Lesley Ann Warren Has Tried Host of Alter Egos


Many actresses might draw the line at looking like a blond bimbo with an IQ equal to her chest size. Or they might resist resembling a sex-starved matron whose love object is 10 years her junior. Or they might think it just bad business to appear disheveled and without makeup and more than occasionally tipsy.

Not Lesley Ann Warren.

The little girl who began as a chubby-cheeked Cinderella has tried all those alter egos. She was the silly moll in “Victor/Victoria,” the randy Eleanor in “Worth Winning” and now she plays the abused and bitter Barbara Walker in “Family of Spies,” airing next Sunday and Tuesday on CBS. The miniseries is based on the story of John Walker Jr. who spied for the Soviet Union and tried to conscript his family to help him. Warren plays his frustrated and alcoholic wife who eventually turned her husband in.

It was a difficult assignment, Warren says, looking thin and pale on a cold morning in the living room of her Sherman Oaks home.


“It was really hard for me to let myself deteriorate physically in the way that I had to in order to portray her,” Warren says. “And then to enact those feelings of degradation and shame and desperation. I mean, she was a very typical battered woman. As people, we go to therapy, we follow spiritual paths, we do whatever we can do to repress and heal. . . . But as an actress, you keep on uncovering and revealing all that stuff.”

Warren, now 43, thinks the roles she has played often mirror who she was at the time. When she did Cinderella on national television at 20, she was a Cinderella. “I was full of hope, full of dreams, believing that a man was going to come and save me. And I lived that out through my work and through my life. And as the years have gone on I have different experiences and knowledge on which to draw from.”

She no longer waits for a Prince Charming. “I had to give up the belief that somebody was going to save me. I had to learn to be responsible for my own well-being.”