She’s best known for playing Amanda Carrington on Dynasty, yet Catherine Oxenberg’s offscreen life has had nearly as many wild twists and turns as that classic ’80s nighttime soap. As the teenage daughter of Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, Catherine was encouraged to become an actress by her mom’s then-fiancée, Richard Burton.
Her break-through was a TV film portraying Princess Diana, the wife of her real-life second cousin once removed, Prince Charles. (It was at their wedding that Catherine turned down a marriage proposal from Prince Andrew!) She’d later find love with Starship Troopers’ Casper Van Dien and together they have two daughters: Celeste, 15, and Maya, 17.
In 2015 their 16-year union ended, but that heartbreak and disappointment was nothing compared to the trial she’s had to face in recent years: saving her daughter India, 28, from the notorious NXIVM sex cult. Closer Weekly talked with Catherine, 58, about her memoir, Captive; the new Lifetime film she executive-produced, Escaping the NXIVM Cult: A Mother’s Fight to Save Her Daughter; and much more.
Scroll below to read our exclusive Q&A with Catherine!
What was your time on Dynasty like?
Otherworldly, because there were only three networks, and the show had an audience of 100 million people a week around the world, which is unfathomable. So it was really an honor, and a pretty surreal experience.
You were on from 1984–’86. Do you wish you’d stayed longer?
Actually, I asked to leave because I was struggling with an eating disorder, and it was very stressful. I had already had it since I was 16, and I needed to take care of my health.
Did you feel a lot of pressure at that time to maintain a certain appearance?
No, but I didn’t have the best self-esteem. My dad probably made me feel more pressure than anything. He was a difficult guy. I remember getting into Harvard and him saying, “Oh, you’re a waste of money. You’re just going to go get married.” I think I was actually prepared for the business because I had a dad whose approval I could never get.
What inspired you to get into acting?
I was born in New York, spent my adolescence in England and came out to L.A. at 22. My mom is from royalty, so I grew up around royalty. And when my mom was engaged to Richard Burton when I was 13, that really intrigued me. At the ball at Princess Diana’s wedding [years later], Prince Andrew asked me to marry him, and he said, “Would you marry somebody like me, or would you prefer to act?” And I said, “I’d really prefer to act.” So the idea of Hollywood glamour intrigued me way more than any sort of royal glamour. That meant nothing to me. It was like everybody had a title. [Laughs] So from the age of 13, since I watched Richard Burton on set playing Winston Churchill, I wanted to be an actress.
Did Richard help in other ways?
He used to teach me Shakespeare. He’d have me act out a scene in a restaurant, and he’d say, “You’re too shy.” [Laughs] The last time I saw him I was 16. He was on Broadway in Equus and invited me to watch from the bleachers onstage. He took me out to take bows with him. And literally, three years later, I had my first acting role. I never saw him again because he died, but I always felt like he was introducing me to my career.
What was it like playing Princess Di?
It was great, because I’d met her. The only thing that the film cost me was return visits to Buckingham Palace. My mom was super nervous — she was very worried that it would offend Charles, who’s her second cousin, but he was very gracious. He said, “Look, they’re going to make the movie anyway. At least Catherine can bring dignity to the role.”
How did you meet Diana?
At the ball, right before their wedding, Charles came up to me and he said, “Would you like to meet Diana?” The thing I do remember is that she seemed really sad for a prospective bride.
You were married twice. What lessons did you take away?
Married twice doesn’t count, because one [to producer Robert Evans] was for a week. After my divorce [from Casper], I got to appreciate who I was.
Are you seeing anyone?
He’s not in the entertainment business, which is thrilling for me. But how I met him is because my house burned down [in Malibu last November]. He wasn’t a firefighter, but he was definitely a first responder. [Laughs] He reached out through family friends, texted me 48 hours after the fire and said, “I have a home in Brentwood that’s empty, and you’re welcome to stay with your family.” And we fell in love. I met him [less than a year] ago, and he’s, I would say, the love of my life.
That’s wonderful, especially after all you’ve been through with India in NXIVM.
The last thing I wanted to do was expose my daughter publicly. It was a last resort, because I failed at an intervention, and the fear was I could lose her forever. I knew
she could be sitting where [senior NXIVM figure and former Smallville actress] Allison Mack is now, facing years in jail. At times I lost hope.
What steps did you take to get her out?
When The New York Times broke the story — the first moment I outed my daughter —
I was convinced that she wouldn’t be able to write it off as fake news, and that failed. I was convinced the moment that Keith Raniere was arrested that that would wake her up, but that failed. There were many times I didn’t have hope, and my life was threatened. But then the government called my lawyers and said “we want Catherine to know we’re moving in with the FBI aggressively,” that was the moment when I had hope.”
How did this change you, India and your daughters Maya and Celeste Van Dien?
India is very committed to her healing process — she understands what happened to her and she is empowered. I’m doing everything that I can to spend time with my other girls; Maya just started college, and [Celeste] is in 11th grade. I tapped into a quality of maternal strength that I didn’t know I had. That I would be willing to risk my life for my child. I know myself better, and I have become a more courageous person as a result of this ordeal. My children taught me what it means to really love somebody. I’m proud to be a mom.
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