Cheryl Hines Interview

Cheryl Hines Raytheon recruitment ad

Cheryl Hines, costar of Curb Your Enthusiasm, her friend from high school, and two ABILITY staffers are at a Beverly Hills restaurant, trying to eat their lunch in peace. However, a wrecking machine is munching away at the roof of a building across the street. Although it’s loud and annoying, Hines maintains her focus and her sense of humor as she speaks passionately about her film and TV projects, as well as her ongoing volunteer work for United Cerebral Palsy (UCP.) Here she talks with editor-in-chief, Chet Cooper, managing editor, Pamela Johnson, and her gay friend, Paul Beckett, who is not to be confused with her straight husband, Paul Young. Got it? Good. Now let us proceed.

Chet Cooper: How did you get involved with United Cerebral Palsy (UCP)?

Cheryl Hines: Well, my nephew was born with cerebral palsy about four years ago, and my family was in a state of shock. We had never heard of cerebral palsy. Or perhaps we’d heard of it, but it was never part of our lives, and we didn’t know what to do.

Cooper: How early was he diagnosed?

Hines: He was about a year-and-a-half old. For much of that time, he was in the hospital, and there were weeks when he was fighting for his life.

Pamela Johnson: What were the symptoms?

Hines: Respiratory problems, mostly, I think. There seemed to be a myriad of difficulties. He was born three months premature, and weighed only two pounds. When I found out the diagnosis, I literally looked in the phone book, found United Cerebral Palsy and asked if I could come in.

Cooper: This is in LA?

Hines: This is in LA, but my nephew—and much of my family—lives in Florida. So when I called, I talked to Dr. Ron Cohen (executive director, UCP Los Angeles). He said, “Come down and you can ask me whatever you want.” And I sat in his office and we talked for a while. He said, “I know that you and your family probably feel like this has never happened to anyone else, and you’re going through this alone, but you’re not.” That’s what UCP does: help people find the proper resources for-what’s the word…?

Johnson: Coping?

Hines: Yes, coping. It’s certainly helpful, because you do feel like, if other families have figured out a way to embrace this, then we certainly can follow that lead. They also help you find different sorts of therapy. So eventually my brother and sister-in-law took my nephew, Michael, to the UCP in Orlando, and it really changed everyone’s life.

Michael started getting therapy and growing stronger. He’s had a g-tube in his stomach since he was born; he still does. However, now he can eat baby food, he can drink from a bottle, a water bottle or a sippy cup, and he’s much happier. The first few years of his life he was crying what seemed like 24 hours a day. He was inconsolable, and it was difficult for everybody. Of course, as a parent, all you want to do is console your child and make him feel better, and it was very difficult because they didn’t know how to help. So UCP certainly enlightened us that way.

Cooper: William H. Macy is also a major supporter of UCP. He’s a great actor. You two did a movie together…

Hines: We did this film called Bart Got a Room.

Cooper: As in The Simpsons?

Hines: It’s not The Simpsons, but that name, yes. Bill and I play a couple who have been divorced, and our son is looking for a date to the prom. It was the first time I’ve worked with him, and it was a great experience. We shot it in Florida.

Johnson: Do you try and do as much as you can in Florida?

Hines: I do. Of course there’s my family, but I also go to Orlando every year for UCP’s big gala. Last year they auctioned off an opportunity for someone to play poker with me, which ended up just being a cocktail party.

Johnson: You started off seeking information on how to help your family, and now you’re at all the major UCP events. That’s what one of the folks at UCP in D.C. said: “She’s at all the major events, she’s at this gala, she’s at that gala.”

Cooper: She plays poker.

Johnson: “She did the entertainment…” So what made you get so involved.


Hines: Well, I was certainly taken with Ron Cohen.

Cooper: Was he married at the time?

Johnson: Is he a hottie?

Hines: He’s hot. (laughter) Oh, dear! What I mean is that he was very warm, and invited me to get as involved with UCP as I wanted to be. I was certainly open to staying involved, because I suppose any time a celebrity is affiliated with a cause, it seems to elevate the visibility. So I started getting involved, and fell in love with the team in Washington DC. I love them so much. I go to DC every year.

Cooper: Go on the Hill and talk to our leaders?

Hines: Yes. Beckett came with me one time.

Paul Beckett: We were high school friends in Florida.

Johnson: You’re a TV person, too, right? I know I’ve seen you.

Beckett: Well, I do what I can. I do commercials.

Johnson: I know I’ve seen you a lot.

Beckett: In Washington, we had dinner and she spoke to Congressmen and women.

