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Jane Seymour interviewed by Chet Cooper
Somewhere within the worldly and compassionate television character of Dr. Michaela "Mike" Quinn there is a ballerina waiting to pirouette out. Dr. Quinn is in many ways an amalgam of the artistic and caring individual that Jane Seymour has been since childhood. Today, when away from her 16-hour days on the set of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Seymour is a mother, an acknowledged painter and a dedicated activist for a number of charities seeking to improve the desperate lot of many of the worlds children. She divides her time between Malibu and her 15th century historic manor house near Bath, England which she is dedicated to preserving.
Daughter of a British Obstetrician and his Dutch wife, Jane was born in Wimbledon, England. She began training in dance at an early age, and was just thirteen when she made her professional debut with the London Festival Ballet and later danced with the Kirov Ballet.
She soon turned to acting, dedicating herself to the craft with the same commitment she had given her ballet. Her film debut came as a chorus girl in Richard Attenboroughs Oh What A Lovely War, where she was discovered by a top talent agent. After work in assorted plays, radio dramas and motion pictures she soon attracted the attention of top producers which led to her breakthrough role as Solitaire in the James Bond film, Live and Let Die. This attracted Hollywood interest which led to television parts and helped her continue her successful career in theater. In the television mini-series Captains and Kings, she received her first of many Emmy nominations.
Jane was soon cast opposite Christopher Reeve in Somewhere in Time, a favorite romantic film for many, which was followed up by her Golden Globe-winning performance in ABCs adaptation of John Steinbecks East of Eden. Meanwhile on the Broadway stage, Jane originated the role of Constanza Weber, wife of Mozart in the Broadway hit Amadeus. Of late she has been concentrating on work on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and other television projects.
Outside of the theater, film and television, Jane is actively involved in numerous charitable causes. She has donated her watercolors and sketches to be reproduced on a credit card for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and on greeting cards with the proceeds going to the City of Hearts charity, of which she is the honorary chairperson. This organization enriches the lives of abused children, inner-city children and incarcerated delinquent youths by teaching the performing arts, including painting, acting and dancing. The organizations founder, Sherry Jason, a former Public Defender, started the organization after watching the transformation of a young convicted murderer as he discovered the piano. In her words she was taken aback as she "wondered what would have been his case history if he had met the piano before he met gangs."
With the same passion and dedication, Jane has also taken up a leadership role in both UNICEF and within her old friend Christopher Reeves efforts to fund and find a cure for spinal-cord injuries. Jane has also been awarded Childhelp USAs "Woman of the World" award for her role as their International Ambassador.
We recently caught up with Jane to talk to her about her career and charity work on the set of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
Chet Cooper: Do you see your television character, Dr. Quinn, as a role model?
Jane Seymour: Yes and for many reasons. Shes a mother of an extended family and shes trying to help people in the town shes in (Colorado Springs), to not be bigots, to not be racist, to help them ecologicallyshes very much a 1990s woman in the 1870s. Shes a very educated woman who is open-minded to other peoples ideas and other peoples beliefs which includes Cloud Dancer who is a Native American character on the show who has healing methods and spiritual beliefs that are unlike those of the towns people.
CC: Is there any actual historical basis to your character?
JS: It is based on a compilation. There were of course women doctors during this period out in the West. However it isnt based on any particular one. Its more of a, "What if?" What one hopes is that a woman could have had this kind of influence.
CC: You are involved with several charities. How did you become associated with UNICEF?
JS: They asked me to get involved and so far Ive mainly been doing public service announcements for them. However, I am scheduled to go to El Salvador in February where they have asked me to help them with issues that deal with maternal health. Specifically we want to educate women about maternal mortality and breast feeding. We are trying to persuade women to breast feed so they dont end up using infant formula contaminated with polluted water. I am also working with other UNICEF ambassadors such as Roger Moore and Harry Belafonte who go out and raise funds and create public awareness about situations where people need help. At this point my involvement has been doing commercials to persuade people to buy UNICEF cards to help support the organization and its projects.
CC: Youre also working with Christopher Reeve as a national spokesperson for spinal-cord research?
JS: Yes. Unfortunately, though, I was unable to make the Madison Square Gardens event. But I said whenever I could help him I would. I believe they will find a cure; its just a matter of persistence and I think he will do an incredible job to make that happen. If anyone can make things change for people with spinal-cord injuries it will be Christopher.
CC: Are you aware of the opposition to his point of view or the people picketing his speeches?
JS: No I havent. What are they picketing about?
CC: The conflict arises between the concept that he is the spokesperson for the people with disabilities while many people within the disability movement are saying that you dont need to walk to be a whole person, where Christophers mission is to walk again. So the thought of a spokesperson who doesnt want to be part of the group that he is representing may seem out of touch.
JS: I think he has been misinterpreted. I think that Christophers mission is to do the best that he can with what he has and not to give up, rather than accepting this as what I have and this is where I am at. What he wants to do is to come from this acceptance and then move forward with his stature and power within the industry, with his celebrity status and from being known, to get some of the best doctors to working on the cure. Rather than giving up and saying this is what is and this is how its going to be, hes determined to see that there will be a different future, if not for him then for someone else. It would be like saying if you got cancer and were going to die that you might as well enjoy the death process.
CC: There is a concept called the "magic pill." The scenario is, if you are using a wheelchair and I were to give you a pill that would provide you with the ability to walk again, would you take it? Many people say, "No," that they dont need to walk to be a full person. The basic idea is, "Embrace your disability."
JS: Everybody has their own way of dealing with things. There are some people who say that it is Gods will when people are dying with things that can be easily cured with modern medicine. This is their belief system and we should allow them, if they wish, to think that. But why take hope away from someone who has it? Why take a goal away from someone who is goal orientated? Chris, I know, is someone who always pushes himself to the limit. If it is possible for him to wiggle his big toe, hell find a way to do it, and then everyone will say, "Well we told him he couldnt," and hell say, "Well guess what I did?" Whether he stands up and walks or whatever he manages to do, it will be an inspiration to a lot of people and there are a lot of people out there who are inspired by the same thing and who would like to try. I know a little boy who had cerebral palsy. I had done a program on alternative medicine a while back and I met this boy who was told he would never walk. Never. One day while he was sitting at home and watched something on television about bio-feedback. He begged his parents, "Please may I try bio-feedback?" He tried it and for the first time he had some control over his body. He wanted to do it and he did it. He swore that one day he would be able to walk and one day he did. I watched him do it. He walked across the stage to me and told all these reporters that the doctors had said he would never walk again and here he was walking. So you know it can work for some people, and the more power to them. To me its all about being happy within yourself and being your own person by saying I accept and am happy the way I am. If your happy feeling comes from striving for something and you manage to make strides towards it, why not? I have seen miracles happen. I have seen that little boy.
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