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Sally Field, 60, first came into viewers' homes in fall 1965 in the ABC comedy series "Gidget." She quickly segued into such sitcoms as "The Flying Nun" and "The Girl With Something Extra."

Field proved to be a dramatic actress of high order in the 1976 TV miniseries "Sybil," winning her first Emmy Award for her stunning work as a young woman with multiple personalities.

The critical success of "Sybil" led to a fruitful feature film career for Field. She won best actress Oscars for 1979's "Norma Rae" and 1984's "Places in the Heart" and starred in such acclaimed films as "Murphy's Romance," "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "Forrest Gump."

Last fall, she returned to series TV in the ABC ensemble drama "Brothers & Sisters" as Nora Holden Walker, a recently widowed mother of five grown children. The series was created by playwright Jon Robin Baitz ("The Substance of Fire"), who is also an executive producer along with Ken Olin and Greg Berlanti.

Let's talk about your decision to go back into series television. I know you came into "Brothers & Sisters" late in the game, replacing Betty Buckley.

I was not thinking of [doing a series] at all. I was headed to do different things. I was really headed more for the stage, which I had been doing.

I got this last-minute call -- wouldn't I please come and meet with [the producers] -- and of course, I have been a fan of Robbie's [Jon Robin Baitz's] work and really said "sure" just because what I felt about him. I read the pilot and saw the pilot they had shot and spoke to them about what they really felt they wanted to have it evolved into.

Robbie's a playwright, so he works in the same way you do with a play, and that is a play becomes a play on its feet. In the rehearsal process of a play onstage that is when the play actually becomes -- he watches it and molds it and molds it. And I think that is what kind of happened here.

It changed from the initial pilot as he saw it and they saw it, and he started to see what he had there that he wasn't able to realize until it had almost gotten on its feet.

For the actors it was like, "Buckle your seat belts," because you didn't know where you were going. And then he slowly put us all together, but we kept evolving certainly all year. I predict it is going to be the same thing next year.

It must be exciting, though, because it's like you are in a new play every week.

Last year was so much fun because we would get the scripts and read them as fast as we could because we didn't know what on Earth was going to be happening to us.

[The producers] watched each of us and allowed us not only to become the characters they would see as interesting but also what we brought to it and sort of fleshed that out. If you are putting a play on Broadway on its feet, you take what the actors bring to it and you don't force them into something you have in your head. It allows the piece to grow in a way that you couldn't anticipate.

We grew and they grew and it all sort of evolved. We were kind of the little engine that could in a way. People didn't have a lot of expectations for us.

The cast works so well together.

What is so unusual, because we have a huge cast, is that we completely and utterly bonded. We are e-mailing each other for the summer. It's very unusual to get a group together that just gets a kick out of each other.

It's rare to see a sixtysomething baby boomer like Nora being portrayed as a vital, opinionated woman, let alone a sexual being.

Part of what I was interested in doing and what Robbie wanted to do was show a woman, a baby boomer woman, who came of age in the '60s. We are in our 60s. We are not the same mothers as in "Father Knows Best." We are a different generation of women. They have not been accurately portrayed, certainly not on TV but very little in film even.

It's an interesting phenomenon to have such an interesting group of women and not having any stories of them anywhere. So I was certainly interested in doing that. Both Robbie and Greg have stayed incredibly faithful to that vow.

Have baby boomer women approached you about the role?

Oh, yeah. Certainly there is a huge response from the show's numbers from women of all ages because the show has such a strong look at women at different ages of their lives and different contexts. I think that's great because women too many times are ignored in the show business arena.

What do you feel the chances are for "Brothers & Sisters" in the Emmy nominations this week?

We got no nominations [at the Golden Globes or the Screen Actors Guild Awards]. It would be nice to have the show recognized, but I'm not counting on it.

susan.king@latimes.com

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