There's a Republican in the White House. Skinny jeans are in. Molly Ringwald is starring in a teen drama. No, it's not 1984. The face of '80s adolescent angst makes a comeback playing mom to a pregnant 15-year-old in ABC Family's sobering new series The Secret Life of the American Teenager.
It's familiar turf for Ringwald, who played an expecting high schooler in the 1988 film For Keeps. "Teen pregnancy has existed long before now," says the 40-year-old actress. "[The difference is that] it's not that private anymore. We're more open to talking about it now."
For that, we can thank a certain sneaker-and-hoodie wearing teen named Juno. But Secret Life serves up more salacious moments, featuring a trampy majorette, a young baby daddy with a sex addiction and a football star who reneges on his wait-until-marriage promise. Even Ringwald's Anne is forced to deal with a husband who strays.
"She's a good mom," Ringwald says. "But she certainly doesn't expect to have a daughter who's having a baby. That's a huge curveball and the only reason she doesn't pick up on it sooner is because her husband is having an affair."
Before taking the role, Ringwald wondered if she'd fit in with Hollywood's latest class of up-and-comers. "I was like, 'Oh, my God, what if they're these jaded, bratty kids?'" she says. "Then I met them and fell in love!"
The feeling is mutual. "Molly is so down-to-earth and just plain amazing," gushes Shailene Woodley, who plays girl-next-door-turned-young-mom Amy. "She managed to stay sane and completely normal, even after all that she's accomplished."
Ringwald has been in the spotlight since she started acting on stage at age 3. In 1977, she broke into TV with a guest spot on The New Mickey Mouse Club, followed by stints on Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life. But it was her turn as lovelorn Sam in 1984's Sixteen Candles that transformed Ringwald from child actress to teen queen. In 1986, at only 18, she landed on the cover of Time.
Burned out, she moved to France in the early '90s but was lured back in 1996 to star in the ABC sitcom Townies. When the show failed, Ringwald returned to the stage with roles in Broadway's Cabaret and Enchanted April. But it was toting around 4-year-old daughter Mathilda (with husband Panio Gianopoulos) while on tour with Sweet Charity that left the actress aching for a less grueling gig. Then came the call to do Secret Life.
"Molly was on my [wish] list," says executive producer Brenda Hampton (7th Heaven). "I said, 'You don't think we could actually get Molly, do you?' But we did! And to come back and play the mother of a teen, it's really full circle for her."
It's been a long road, and one Ringwald's glad she doesn't have to travel again. Forget Time, today a morning-after headline in the gossips is more the norm for Hollywood's "It" Kids. "Being really famous at a young age is hard for anyone to go through, but my family was really protective of me, and within all that craziness, I had a sheltered existence," she says. "I didn't feel like my parents wanted to have a reality show [called] The Ringwalds. A lot of these girls today don't have that."
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