Actor and Advocate: A Q&A with Kathleen Turner

Actor and Advocate: A Q&A with Kathleen Turner

June 17, 2015

The following interview originally appeared on

Kathleen Turner’s film career took off in the 1980s, with leading roles in “Body Heat,” “Romancing the Stone” and “Peggy Sue Got Married.” During the 1990s and the 2000s she continued to act in movies (“The Virgin Suicides,” “Marley & Me,” “Dumb and Dumber To”) and TV shows (“Friends,” “Californication,” “King of the Hill”) while also delivering well-received performances on Broadway.

Less well known is the actress’ advocacy work. In addition to working with Planned Parenthood and Amnesty International, she is a board member of Citymeals-on-Wheels, an organization that provides meals to 18,000 elderly New Yorkers.  

This month Turner joined Citymeals-on-Wheels outside of City Hall to call on the New York City Council to appropriate an additional $1 million for the program to help cover weekend and holiday meals as part of an expected 5 percent increase in the number of people served.

After meeting with council members, Turner spoke with City & State Senior Correspondent Jon Lentz about the needs of the growing elderly population in New York City, how Citymeals-on-Wheels is helping to meet those needs, and what her favorite film role was.

The following is an edited transcript.

City & State: Why are you out here today? Why is Citymeals-on-Wheels important?

Kathleen Turner: I have served on the board of Citymeals-on-Wheels for some time. I think it’s extraordinary what we do. We feed over 17,000 people 2 million meals a year. We raise all the money ourselves. At the moment the city has approved a 5 percent raise on subsidized meals, which is an addition of a lot of people, but they’ve only been able to feed them on weekdays. So we need to fill that gap to fill in on the weekends. I mean, otherwise we’re going to have them cutting their meals during the week in half to save for the weekends. In any case, we need some more money in order to extend our programs.

C&S: You’re specifically asking for an additional $1 million in the budget, right?

KT: Yes, we are. But in fact, we’re not going to cost the city. The money comes back. But we need it to launch the program.

C&S: But the organization also raises money privately?

KT: Absolutely. Every dollar goes to food in our organization.

C&S: How did you get involved with this issue?

KT: It was years ago. I believe very much in service and stepping up, and years ago I went on a meal delivery and met some of the elderly that we serve, and thought, well of course, this is what we should do.

C&S: You were diagnosed with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis in the early 1990s. Did it ever get so bad that you had to rely on programs like Citymeals-on-Wheels?

KT: No, I’m not old enough or in need enough. These people usually have no family, no ability to get out of their living spaces, and no ability to move to someplace easier because of the rent control. They’re in fourth-floor walkups, and they can’t go up or down stairs. So somebody has to come to them.

C&S: Is this a growing problem, with the elderly population projected to grow as a share of the total population?

KT: It is growing. Our population is aging. It’s not getting better, and we need more awareness about that.

C&S: You’ve been a well-known actress for a long time—

KT: A long time, honey.

C&S: You’ve been in films like “Body Heat,” “Romancing the Stone” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” as the voice of Jessica Rabbit. Is there any role that was your favorite?

KT: I had a ball doing “Romancing” because it was set in Mexico, and I grew up in South America. So it was a little bit like going home for me. And I always have such fun with Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito. So just for fun, “Romancing.”

C&S: You grew up overseas, including in Cuba, where your father was a diplomat. What do you think about the thaw in relations between the island nation and the United States?

KT: I think it’s great. I think the whole thing was getting really silly. It’s absolutely the right thing to do.

C&S: What are you up to now, professionally?

KT: I do a great deal of theater. Last year I did 289 performances. I had a season on the West End in London. Now, at the moment, I’m doing some teaching, which I’m finding very exciting. 

C&S: Acting classes?

KT: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Next week I start at the NYU campus in Florence, as in Italy. I think that’s rather nice, don’t you?

City & State