Growing up, Andie MacDowell became a great keeper of secrets. “There was a lot of darkness in my house due to the chaos and the depression and the drinking,” she says.
Shortly after Andie’s birth, in 1958, her mother Pauline, a music teacher, was hospitalized with mental health issues. “They gave her shock treatments. But when she came back … she became an alcoholic.” Pauline had been diagnosed as schizophrenic, but Andie, who plays a woman suffering from mania in the new Netflix series Maid, believes she was depressed. “She wasn’t on medication, and she didn’t get any therapy because they just did things like that back then. They would send women off and they were ‘cured.’”
Andie’s father left when she was 6. “I just think he couldn’t live in the chaos. He took himself out … but he left us,” she says.
Abandoned by her father, Andie frequently found herself playing peacemaker between her mother and her older sister, Beverly. “My mother would rant and rave and go off on my sister. And it was mutual, so they would fight,” says Andie, who tried to “babysit” her mother when Beverly had friends over so nothing would go wrong.
The girls also feared that their house might catch fire from the cigarettes Pauline left burning. “There were burnt holes all in the couch and on the linoleum floor,” Andie recalls. “She would pass out on the floor, and I would put a pillow under her head.”
Andie staged an intervention as a teenager. It wasn’t completely successful, but Pauline started drinking wine instead of hard liquor. “I think it did make a difference,” says Andie, who was 23 when Pauline died of a heart attack after living sober for one year. “I don’t have a lot of anger,” she says. “I have a lot of compassion. It’s an awful disease.”