Young Sheldon’s Annie Potts talks to Closer about her life and career after Designing Women.
The comedy vet is back with Young Sheldon but still puts family first
It’s hard to believe former Designing Women star Annie Potts just turned 66, even when she’s now playing a grandma on the most popular new comedy of the 2017–’18 season, Young Sheldon. “I’ve always had a lot of energy, and I find it’s stayed with me. I love it,” says Annie of her youthful vibe. “I’m in constant motion, and I like it that way.” Indeed, she’s rarely been off the screen since she nabbed a Golden Globe nomination for best new female star of the year with her first film, 1978’s Corvette Summer. She went on to star in Ghostbusters, Love & War (which earned her an Emmy nom) and to voice Bo Peep in Toy Story, which returns with another sequel next summer. There would have been even more roles if it hadn’t been for her “three great boys” — sons Clay, 37, Doc, 26, and Harry, 22. “I’d been doing series and movies on my hiatuses and found it wasn’t good for the children, and I was exhausting myself,” she reveals. “I don’t regret [slowing down], because I got more time with them.” Today her primary home is New Orleans, where her husband of 28 years, James Hayman, executive-produces NCIS: New Orleans. Now Annie opens up to Closer about blending her family, the Designing Women sequel and much more.
Congrats on Young Sheldon! How’d you get involved with the show?
When they asked me to join, they already had that beautiful pilot. [Creators] Chuck Lorre and Steve Molaro have a fabulous track record, so when I saw it, I went, “Yeah, I want that!”
It’s one of your funniest roles. Where does your great chemistry with 10-yearold Iain Armitage (Sheldon) come from?
I had moved away from LA and came back and was renting a house not far from where
he and his mom were renting a house. They were new in town and we ended up spending a lot of time together. I love them personally, but of course it wonderfully benefited the work. That was a super-happy thing.
It was great to hear about the Designing Women sequel coming to ABC and that you’d like to be part of it. Any new news?
There’s talk that they want me to be a part of it as much as I [am able to] with Young Sheldon. I’d like to in my time off. We’re in conversation about it now, but it’s just that: a conversation. It’s early in the development and just depends on the availability and select-ability of other shows [we’re on]. Jean [Smart] has another show, too. But I know that [series co-creator] Linda [Bloodworth-Thomason] would very much like us to be in some part of it.
What’s it like when you women reunite?
We haven’t seen each other in a couple years now [since] I moved to New Orleans. Jean has this annual Christmas party and we usually see each other then.
Can you take us back to the days on the set? What was it like?
It was great. It was all women, a brilliant foursome, and we had a brilliant writer who wrote topical things from a woman’s point of view. We didn’t know how groundbreaking it was. I think if you put that same show on now, it would be so explosive they’d probably try to shut us down! It was a lot of fun.
And how was filming Ghostbusters?
Oh, wild. It was so much fun. I mean really, really fun. All of the actors came from improv, and I didn’t. The script was great, and I didn’t understand why they needed to not adhere to it. But they were used to being inventive and just playing, so I had to figure out how to get down with that groove.
You went back and forth from film to TV effortlessly when not many actors were.
It’s different these days, no one thinks about it. Thirty years ago, you either did TV or you didn’t. I needed to pay the mortgage, so I did whatever I needed to do.
How could you juggle such a demanding career and be there for your three sons?
They were very understanding of my work. I also had lots of help raising them, a bevy of women who loved my boys. I had nannies, too. Once [the boys] got to a certain age, they benefitted from having guys around to be tough with them. Like every other woman in every other job, I just did the best I could and got lucky. They turned out great.
You’ve been married to your fourth husband, James Hayman, since 1990. How did you know he was the one?
Because right away he loved my son. I had an 8-year-old [Clay, with third husband B. Scott Senechal] when I met him. When you fall in love with somebody who comes into your surroundings when you have a kid already,
“It’s not about me anymore. It’s about what I can do to help other people, because I’ve been so fortunate.” — Annie
[they] have to love both of us. He was so willing to do that. We were instantly a family, had two more sons together and a very happy life.
What made you want to give marriage a fourth shot?
Because I grew up in a family, I always wanted that experience for my children, too. I felt there was balance in that. When you have family, you seek a harmony that’s beneficial to everyone. By the time I met Jim, I was very successful in my career and successfully mothering as a single mom. [I thought,] I don’t need you, but this might be fun. I’ve always been practical.
Are there benefits to your life today?
I think it cuts both ways. When you get older, you lose some currency. It helps to have a hit show, so it looks like you’re still in the game. I also think there’s some wisdom.
I’ve seen a lot. Besides rooms for my children, I’ve always had spare ones in my house that I try to fill with young people who need support — sometimes emotionally, sometimes financially. A little artist residency program.
What’s next for you?
I serve as an aunt and protector to quite a few, but I’m hoping to have grandchildren. My older son just got married, so I’m quite ready!
With (from left) James, Harry, Doc and Clay in 1999……and (clockwise from top) Designing Women co-stars Delta Burke, Dixie Carter, Jean Smart, Alice Ghostley and Meshach Taylor in 1987.