast as Kris Munroe. I did a lot of small parts, on The Streets of San Francisco and all these cop shows. My mother kept asking me to find parts where I wasn’t getting killed all of the time because she was getting depressed! There were 50 no’s to maybe one yes.
Did you feel a lot of pressure trying to fill Farrah Fawcett’s shoes?
What maniac would try to do that? Aaron [Spelling] asked me to do it, and I said no!
I almost got the daughter role on Family. Meredith Baxter and I were fighting for it, and when she got it, I was devastated. Then Aaron, whom I had worked for a bunch of times, asked me to come in to replace Farrah, but I wasn’t feeling it. I wouldn’t even know where to start to do that.
So what changed your mind?
After he spent months looking at hundreds of girls, we happened to bump into each other at a restaurant. I said, “I don’t know how anyone is going to pull this off. I would not know what to play or how to play it. I’d have to do more than replace Farrah — to be something different — and I can be funny.”
He said, “What if you were Farrah’s little sister?” I thought that was genius and knew I could play her. She would be different and let’s face it, no one can fill Farrah’s shoes. Farrah was huge! I really did look up to her as her little sister. Kris was quirky, funny and allowed to make mistakes
And you met Farrah, too?
Yes, we worked together in several episodes. She had to come back and do a few in order to get out of her contract. We got to do the sister thing and it was great! Jaclyn [Smith] and I are still great friends.
How would you describe your time on the show?
It was a rocket ship. It was wonderful. It made me a household name and gave me a career for years.
And it’s still going. You were on Broadway in Annie Get Your Gun and played the wife of James Caan on Las Vegas and John Travolta in American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson.
[Annie] was one of the most incredible experiences of my life! To be on a stage start to finish was great. My favorite thing about Las Vegas were the scenes Jimmy and I did together. And I knew O.J since 1973, ’74, so it was fascinating to work on the series, and I loved working with John Travolta.
Was it fun being a ’70s sex symbol?
That part made me uncomfortable, but it was part of the deal. I was a wife and mother and focused on that.
After you divorced David Ladd in 1980, was it easy to blend families with Brian when you married in 1981?
I don’t think any blended family is easy. It’s complicated because there is so much love and devotion attached and you make mistakes, but it’s worth it. You get a gift like my three grandchildren [Nehemiah, 11, Judah, 9, and Kailah, 6].
Was it tough when your daughters left?
I went from two girls to no children, and I was a little bipolar about that. Part of me sat on the bed and cried, “I miss the girls!” The other side said, “Honey, we can run around naked!” But yes, it is a big change.
How are things with Brian today?
We are in the golden time right now. We started out as friends, we still are and that is the thread that’s really bonded us. There have been good times, horrors, all of that, but by the time you get here it is just yummy. We’re always tackling new projects, like building houses, writing books. I’m so lucky that we found each other.
You host an annual golf tournament for children’s health with John O’Hurley in February and run Cheryl Ladd Signature Homes with Brian. If you could go back, what would you tell your 25-year-old self?
Buckle up! You’re in for a bumpy ride, but it’s going to be worth every minute of it!
For more on Cheryl Ladd, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more exclusive news!