Mare Winningham is undoubtedly one of the best actresse working in this country today. But you don't hear her name mentioned with the likes of Demi Moore or Julia Roberts because the whims of Hollywood have dictated that she toil in the relatively unrecognized pastures of TV movies instead of the glamorous estates of feature films.
"I used to whine about that a lot," Winningham said over the phone from her northern California ranch a few days ago. "But I don't anymore. Now I appreciate what I have."
Winningham won an Emmy in 1980 for one of her first TV movie roles, in "Amber Waves." She has gone on to star in "The Thorn Birds," "Off the Minnesota Strip," "Love is Never Silent," "God Bless the Child" and a host of other made-for-TV movies.
Her considerable talents are on display once again the NBC's based-on-fact movie, "She Stood Alone" in which she plays Prudence Crandall, a woman who fought a battle to educate black women in Connecticut in the 1830s.
"For my life, making TV movies is a great opportunity to work and still have a big family," the 31-year-old mother of five - ranging in age from 2 to 9 - said. "You can get in and out of jobs so quickly. A film schedule would be more difficult for me."
Winningham brought her whole family to St. Louis for the month-long filming of "She Stood Alone." She read extensively on Crandall and feels that Crandall should be a major historical figure and that another movie should be made on the next stage of her life when she became a fixture in the abolitionist movement.
Like so many actresses, Winningham recognizes that a female role like that does not come along very often in big screen productions.
"I go to film auditions and there are always certain stars standing between me and the roles I want to do. I don't get them. But in TV, people have a much more open sense of me. I might get two or three scripts in a week that call for parts that are totally different."
Winningham has acted for the big screen, most notably in "St. Elmo's Fire" and "Turner and Hooch."
"When I think of exhilarating creative experiences, making those films isn't up there," she said. "I remember them for the people I met.
"Then I look at what I get offered for television, it's gratifying. I get to become a person like Prudence Crandall for four weeks, to live in the 1830s. You get something out of it. It changed my life."