Kirstie Alley is known for her comedic TV roles, especially that of Rebecca Howe from the classic sitcom "Cheers," but the versatile actress takes a dramatic turn in her latest role.
The Emmy-award winning Alley visited The Early Show to discuss her new CBS television movie, "Profoundly Normal."
The movie is a true story of Donna and Ricardo Thornton, two individuals with mental retardation who forged a life together as a married couple and parents.
The Thorntons were profiled twice on 60 Minutes, and in the drama the main characters tell portions of their story in interview style.
"Some of [the movie is] right from 60 Minutes, some of it's ad-libbed or written," explains Alley.
The actress stars as Donna Thornton, a woman who, from the age of 8, has lived at Forest Haven, an institution for developmentally disabled people of varying ages and levels of ability. There, she meets Ricardo (Lindo), a fellow resident. They quickly form a bond of friendship.
Donna and Ricardo cope with the strict regime at Forest Haven. Despite suffering personal abuse and neglect, they never give up their dream of finding a better life outside the confining walls of the institution.
When Forest Haven is closed by a court order, Donna and Ricardo face an entirely new set of challenges — how to care for themselves in the outside world. Simple tasks, such as reading, cooking, and taking the bus, are enormous obstacles for them to overcome.
Their friendship blossoms into love, and Ricardo eventually proposes marriage. Despite opposition, the two even have a child, who does not have mental retardation.
Alley served as executive producer of the television movie. She says she became involved with the making of the movie because she liked the love story of Donna and Ricardo.
"It's very quirky. And it's true," says Alley. "And it's, you know, funny and sad and whatever is in their real life. But they're real survivors. I really admire these people. "
The actress also says she admires the real Donna's sense of humor and caring nature. Alley explains she wanted to play Donna because she wasn't a victim.
"She's not someone that you really feel sorry for. She's feisty," says Alley.
While working on ""Profoundly Normal," Alley says she had more fun than she thought she would.
"There was no tough part [playing Donna Thornton]," says Alley. "For some reason, I'm usually a little uptight on a set, especially a movie set ... It was just so relaxing, kicked back, and the person that I'm playing is just such an amazing human being."
Alley's next project to reach audience will be the television movie, "Salem Witch Trials" on CBS.
Timeline of Ricardo and Donna Thornton
- 1953: Donna Lee Selby is born on Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C.
- 1958: Ricardo Thornton is born on Sept. 29 in Washington, D.C.
- 1963: Donna enters Forest Haven Institution in Washington, D.C.
- 1966: Ricardo enters Forest Haven
- 1970: Donna takes her first job working at McDonalds in Washington, D.C.
- 1978: Ricardo leaves Forest Haven to live in a group home. He begins working as a processor at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library where he continues to work today
- 1979: Donna leaves Forest Haven to live independently for the first time. She takes up residence in an apartment in Washington, D.C. with her friend, Margaret
- 1983: Ricardo proposes marriage to Donna.
- 1984: Donna and Ricardo are married, going against Social Services rules
- 1986: Donna and Ricardo's story is first told by Mike Wallace on CBS News 60 Minutes on Feb. 16
- 1986: Their son Ricky Thornton is born on Dec. 4
- 1987: Donna begins working as a housekeeper at the Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., where she continues to work today
- 1990: Follow-up story on Donna and Ricardo and their son, Ricky, is broadcast on "CBS News 60 Minutes on April 29
- 1993: Ricardo begins speaking on behalf of Special Olympics as one of their Global Messengers
- 1997: Ricardo is named one of 15 "1997 Washingtonians of the Year" by Washingtonian Magazine
- 2001: Ricardo participates in Special Olympics African Hope, in an event to raise awareness and promote acceptance of people with mental retardation throughout Africa; Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association gives Ricardo the SGMA Heroes Award for his outstanding hard work and dedication to Special Olympics Washington, D.C.
- 2002: Washington, D.C. Commission on National and Community Service honors Ricardo as one of the first recipients of the Mayor's Community Service Award for his work with Special Olympics.
- Kirstie Alley was born in Wichita, Kan., Jan. 12, 1955
- Alley attended Southeast High School in Wichita.
- She appeared as a contestant on "The Match Game" in the 1980s
- Appeared on "Password Plus!" in 1980; Identified herself as an interior designer who just moved to Los Angeles from Wichita
- The only living former "Cheers" cast member who has yet to appear on the show's spin-off series, "Frasier"
- Alley made her first recognizable film appearance as the beautiful Vulcan Lt. Saavik in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982)
- She followed the "Star Trek" movie with "Champions" (1983), "Blind Date" and "Runaway" (both 1984), the teen comedy "Summer School" (1987), the hit "Look Who's Talking" (1989), the less successful sequels "Look Who's Talking Too" (1990) and "Look Who's Talking Now" (1993), to name a few.
- Some of Alley television credit includes "A Bunny's Tale" (ABC, 1985), the successful miniseries "North and South" (ABC, 1985), "Cheers" (NBC, 1987), and "Veronica's Closet" (NBC, 1997)
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