BUSY ACTRESS A.GISH KEEPS IOWA IN HER HEART (February 2005)
Annabeth Gish is one of Hollywood's most industrious actresses, moving easily from movies to TV.
"The past couple of years have been awfully busy," Gish said recently after returning home from a movie set. "I'm never bored."
She has lots of irons in the fire.
In May, for instance, Gish will play her first horror role in Stephen King's "Desperation," a three-hour TV movie. Gish says she gets to scream a lot, which was "therapeutic."
Slated for a late summer 2005 release is the theatrical film "The Celestine Prophecy," based on James Redfield's best-selling novel, in which Gish plays a woman who finds herself trekking through a Peruvian jungle in search of a sacred manuscript.
Gish says she was attracted to the book and later the script because of its metaphysical, New Age philosophy, its "positive view." Florida's greenery substituted for Peru when the movie was shot, Gish says, adding, "there were lots of bugs."
The actress is delighted to be cast in a brand-new TV series, "Brotherhood," scheduled to make its debut in January 2006 on the Showtime channel. The drama is about two brothers, one a politician and one a gangster. Gish plays the wife of a state senator and the mother of three children.
Gish has strong feelings about the need to protect America's open spaces, including Iowa's native prairie and cropland, so she is particularly proud of another new endeavor, a documentary she was asked to narrate. David O'Shields' "America's Lost Landscape: The Tallgrass Prairie" was produced in conjunction with UNI and will be broadcast later this year on public television.
"It was a real pleasure to work on that project," she says. "It was heartening to me."
A landscape too crowded by development, she says, "breeds tension." In Iowa, people "can breathe a little bit easier" than they can in Los Angeles.
"I miss Iowa," Gish says. "I have wonderful memories of growing up there."
The actress says she is sometimes surprised that she has survived from childhood to adulthood in the difficult, sometimes nasty, film world.
"It's a feat just to have remained grounded and to be happy," she says, crediting her parents for the values they instilled in her as she grew up in the Corn State.
Anne Elizabeth Gish [ the last name originated in France ] was born March 13, 1971, in Albuquerque, N.M., the daughter of Robert F. and Judith K. Stephenson Gish. The family moved to Iowa when Gish was 2, and she grew up with her brother Tim and sister Robin in Cedar Falls, where her father was an English professor at the University of Northern Iowa. Her mother was also an educator.
Gish had her first acting role at age 7 in a UNI stage production of the thriller "Wait Until Dark."
Her first movie role, in "Desert Bloom" (1986) with Jon Voight, was filmed when she was just 13 and chosen over 500 other girls who auditioned for the part. Film critic Roger Ebert lauded her, saying she "delivered a performance of stunning power."
Gish worked regularly, then made a big splash with Julia Roberts in "Mystic Pizza," a 1988 coming-of-age film.
Graduating from UNI's Northern University High School, Gish went on to Duke University in North Carolina, continuing to act while she majored in English and women's studies, graduating with honors in 1993.
She was in the 1994 television miniseries "Scarlett," a sequel to "Gone With the Wind," with Gish playing Rhett Butler's second wife. She also played Julie Nixon in the movie "Nixon" (1995) and Wyatt Earp's first wife, Urilla, in the film "Wyatt Earp" (1994) with Kevin Costner.
More recently, she has had recurring roles on two hugely popular television series, "The X-Files," as FBI Special Agent Monica Reyes, and "West Wing," in which she plays Liz Westin, the president's oldest daughter.
On Oct. 11, 2003, Gish, married Wade Allen, a martial arts expert skilled in Krav Maga techniques who spends much of his time conducting classes in martial arts for law enforcement officers as well as coaching actors on fighting methods.
The two live with their golden retriever, Lola, in Beverly Hills and look forward to starting a family.
Gish continues to be asked whether she is related to legendary Hollywood actresses Lillian Gish and her sister Dorothy. The answer is no, she isn't.
The actress travels frequently, visiting her parents in Albuquerque, where they returned to live, and coming back periodically to Iowa.
She was in Des Moines on Sept. 14, 2002, to give a reading at Drake University as a benefit for Planned Parenthood. And she was back in Cedar Falls for a visit in fall 2004. Gish says that when the visit was over, she and her husband were driving to the airport and pulled off the road in the predawn darkness to marvel at the glittering stars a sight she says she doesn't get in L.A.
She once said: "I miss the open land, seeing the sun go down at night and the people definitely."