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Faith Ford (extreme left) is back on TV after finishing off "Murphy Brown"

'Maggie Winters' brings Faith Ford back to small-town roots

Web posted on: Thursday, October 01, 1998 1:27:03 PM

From Correspondent Sherri Sylvester

HOLLYWOOD (CNN) -- She's cute, blonde, perky and was voted "most likely to succeed" in high school -- but today, Maggie Winters' life is a mess. The discovery that her husband is cheating on her sends her running back home to Shelbyville, Indiana, where she moves in with her mom and picks up her high school friendships where they left off.

Faith Ford plays the title role in CBS's new sitcom, "Maggie Winters," a woman she thinks of as someone whose life has become a daily high school reunion. Although her own life doesn't currently display such emotional upheaval as Winters' does, she says she can relate to the character. Like Winters, she is getting a fresh start in her career with this show, which she picked up immediately after her "Murphy Brown" curtain call.

Also like Winters, she was pretty and popular in her high school years, active in the drama club and a "Teen Magazine" model search finalist. And she's a little bit of a homebody, a tendency she finds herself both indulging and curbing as she takes up this new role.

"I love to be home, I love to cook, I love to do all of those things," she says. "I had this in the back of my head, you know you might not want to take too much of a break, because you might like it too much, and when you do decide you want to go back it'll be oh-my-gosh!"

In what other major television show did Faith Ford play a role?

A. "thirtysomething"
B. "China Beach"
C. "Knots Landing"

Formerly of 'Ellen'

Clea Lewis, best known as the squeaky-voiced sidekick to Ellen DeGeneres in the now-defunct "Ellen," plays Maggie Winters' new boss as well as her clique's groupie -- she knows everyone, but nobody in Maggie's group remembers her. To prepare for the part, Lewis did some hometown homework, pulling out the yearbook from her large public high school in Cleveland.

"There were actually faces that I had never seen before," she recalls, which made her wonder, "What were these girls' lives about?"

Shirley Knight, who played Helen Hunt's mother in "As Good As It Gets," plays a similar role here as her TV daughter returns to the fold. Born on the fifth of July, she too is a small-town type who made good in Hollywood.

"They had a Shirley Knight Day in Kansas," she says. "There was a parade and a barbecue, and they gave me the keys to the city."

Clea Lewis (right) has moved from "Ellen" to "Maggie"

Remembering hometown roots

Returning to their respective hometowns reminds all three women of the jocks, cheerleaders, snobs and outcasts that peopled their high schools. Hometown hero or not, Knight says, "the people who either intimidated me or didn't like me (in high school) are still that way."

Wright remembers running into a girl at a hometown coffee shop. "I felt nervous," she says. "Then I realized, she's a laywer!"

Ford had similar impressions of her grown-up classmates. "They were doctors and lawyers, and I thought they were going to be the same as they were in high school," she says.

If the premise clicks with viewers as it did with the cast, this sitcom may break through the clutter of the new TV season's offerings, and prove you can go home again. "Maggie Winters" premiered on CBS Wednesday night.

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