With an Eye on…Dinah Manoff

With an Eye on…Dinah Manoff

The Los Angeles Times , Nov 21, 1993, N.F. Mendoza

Aside from providing a spot for seeing Lana Turner stumbling around on the beach, Malibu was not necessarily a glamorous place to grow up, says Dinah Manoff, who plays neurotic Carol on NBC’s Empty Nest.

Manoff, the daughter of actress Lee Grant and writer Arnold Manoff, says that after her mother got a role on the television series Peyton Place in 1965, Grant moved her family to the beach, which she thought would be less Hollywood.

Grant also thought the beach environment would be quieter and, above all, she didn’t want her daughter following in her footsteps.

She’d been a child actress and felt very strongly about not wanting me to go through what she did, Manoff says candidly. But then, when I was 17 she wanted me off the beach, to stop smoking pot. She wanted to stop the drugs and to save me. She would have done anything to get me off the beach, believe me!

(Later, Manoff says, when Carrie Fisher’s Postcards From the Edge, about the drug-dependent daughter of a movie star, came out, she wrote the actress-author a note and jokingly told Fisher that she had “stolen my life from under me!”)

What Grant suggested to her then-errant daughter’s surprise, was that Manoff audition for the Actors Studio, which she did successfully. Work there was followed by film school at Cal Arts.

Manoff then found herself coping with the aftermath of too much socializing and the realization that she did indeed want an acting career.

Now, she is “very active in recovery” and spends a lot of time working with recovering addicts and alcoholics. “I’m clean and sober,” she says proudly.

“I started acting as a way to support myself. I was very into guys and parties and I starting acting to make money”

Manoff says she didn’t “find a passion” for acting until her mid-20s.

But once she found that passion, she says, it was the beginning of her “growing up.”

“Then I found myself doing real work,” she recalls. “I’d grown up in a production company, but discovering the importance of the work, I realized I had something to bring here.”

Manoff became a regular on the series Soap in 1978.

She hadn’t even done a play when she got the lead in I Ought to Be in Pictures in 1980, for which she won a Tony.

Manoff continued working in theater and television, commuting between Los Angeles and New York.

Last year, Manoff and writing partner Dennis Bailey wrote the play Telegrams From Heaven, based on her late father’s novel.

It was Manoff’s first directing attempt and she was honored with Dramalogue’s director of the year award for it. She also has – and will continue to – direct episodes of Empty Nest.

As Empty Nest continues its sixth season, Carol will become a single mom; she, in fact, gives birth this week.

“It was a very, very tough season last year,” Manoff says of the well-publicized year where co-star Kristy McNichol left due to her manic depression and Park Overall broke her leg. “We had T-shirts made that said: ‘I survived season five.'”

But now, she says, “I’m thrilled with it! I get a new set of problems. For three years, I was dumped or doing the dumping.”

Manoff says that while Carol and she started out with some similarities, they have less in common now.

“We’re alike when I am self-obsessed and neurotic, which isn’t all that often,” she says, laughing. “She lives there and I visit periodically.”

“Here’s the difference,” she says firmly. “I’m in love with Stephen Tyler (lead singer of Aerosmith) and Carol is into Bertolt Brecht!”

Empty Nest airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.