In 1987, a little film called Dirty Dancing — about a young woman’s coming-of-age at a summer resort in New York’s Catskill Mountains — made Jennifer Grey a household name. The beloved film grossed more than $214 million worldwide and became the first home video to sell 1 million copies.

Though Jennifer had been acting professionally since age 19, the daughter of Oscar-winner Joel Grey and actress Jo Wilder was completely unprepared for the mania surrounding this feel-good romantic drama. “It was a tiny, tiny, tiny, low, low, low budget movie,” she recalls to Closer. “I was thinking that maybe it’s terrible. Maybe no one with ever see it. And then all of a sudden, it was like people really like this movie.”

In the years since Dirty Dancing made her a star, Jennifer, 61, has continued to act in films and on television. Today, she’s also a mom to daughter Stella Gregg, 19, who has joined the family business as an actress.

This flu season, Jennifer has teamed up with the American Nurses Association and Sanofi Pasteur to urge people to roll up their sleeves and get a flu shot.

Jennifer Grey Opens Up on Having to 'Fully Trust' Patrick Swayze Before Dirty Dancing's Iconic Leap
John Sciulli/Shutterstock

Why did you get involved with Flu Shot Fridays?
I just think it’s a really important campaign. Last year, everyone was locked down, so there was a very minor flu season. But now that restrictions are relaxed, we are vulnerable to have a flu season with record-breaking numbers. By getting a flu shot, we are able to do something to not catch it and to not pass it on to our elders, parents, and our friends. We also have to do what we can to help healthcare workers in hospitals, who are already overburdened.

You were born into a famous acting family. Your dad Joel won an Academy Award for Cabaret. Did he ever give you any advice on your career?
My dad had a very profound influence on my career, but it was not so much advice. It was more watching what he did. He just never stopped trying. He wasn’t a trained dancer or singer, but he taught himself to tap-dance for a part. And he just sang and faked it until he made it. He was a professional child actor, and it never occurred to him to do anything else.

Was it the same for you?
I was backstage with him. I was on the set with him. I saw what it is to live an artist’s life. To see how hard it is, but also why it’s worth it. I saw how magical it could be. Some people have a backup plan, but I never did. I’ve never felt like I had another career in me.

Audiences first got to know you as the bratty sister in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. How did that movie change your life?
It was the most fun movie ever. I don’t think I ever had a director just get me and believe in me in a way that was undeniable every single day. It made me feel emboldened and to take chances and to just be bad and naughty and angry. I never wanted it to end.

And then the following year, you starred in Dirty Dancing.
I was just so happy to be getting a lead because I don’t look like leading ladies. And I was also doing a part that felt it was made for me. I was so grateful, but it was such a hard movie to shoot. It was almost cursed.

Everything went wrong, and everything was hard. Everything was on a shoestring. We really were struggling with rain delays and people getting fired and quitting. [That shoot] became something to survive. But everyone was great at their jobs, and they just did them well in spite of how challenging it was.

What was it like working with Patrick Swayze?
He was such a great dancer. He was really masculine, like a real cowboy who had been trained as a ballet dancer. He showed up, took care of me and didn’t ever let me down. I had to fully trust him. I had to fully leap into his arms, in spite of how terrified I was. Literally.

If you could go back and give your 26-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?
I’d say that it’s going to be a wild, wild ride and a crazy adventure. It is going to feel really scary, but you’re going to rise to it. You have what it takes, and you are going to be changed from everything that is hard. It is going to change you for the better. You are going to learn the skills to handle all of it.

Why do you think Dirty Dancing remains such a sentimental favorite even after so many years?
It’s about a loss of innocence. The girl loses her virginity and goes from being a daddy’s girl to a woman. She discovers that she’s more than she thought she was, and she gets the guy that she never thought she could get. And he’s going to feel that she sees something more in him than he thought he was. It’s not a preachy movie, it’s a feel-good movie. But there are some very serious themes happening under the surface about not letting anybody put you in the corner.

Your daughter followed you and her dad, actor Clark Gregg, into show business. Did you share any advice with her?
Oh, it’s different. I was exposed to a very different version of showbiz because I was exposed to theater people like Stephen Sondheim and Bernadette Peters. I went to the ballet; I went to the theater; I went to rehearsals. I studied with the best teachers in the world because they were all in New York — and that was just normal dance classes.

How is it different for your daughter, who grew up in Los Angeles?
There’s a much more isolated feeling here. And it’s a very different world because of phones and the internet. The [younger generation] doesn’t process feelings by journaling or are ever bored enough to create something. You can constantly get access to whatever you want online. I’m very curious to see the way this generation is going to parlay what they have access to into what they do. So I think my daughter’s life and career will be her own thing, very different than mine.