I cast Gina Rodriguez as my guest star in an Army Wives (2007) episode. We got to be friends. I really tried to get her on Mean Girls 2 (2011), and she wound up taking care of my kids sometimes when they were little. When I heard she got the show I immediately got in touch with her to say, "Gina, can you put in a good word for me?"
When I got on Thirtysomething (1987), all the guys were lining up [to direct] and I asked every season. They let me do [two episodes]. All of a sudden, my agent booked me in all this TV directing. I said, "How come I got so many jobs?" He said, "Good gets you the job." As an actor you could be really good and it doesn't mean anything, it doesn't mean you get the job. But if you're behind the camera, being good can get you the job.
My father is from Palestine. He fought in the war in 1948 to make the State of Israel. He was a medic in the air force and army. My grandparents lived there. So I visited Israel all through my childhood. I spent half of fourth grade there. My great-great grandparents' names are on a monument in Tel Aviv as among the founders of Tel Aviv -- David and Rosa Mizrahi.
As an actress and actors too, I think a little more for women, the trend is always toward the younger gals. It's a drag. Actors usually can play 5 to 8 years younger than they are. Even on all the high school shows everyone's in their 20s because they don't want to hire a kid under 18. You never play your age but I was like how could we have been on a show called Thirtysomething (1987)? It had our ages in it! Even if we might have been on the young end. Anyway, you get older and the parts get less. Thank god I was able to get the directing work.
All actresses seem to get put out to pasture in their mid-40s, and then, if they are lucky, appear again as grandmothers or in senior roles later in life. There is a black hole as an actress from mid-40s to 70. And then, hopefully, you are right for roles again. As for directing, there hasn't been any ageism yet, for me anyway. I mean, it is tougher to get work, and there is so much competition for directing work, but for some people, they value your experience.
[on directing the legends] I've crossed paths with Jane Fonda a few times over my career. When I was 24, I was in The Great Smokey Roadblock (1977) with Henry Fonda and Susan Sarandon. It was a wonderful crazy movie. I got to know Henry pretty well and Jane's stepmom, Shirlee Fonda. Over the years we've crossed paths. Lily Tomlin had hired me right after Girlfriends (1978) in a CBS special called Lily: Sold Out (1981). We shot it at Caesars Palace for a week in Las Vegas. I was a feminist newscaster following Lily Tomlin around trying to get the scoop because I thought she sold out and was doing her show for money in Vegas. Jane Wagner had written it and we've been friends ever since. Lily and Jane were very influential in helping me get the job. Sam Elliott, and Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston -- they were all really great to work with.