Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 05/05/21 Keeping Faith. Fatima simultaneously debuted on VOD and in theaters last August but, in the midst of a pandemic, relatively few people made the pilgrimage to the local theater to take in the story of one of the world’s most famous miracles on […]
Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.
Taking life one day at a time. Valerie Harper guest stars on the first two episodes of Signed, Sealed, Delivered, the humorous drama series debuting on Hallmark Channel this Sunday night (4/20) at 8:00 PM (ET). The show, created by Martha Williamson (Touched by an Angel) follows a team of postal investigators (led by Eric Mabius of Ugly Betty) as they work to unite lost letters with their rightful recipients. Valerie plays a colorful post office supervisor with a surprising personal story that helps sets the tone for the series going forward.
That premiere date, BTW, marks the second Easter since the actress was diagnosed with a terminal cancer involving the lining of her brain. She was given an estimated three months to live. All this time later she is still going strong — though a recent media report pronouncing that she is now cancer-free is not quite accurate. “In response to a recent erroneous quote concerning my health,” Harper says, “I am not ‘absolutely cancer-free.’ I wish I were. Right now what I am is cautiously optimistic about my present condition and I have hope for the future.”
The good news is that her cancer has remained contained — a fact to which she credits the prayers and good wishes of her friends and fans, along with the dedicated work of her doctor and medical caregivers. She remains active her. Since her diagnoses, she’s also been seen in the UP TV movie The Town That Came A-Courtin’ and an episode of TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland that reunited her with fellow MTM alums Mary Tyler Moore, Georgia Engel and Cloris Leachman.
I am pleased to report that when I met her in New York City earlier this week at a Mastermedia luncheon (featuring Martha Williamson as the speaker), she looked great, had a fantastic attitude — and a hearty appetite to match. She was there with her devoted husband (since 1987), former personal trainer to the stars Tony Cacciotti. We were joined in our conversation by Marcie Gold, the executive vice president of Moon Water Productions (Martha Williamson’s production company).
JWK: What made you decide that you wanted to do this particular show?
VALERIE HARPER: Well, I’ve known Martha so long…Actually, we were at Thanksgiving dinner together, the families. She said would you want to do a guest shot in a show I’m thinking of writing? I said “Absolutely!” She said “Well, let me tell you (about) the character.” She said “She’s bigger than life! She’s very, kind of, ebullient!” She saw me in a play about Tallulah Bankhead. It had a lot of bad language because that’s how Tallulah talked…She said “(I want you to) do a character like that — over-the-top, dramatic and loving show business.” She made her a supervisor in a post office. She goes around and evaluates everyone’s work. So, she goes from place to place. I said “Absolutely! It sounds like fun!” She wrote wonderful lines. She call and say “Listen to this line. What do you think of this?” I’d says “Wonderful! Wonderful!” We had a (blast)! That’s how it happened.
JWK: So, you and Martha go back a long time.
VH: Oh, yeah — (all the way back to) Touched by an Angel. Martha’s husband Jon directed. I loved it. I loved working with them. So, that was 1997. Then we did (another Martha Williamson show called) Promised Land. Promised Land was a wonderful show.
JWK: The TV shows you’ve been involved with have I think, generally, been somewhat gentle in tone. They were very smart and extremely funny but I don’t think The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda wouldn’t be considered particularly edgy by today’s standards.
VH: That’s correct. There are no nude scenes in my career!
JWK: But more than that there was a kind streak running through them that I think audiences miss in much of today’s programming.
VH: Ah, that’s sweet. That’s lovely. Kind — that’s the word we need to get.
JWK: How are you feeling?
JWK: You’re looking great!
VH: I’m much improved. It’s not anything real curable. They say “We can’t cure this.” They say this is incurable but day after goes by and I’m thriving.
JWK: Thank God!
VH: Thank God indeed! Yeah!
MARCIE GOLD: I will go on record, I have found Valerie — and Tony, her husband — to be the most generous people I’ve ever met! Anybody can say they don’t believe in the laws of generosity — you know, that if you give it comes back to you — and yet I see it in action. That’s what I see. The energy that I feel when I’m with people like Val and Tony is that love and that generosity and that care for people. It’s the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen.
VH: It’s interesting — because you’re saying that in such a sweet and complimentary way (but) it’s really natural (for you), knowing who you are as a human being. It’s a natural outcrying of just appreciating others and then you can come face to face with yourself…It’s (not about) denomination necessarily. That’s what I love about Martha. She’s highly spiritual…as a Christian, (she has) a wonderful deep (faith) — but never finger-wagging, never using it as a way to put others down…She’s operating above politics. It’s wonderful.
MG: It’s the laws of love. We weren’t commanded to hit anybody over the head. We were commanded to love people. That’s all — and I think when it gets it be more than that, a lot of times it’s people’s interpretation.
VH: It’s a misuse of Jesus and God — the whole concept of us as a family, a human family.
JWK: Is there anything you’d like to add?
VH: Just that I love the show and I really implore people to watch it. (Martha) is a genius…and she’s continually excellent. It’s not like she got lucky.
Next Week: Martha Williamson
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11