Her Midlife Miracle
Around that time, she also started to feel that her acting career had
peaked. Cross had achieved some notoriety as the psychotic doctor Kimberly Shaw
on the nighttime soap Melrose Place , which she followed with a role
in the TV drama Everwood with Treat Williams. But she was not
optimistic about the future: "I remember thinking, Wow. OK, maybe I'm done.
I started to feel like I didn't want to waste my life if I couldn't get to a
better place professionally."
With the prospect of two dreams—an acting career and a happy
marriage—fading, Cross decided to take action. A few years earlier, she'd begun
work on a master's degree in psychology.
"I was definitely heading toward becoming a therapist," she says
now. And man or no man, Cross was determined to adopt a child. She might miss
out on marriage, but no way was she going to miss out on being a mother.
Which is why, when she was sent the script of an ABC pilot called
Desperate Housewives, she wanted to read for a small part, that of
Mary Alice Young, the deceased narrator. "I thought it would be a great
part-time job for a single mom." Cross flashes a smile and then says,
"Obviously, it didn't work out that way."
Obviously not. The hit show is now in its third season, and Cross and
company are seen by an audience of more than 21 million viewers each week.
Suddenly, everything is falling into place for Marcia Cross, in a way so
perfect that not even Bree could have planned it better.
It's taken Cross by surprise, in part because conventional wisdom says these
things tend not to happen to women her age. "And I'm getting to be well
over 40," she points out. On her 15th birthday, Cross recalls, she went to
one of her sisters in tears, feeling devastated. "I said, ‘I'm 15, and I'm
halfway there.' I thought my life would be over at 30—when my life didn't even
start until then."
Cross is reluctant to take credit for her recent run of good fortune.
"It's not like you just put your mind to it and it happens. I was stuck in
my acting career. I was stuck in my personal life, and it was painful. I had to
look good and hard at myself." Still, she does allow that if you "take
some responsibility for what you've created, then you have the power to change
It was her resolve that caught the attention of Desperate
Housewives creator Marc Cherry. And it suggests that Marcia Cross and Bree
Van De Kamp may have something in common after all. "When I wrote the
character of Bree," says Cherry, "I thought that her strength is that
she's a woman who says, ‘I'm not going to freak out when my life is falling
apart. I'm going to take action and do something.' Marcia has a similar
quality. She's had hard times, but she's smart enough to say, ‘I'm going to
deal with it and move on.' I've met a lot of actors who are neurotic and let
their struggles incapacitate them. Marcia is not the type to be incapacitated