Isn't it heartening to see Barbara Eden, one of Hollywood's most gracious and lovely ladies, persevering so bravely with life in the public eye? The I Dream of Jeannie star is understandably still grief-stricken by the sudden passing of son Matthew Michael Ansara, 35, last summer. But like the Sondheim song goes, she's "Still Here" and back on TV with a guest starring role on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.
"It's extremely therapeutic," Eden quietly tells TV Guide Online. "I haven't stopped working and I know I'm going to have to. I don't know what's going to happen when I do, because [acting] is a little bit like hiding. I think I'm doing well. I really don't know if I am or not, to tell you the truth. But work helps a lot."
Eden brightens up when asked about her Sabrina role as Great Aunt Irma the Spellman clan matriarch who first arrives in this Friday's episode (airing 8 pm/ET on The WB). "She's a meanie, not a genie," the actress chuckles. "This witch even cackles! A nasty lady. She has no boundaries, and that's fun because I can pull all the stops out. It was so diametrically opposed to what I had done before, and I thought that would be a good thing."
Ah, but she does have a naughty past: Back in her Jeannie days, she played the bottle blond and her saucy evil twin both of whom were named Jeannie! As Eden recalls, the sister sorceresses could only be told apart by their hair and wardrobe. "Well," she smiles, "when I wore evil Jeannie's outfit it was sort of a pistachio green, wasn't it? I was a brunette then, so it was perfect for that hair. And Jeannie the blonde looked good in hot pink!"
Nowadays, that campy torch is carried by series like Sabrina
and Eden's fave supernatural soap, NBC's Passions
. "Oh, every once in awhile, I come home and the guy who cleans my house has it on," she laughs. "It's a hoot! It's fun!"