×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Book Excerpt: Actress Christine Baranski Recalls Daughter’s Lesson in Pride, Pluck

The following is an excerpt from “What I Told My Daughter: Lessons From Leaders on Raising the Next Generation of Empowered Women,” edited by Nina Tassler, former chairman of CBS Entertainment, and Cynthia Littleton, Variety’s managing editor, TV. The book is out this month from Atria Books/Simon & Schuster.

On a flight to London, where I was headed to shoot a film version of “Into the Woods,” I listened to the cast album of the Stephen Sondheim–James Lapine musical. The opening lines of the song “No One Is Alone” — “Mother isn’t here now/now you’re on your own” — brought tears to my eyes.

The lyrics reminded me of the many times I left my two daughters when they were young to go off to work. How many of us working mothers leave the house hoping that one day they’ll forgive us? Hoping that one day they’ll understand that we were trying to set an example and instill in them the importance of independence, integrity and strength of character — the qualities that will allow them to be on their own one day.

I’ve always encouraged my daughters to dream big, get a first-rate education and trust that hard, persistent work will ultimately pay off. “Aim high,” I often told them, “but muddle through gracefully.”

For my older daughter, Isabel, mud, in fact, was a key factor in one of those life lessons that occurs at unexpected moments. My girls grew up in a small rural town in Connecticut where my husband spent his childhood. Being country girls, their lives at a certain age revolved around horses. In spring, summer and fall, they went off every day to an unpretentious local barn run by a no-nonsense woman named Bonnie. They loved nothing more than the smell of fresh air, liniment and horse manure.

Isabel leased a large, handsome horse named Moca. He was, of course, her surrogate boyfriend. Her fella. All her prepubescent energy, her passion and rapture, were channeled into that four-legged being … rather than a two-legged boy.

“How many of us working mothers leave the house hoping that one day they’ll forgive us?”
Christine Baranski

And Isabel had her work cut out for her, because Moca was headstrong and stubborn; she took pride in her ability to tame his strong will. But the real measure of her success with Moca would come at the big autumn horse show, an auspicious event that required weeks of preparation.

Isabel felt an acute sense of anticipation, anxiety and emotion leading up to the show, which took on an Olympian sense of importance in our home. I could only stand by and hope for the best.
Best would be a blue-ribbon showing by Isabel and Moca. But just getting through the day without an injury would be a relief for a parent standing helplessly on the sidelines. Watching your child complete a series of jumps has more drama than a Broadway opening.

When the big day came, there was much ado for Isabel about getting dressed, grooming the horse, getting the two of them to the right place and being ready for the competition.

Alas, horses can be unpredictable creatures, especially this one. Isabel’s fella decided to stop dead in his tracks on the first big jump, sending her flying. She was not hurt, but it was a rainy morning, and she was covered in mud. She was stunned, humiliated and exasperated. Her fella unceremoniously dumped her, after all that preparation, and on the first jump.

Isabel tearfully met me on the sidelines, angry and shaken, wet and muddy, and announced her decision to go home. She now hated that horse and declared that trying to tame him had been
a big waste of time.

I let her vent in the car for a little while. Our home was only about 15 minutes away. Carefully, I suggested that she reconsider the situation. I told her that this event, this experience, was no longer about a horse, a ribbon or a defeat of any kind. It was actually a chance for her to reveal her true character.

I told her to take some deep breaths, go home, change clothes and return in time for the next event. Getting back on that horse would be her real triumph. Life would indeed present her with
thousands of such setbacks, big and small, I said. It was the exercise of character that mattered.

Finally, I assured Isabel that she would look back on this day with pride and humor if she got back in the saddle. She did, and Moca dumped her again. She remounted without hesitation, gave him a round of sharp whips on the neck, and after about six attempts finally got him over that series of jumps.

It was not a performance worthy of a blue ribbon, but she got a huge round of applause from the crowd that clearly recognized her pluck.

Today, Isabel laughs every time she recounts that muddy day, and she remembers it with fond detail.

Christine Baranski is an Emmy- and Tony-winning actress and co-star of CBS’ “The Good Wife.”

More Biz

  • Sammy Shore Dead: Comedy Store Co-Founder

    Sammy Shore, Co-Founder of The Comedy Store, Dies at 92

    Sammy Shore, the well-known stand-up comedian who co-founded The Comedy Store in Hollywood, died in Las Vegas, Nev. from natural causes. He was 92. Shore founded The Comedy Store with writing partner Rudy Deluca on April 7, 1972. His ex-wife, Mitzi Shore, took ownership of the club in the divorce settlement, and the venue went [...]

  • Outlander Season 4 Finale

    What CBS' Pursuit of Starz Means for CBS, Lionsgate

    CBS’ effort to buy pay TV service Starz from Lionsgate seems on the surface to be a head scratcher. CBS has told Wall Street for years that it has prospered because it brings only two must-have services to the table in negotiations with MVPDs, allowing the Eye to drive a hard bargain. Why would CBS [...]

  • Dana Brunetti

    Dana Brunetti Sues to Block Season 2 of 'Manhunt'

    Producer Dana Brunetti filed suit on Friday seeking to block the second season of the anthology series “Manhunt,” which is set to dramatize the bombing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Brunetti sued Lionsgate, the production company, as well as Discovery Communications and Charter Communications. Brunetti, the producer of “Fifty Shades of Grey” and many other [...]

  • PledgeMusic Sends Message to Artists, Offers

    PledgeMusic Sends Message to Artists, Offers Data From Platform

    PledgeMusic, the direct-to-fan marketplace that is headed into administration (the British equivalent of bankruptcy), today posted a note to artists and fans, offering the ability for artists to download their data from the platform. A source tells Variety that more information will be coming once an administrator is named — when that happens, at some [...]

  • Spanish actress and member of the

    AIG and AS Talents Announce Agency Tie-Up (EXCLUSIVE)

    David Unger’s talent, management and branding venture, Artist International Group, has partnered with AS Talents in France, which represents leading European performers Jean Reno, Christian Clavier, Elza Zylberstein and Rossy de Palma. Paris-based AS Talents is headed by Alexandra Schamis. The move, announced Friday on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival, is the latest [...]

  • I.M. Pei dead

    I.M. Pei, Architect of CAA Building and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Dies at 102

    I.M. Pei, the architect behind the CAA building in Beverly Hills and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, died on Thursday. He was 102. One of the most famous architects of his time, Pei designed numerous famous buildings around the world before retiring in 1990. Born in China, he moved to the United States [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content