Hines: Right, I talk to different policymakers about the rights and needs of people with disabilities to make sure that money is allocated in the right way, and to try to inspire people to make changes.

Cooper: How do you know to whom you should talk? Does UCP facilitate this?

Hines: Oh, yeah. Believe me, they are very involved in the political aspect of disabilities and the changes that we’re trying to make. So they know exactly whom to talk to and who are the swing votes and the minority whips. I learn a lot.

Johnson: So from you making that first inquiry to now, four years later, how did you become so deeply involved?

Hines: Well, you know, between Dr. Cohen reaching out to me personally, and UCP helping my nephew and my family in a way that I could never imagine, it came naturally. I’m very close to my family, I’m close to my nephew, my brothers, my sister, and all the people that I’ve met along the way I find to be interesting, intelligent people. I like to hang out with them and get to know them. So it’s just been a natural progression for me.

Cooper: Was this the first advocacy work you’d done for a cause?

Hines: Mm-hmm. Yes.

Cooper: So most of your life you’ve been self-centered?

Hines: Very self-centered. (laughter) And now I don’t think about myself at all… You know, there is a light bulb that goes off when your life is touched by something such as a disability. I’m sure the onset of different extreme medical conditions makes you think about the world differently. Makes you see things differently. You notice when there’s wheelchair access and when there’s not. When I go to a concert, I look around and think about how challenging this must be for someone who’s in a wheelchair, trying to make their way through the crowd. I also think about what the family is going through, and what they have to navigate through.

When it’s a personal journey, I think people probably tend to get more involved, and because I was in a situation where it wasn’t my child and I was one step—I guess “removed” is the best word I can find—I could actually spend more time and energy on advocating issues, whereas I think probably a lot of the parents that are really submerged in the everyday —

Cooper: They’re changing diapers…

Hines: That’s a nice way of putting it. I don’t know if that’s exactly the case, but yes. They’re needed in an immediate way. So while my brother and sister-in-law are filling out health forms and insurance claims and making hospital visits and making sure they have the right equipment and going to therapy-

Johnson: You’re on the Hill…

Cooper: And luckily, as you said, you have the celebrity status that opens doors.

Hines: That’s what my friends in DC say when we go to different Congressmen’s offices and they have a fire going and we sit down in their office. They say, “We never get to sit by the fire!” So it’s nice. It probably does help.

Johnson: Can we talk a little bit about the film? You just directed your first feature.

Hines: I just directed a film called Serious Moonlight, which was written by (the late) Adrienne Shelly. It stars Meg Ryan and Timothy Hutton, Kristen Bell and Justin Long. It was a pretty amazing process. We shot it in three weeks. It was very intense.

Johnson: Had you directed anything before then?

Hines: I’d directed television before, but I didn’t know what I was getting into. (laughs) I learned quickly! It was very, very challenging and very, very rewarding.

Cooper: Who’s behind that film?

Hines: It was produced by Michael Roiff and Andy Ostroy, who was married to Adrienne, and really wanted to produce this film that she had written. And Michel Roiff was one of the producers of Waitress, the movie that I was in with Adrienne. That’s how it got started. They raised the money privately. When we finish the film, we’ll hopefully sell it to a huge studio. It was a pretty amazing experience.

Johnson: What’s the plot?

Hines: A man is trying to leave his wife, and she basically takes him hostage and says, “No, you’re not.” It’s a bit of a dark comedy with a little romance. Very little.

Johnson: This is your final season of
Curb Your Enthusiasm?... continued in ABILITY Magazine

ABILITY Magazine
Other articles in the Cheryl Hines issue include Headlines—MDA, Microsoft, Pepsico and more; Humor Therapy; Gone, Baby Gone; George Covington—On he Real Charlie Wilson; One Boy's Story—'Buy Me Something'; Green Pages—Warm Tips for Cold Weather; Tech Access—A Mother and Son Push Boundaries; Diana and Kathy—A Film About Friendship; Objective Science; Ricky James—Part II; Motorcycle Safety—Air Bags, Helmets, Leatt's Brace; DRLC—Respect-ABILITY Statewide Conference; ABILITY's Crossword Puzzle; Events and Conferences...subscribe

More excerpts from the Cheryl Hines issue:

Cheryl Hines ? Interview Podcast

CVS — Leveling the Playground For All Kids

Julian Schnabel — by Allen Rcuker

UCP — Wheeling Around the World

Motorcycle Safety — Air Bags, Helmets, Leatt’s Brace

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