Where the heck has this gal been? Former soap queen and Broadway baby Catherine Hickland hasn't been seen on our TV screens since One Life to Live ended its run on ABC three years ago — and that's fine by her! The much-missed, eternally effervescent beauty is fully busy these days as a cosmetics mogul, life coach, motivational speaker and hypnotherapist. She's now married to producer Todd Fisher, son of Debbie Reynolds and the late Eddie Fisher. (Yep, that makes her Princess Leia's sister-in-law!). And she has joined forces with 99-year-old wunderkind writer Fern Underwood on the just-published Cat and Fern's Excellent God Adventure: Daily Inspirations for 365 Days of Heaven on Earth. Co-written by bestselling author and soap scribe Lindsay Harrison (The Young and the Restless, Venice) and with a forward by Reynolds, the book is available through both Amazon.com and catandfern.com. TV Guide Magazine sat down with Hickland for a lively gab session that ranged from the holy to the holy mackerel (she's head over heels in love with a rooster!). Will this popular star ever return to acting? Don't bet on it.
TV Guide Magazine: Congrats on the book. Never a dull moment with you! So fill us in. How will your Excellent God Adventure help the rest of us?
Hickland: I am so excited about this book. I've long wanted to be of service to people and found myself in recent years gravitating closer and closer to God. My spiritual walk became more and more important to me, and I began to feel like an entirely different person — happier, lighter, more creative, and no longer interested in nonsense. I started to think about doing a book about prayer and meditation and spiritual insight and around that time, my dear friend, Lindsay Harrison, told me about her mom, Fern Underwood, and her automatic writings. I was really interested in what God had to say through this lady in Iowa, who is about to turn 100 on Feb. 7. She is so unbelievably cool and inspiring! In reading Fern's writings, I felt a deep and immediate connection to God and did not doubt for a moment that these were God's words coming through this woman. It's like she gave me a pipeline to the Almighty!
TV Guide Magazine: This book is spirituality in bite-sized chunks?
Hickland: Exactly. Fern was willing to share her writings and to combine them with mine for a daily devotional, something you can read for five minutes a day. It chronicles my highway to heaven through Hollywood a little bit, and how I got to where I'm at now in mind, body and spirit. It also teaches you how to pray with an example for every single day — not the "Dear God, I want this, I want that" kind of prayers but rather the kind that you need and that will speak to you. We hope it reaches people who haven't yet found their spiritual way, but it's also for those who found it yet need a little rekindling. It's a terrific way to start your day and helps you learn how to turn off the incessant noise in your mind and get peaceful. God cannot be heard over the chatter of our daily issues and worries and concerns and heartbreak. It doesn't take much time and it makes a huge difference. People get so hung up on the religious aspect of things, and that's not what we're doing here. This is about your personal relationship with God, nobody else's. [Laughs] It sure works for me! We're all going a little crazy living in this ADD world with the social media, the iPhones, the iPads, blah blah blah. Our attention can be split so many ways within a single minute. We all need help with this.
TV Guide Magazine: You spend many days a year on the state-fair circuit doing your hypnosis show. Don't some religious types have a big problem with that? Don't they consider hypnotism the work of the devil?
Hickland: I do almost 200 shows a year as a hypnotist, drawing an audience of 800 to 1000 people at each show, and there have certainly been times when I've been thrown under the bus by people in the religious right. But here's what I have to say to them: If you don't understand your mind and how it works, you are going to find yourself reliving unfinished business over and over and wondering why your life isn't moving forward. Hypnosis isn't mind control. It's an art and a science. I don't humiliate people. Nobody gets up on my stage and dances like a chicken. It's a really good show, very well thought out and respectful and hilarious. Making people laugh in this life is very important to me. It's healing to laugh. When you laugh so hard that you cry you become open, like a child, and you are truly enjoying life. You let go of all your cares and problems. I just love what I do. My acting career is like a whole other world away.
TV Guide Magazine: Speaking of, did Prospect Park ever ask you to be part of the OLTL reboot?
Hickland: Nope. Never. And I wouldn't have done it anyway because I was getting married when that launched and I live on the west coast. [Laughs] I can't even imagine doing that.
TV Guide Magazine: You don't miss acting?
Hickland: When it was good, it was amazing. But I don't miss it. If I did, I'd still be pursuing it. There's just not anything in me that makes me want to do it anymore. My husband, Todd, is getting ready to direct a movie and has a part he really wants me to play, but I know that there is an actor out there somewhere — thousands, probably — who would really want to have that job. I've had all my acting dreams met. There are other people with a dream who would treasure getting a shot like that. God, I'm so proud of my work I did as an actress but what's more wonderful is the day I woke up and realized, "I don't need to do that anymore."
TV Guide Magazine: But actors go through such struggle, heartache and bulls--t to build a career! It seems so weird to give it up after so much investment and success. Usually it's the business that gives you up, not the other way around.
Hickland: I am grateful for every minute of it, and grateful for all of the fantastic fans. I've never forgotten the nice things people said and wrote to me, and continue to write to me. But not for a minute do I long for it because I'm so staggered by the life I have now. It certainly has its challenging moments — what life doesn't? — but it's really pretty magnificent. And everywhere I go I take my pet rooster, Nugget, with me.
TV Guide Magazine: How's that again?
Hickland: He's such a road warrior. He goes to all the state fairs with me and doesn't want to be in a cage. He wants to either be in my arms or, if we're driving, on the console between the seats in our jeep. I will pull into gas stations and put him on the grass like people do with their dogs and people are, like, "Is that a...chicken? Well, I'll be durn! Hey, Doris, you gotta come on over here and see this. This dadburn gal is taking a chicken on the road with her!" I just love this bird so much. He is my heart. I'm sending you his picture so check your email! Todd and I are quite the sight when we travel. We have an Australian shepherd, an African grey parrot and the chicken, all in the car with us. Crazy, huh?
TV Guide Magazine: A reality show waiting to happen! Speaking of your wild life, what's it like being Carrie Fisher's sister-in-law and Debbie Reynolds' daughter-in-law. Surreal?
Hickland: Not at all. I never think of it that way. Unfortunately, I don't know Carrie all that well yet, because we both travel so much. Do you know I've never seen Star Wars? [Laughs] How weird is that? I just never got around to it. But now I fully intend to. I do have a really great relationship with Debbie, though. When I'm with her I never think, "Oh, my gosh, this is Debbie Reynolds the movie star, the screen legend!" I deeply respect her body of work and I love to hear her stories about the great old days of Hollywood. Her stories are fantastic! But what I really love is the woman herself. When so many other actresses of her time were having nervous breakdowns and turning alcoholic, she forged through countless troubles and trials, always surviving, always triumphing, and always being an incredible mom. She was always there for her kids and they remain incredibly close. At 82, she's still going strong and is still a fantastic entertainer. When I go see her live stage shows, I watch the people in the audience — I watch their eyes — when she shows the old movie clips from Singin' in the Rain and The Unsinkable Molly Brown and they just melt.She means so much to everybody and so much to me. I feel blessed to have her in my life, especially because I lost my own mom a year ago. Debbie and I laugh a lot and have life talks. We hang out and watch TV together — QVC and the Kardashians! [Laughs] Girl things. Debbie is very, very awesome.