Dinah Manoff was interviewed on the set of State of Grace in this segment from Entertainment Tonight, which aired in 2002. Dinah discusses Kristy’s departure from Empty Nest, her own troubled past, and being pregnant with twins.
Entertainment Tonight: Kristy McNichol had her own successful sitcom. Then she walked away from it all. Now one of her Empty Nest costars gives us the latest on Kristy’s battle with severe depression and her reclusive life away from movies, TV, and Hollywood.
Dinah: I cried mostly through the last episode of Empty Nest. I was so happy to see her. I felt that we had really survived as a family.
ET: Nothing could have pleased Dinah Manoff more than to have her costar return to the series she had abruptly left in 1992. The actresses had shared the spotlight for four years until Kristy was forced by an occurrent of bipolar disorder to drop out of the successful sitcom. Dinah never saw it coming.
Dinah: Kristy was very sunny and very easy to work with. When she came to work days before she left the show and said “I’m not sleeping well and something’s up,” I wasn’t concerned because it didn’t seem like a big deal.
ET: But as Kristy told ET in 1995, she struggled with this debilitating mental illness for years.
Kristy (in 1995): I have a chemical imbalance. I’ve had it since I was eighteen. You’re kind of incapacitated in a way. Mentally, you just aren’t yourself at all and to do the everyday things you normally do is very difficult. It flared up when I turned 30 and it was very hard to deal with. I had to choose between my health and doing the show. So I chose my health and I had to leave. It was the hardest thing I have ever done.
Dinah: When she said the bipolar had picked back up on her, she didn’t want to put herself in stressful situations that would trigger that anymore and I understood that.
ET: Kristy was well enough to return to Empty Nest’s final episode, a nice finish to the show’s seven year run. Aside from lending her voice to the WB animated series Invasion America in 1998, Kristy has left the limelight behind. The 39-year-old is now involved with charity work and teaches drama at a private Los Angeles high school. But Dinah has continued to pursue her craft. It was acting that enabled a teenage Dinah to get off a path headed for self-destruction.
Dinah: I was immersed in sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll in my late teens and my early twenties. It was my identity and my passion.
ET: Dinah had been raised in privilege in Malibu, her father a TV writer, her mother actress Lee Grant.
Dinah: I had grown up where we just went from one party to another and it was a very aimless way of life. When I became an actor, I began to see that there was another option for me, that I could channel my energies a little more constructively. And shortly after, I became clean and sober and have been for many years. I’m lucky I woke up when I did. I think I hit a lot of bottoms along the way and they were not my wake up call. The one that was…I just couldn’t do it one more day the way I had been doing it.
ET: Her mom helped her secure an agent and by twenty she’d landed her first series as a regular on the groundbreaking sitcom Soap. She made her feature debut in Grease playing the sex kitten of the Pink Ladies and followed up with a starring role in Ordinary People. In 1980, Dinah won the Tony for I Ought to Be in Pictures and reprised the role for the film version opposite Walter Matthau. Dinah’s career continued to gain momentum. Landing the part of neurotic Carol in Empty Nest was the icing on the cake. And her mother couldn’t have been more proud.
Lee Grant (jokingly, in 1992): It’s a great relief to me that my daughter is rich and famous.
ET: When the series ended, Dinah was in no rush to return to episodic television. Last year, she found a show she felt was worth coming back for, the drama State of Grace. The show is currently in its second season and can be seen each Monday night on the cable outlet ABC Family. But Dinah faced a new challenge with this show when the 43-year-old learned she was an expectant mom in more ways that one.
Dinah: I literally had to sit down to keep from fainting when they told me it was two boys.
ET: But her character has had a hysterectomy so the pregnancy had to be hidden.
Dinah: I’m always with a basket of laundry, or books, or fabric, or a child in front of me.
ET: ET was on the State of Grace set for Dinah’s last day of filming, just weeks before she gave birth to the twins. The boys, named Oliver and Desi, arrived January 18. After just a short maternity leave, Dinah returned to the set with her new babies to finish production on the current season.