Actress Jane Kaczmarek may be one of the world's best-known mothers. As the drill-sergeant mom on "Malcolm in the Middle" for seven years, she corralled four rowdy boys and a baby, while she was building her own real-life family.
Married at the time to actor Bradley Whitford ("The West Wing") she recalls, "It was a funny week. I was trying to have another baby, going through all sorts of fertility stuff, and one day Warner Bros. called and 'West Wing' had gotten picked up.
"The next day Fox called and 'Malcolm' had gotten picked up. The next day the doctor called and said I was pregnant. I remember saying to Brad, 'I wonder if our lives are going to change?' "
They changed, all right.
"I was pregnant twice on the show and Brad was working constantly on 'The West Wing,' but it was glorious — that seven years. You knew exactly where you were going to be. You knew when you could take vacation. You knew what you could spend on renovating our house. I remember thinking if I got the part, it would pay for a new bathroom."
Since she played the part of a judge on the 2008 TNT series "Raising the Bar," Kaczmarek has been scarce on the screen. But she'll be back Oct. 11, playing a mom again on Lifetime's "Reviving Ophelia," the story of a teenager who becomes enmeshed in an abusive relationship. Kaczmarek is the parent who must fight this obsessive coupling.
The actress says she deliberately quit for a while.
"I just thought, 'Life is so short and it's so precarious, what do I want to do?' And I didn't work much, but I knew I never wanted to do another lead character on a single-camera TV show, that I didn't want to spend 14 hours a day doing that and being away from home."
She was nominated seven times for an Emmy for best actress in a comedy series. But the long days and hard work took a toll on her marriage, she said.
"I had a marriage that I thought was the best marriage I'd ever seen, and you grow apart, I guess. That kind of steady work isn't conducive to marriage. So there was a big price to pay for that — in my case."
Her divorce, which just became final, was unexpected, she says. "But the good thing is you realize you have the chance to completely redefine yourself and start your life over, whether you want to or not. That has also, in a funny way, reinvigorated my desire to act again."
Kaczmarek is dating a new man and gets to spend most of her time with her two girls and a boy ages 12, 10 and 7. She relishes that.
When asked if she'd marry again, she says, "I have a house, my children and I'm dating a nice fellow. My kids have a great dad. I don't really want them to have a stepfather and I don't think they do either. It's so new. Brad was the love of my life. We were happy for a long, long time. I don't know. Things evolve, right?"