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Kathy Baker's 'Golden' Role

In a career that has already lasted two decades, three-time Emmy winner Kathy Baker is best known for her role in the television series "Picket Fences," as well as in the films "The Cider House Rules" and "Edward Scissorhands."

The actress is back on the big screen in the Golden Globe-nominated Civil War epic "Cold Mountain" co-starring with Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger.

Baker describes her character Sally Swanger to The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith as the matriarchal figure of the film.

Baker explains, "She introduces the two characters to each other. She is sort of the busybody, who knows that Inman (Law) wants to meet Ada (Kidman) and gets Ruby, Renee Zelweger's character, over to meet Ada during the war."

But Sally undergoes great tragedy. Her husband is too old to fight and her young 18- and 20-year-old sons have to go to war and fight, while she is left with the farm, facing the cruelty of local militia that leave her mute.

Baker says it was director Anthony Minghella choice for her character to turn mute. She notes, "Someone asked me, is it that she can't talk? Or she won't talk? And I think the trauma has just left her without a voice. She has nothing more to say. But it was an interesting challenge to play mute."

About working with Kidman and Zellweger, Baker says, "It's like a great tennis match. You only get better because you're working with the great people."

On a personal level, Baker shares her struggle of being a parent of two sons, one of whom suffers from ADD.

She says, "Just to get a child focused is hard enough, but ADD is a condition where it's almost like someone who needs glasses. If you don't wear your glasses, you can't see the board. In our case, we chose the medication, which changed our lives. And we chose therapy and we chose working with the school system. And I feel you really have to get in there and be an advocate for your child."

Some Facts About Kathy Baker

  • Katherine Whitton Baker was born in Midland, Texas, on June 8, 1950.
  • Baker began acting at age 10, but she didn't make her professional acting debut until she was in her 30s.
  • Baker earned Le Grande Diplome, studying haute cuisine at Paris' famed Cordon Bleu and returned to America to work as a pastry chef.
  • Sam Shepard cast Baker opposite Ed Harris in his play "Fool For Love," which premiered in San Francisco and ran Off-Broadway in 1983; she won an OBIE for her role; also in that year, Baker made her film acting debut, playing the wife of Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn) in the film "The Right Stuff."
  • In 1986, Baker starred in the thriller "My Sister's Keeper."
  • In 1987, Baker co-starred with Christopher Reeve and Morgan Freeman in "Street Smart."
  • In 1988, Baker co-starred in "Permanent Record" and "Clean and Sober"
  • In 1989, the actress joined Robert De Niro and Ed Harris in "Jacknife."
  • In 1990, Baker proved she could also act in less serious roles, such as her performance in "Edward Scissorhands."
  • In 1992, Baker starred in "Article 99" and "Jennifer 8."
  • From 1992-1996, Baker was cast as Dr. Jill Brock on the David E. Kelley CBS drama "Picket Fences."
  • Baker re-teamed with De Niro in the 1993 comedy "Mad Dog and Glory."
  • In 1997, Baker played the sister-in-law of a man who can't get over his late wife in "To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday"; that same year she had a pivotal role as the strong and sensitive matriarch of a family with a secret in the period drama "Inventing the Abbotts."
  • In 1999, Baker took a supporting role in the Oscar-nominated film "The Cider House Rules."
  • Baker's other television work includes USA's "Not in This Town," HBO's "Weapons of Mass Distraction" Lifetime's "Oklahoma City: A Survivor's Story," ABC's "The Practice" and "ATF," CBS' "A Season for Miracles," Showtime's "Ratz" and "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her."
  • Baker picked up back-to-back Emmy nods in 2000 and 2001 for her guest turns on CBS' "Touched By an Angel" and Fox's "Boston Public" respectively.
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