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Why Hollywood won't cast Calista Flockhart anymore

Calista Flockhart never set out to become a star, but that's exactly what happened when she got her big break in the late 1990s with the popular legal drama Ally McBeal. Flockhart starred as the titular character, a woman who ends up working at the same law firm as her ex-boyfriend and has to deal with all of the personal and professional drama that ensues. Ally McBeal won Golden Globe and Emmy awards, and the show ran for five seasons, keeping audiences hooked with its eccentric characters, surreal sequences, and biting humor.

Flockhart went on to appear in the series Brothers & Sisters and Supergirl. But despite having roles in several successful shows under her belt, she seems to be missing in action lately. She hasn't appeared in any films or TV shows in 2019, and she's not working on any projects that are currently in production. So where is Calista Flockhart, and what has she been up to in recent years? Here's why she's lying low and taking an extended vacation from Hollywood.

Staying out of the spotlight

Flockhart never really craved celebrity status and media attention. Of course, she wanted to be an actress, but it wasn't about simply becoming famous and all of the trappings that came with it. In fact, she didn't anticipate getting a role like Ally McBeal, which forced her into the spotlight and a whole new life. "That accident of having been cast as Ally McBeal could have possibly interrupted a very different kind of career and set it on a different course, one that's more public than she ever imagined for herself," said Brothers & Sisters creator Jon Robin Baitz in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "I would describe her as a reluctant star."

Perhaps Flockhart is simply enjoying a little more solitude right now. After several decades in Hollywood, she's certainly earned it. She's not the type to accept every moment of her life being documented, and when you're a working actress, it's hard to avoid that.

Family comes first

Even those who don't know Flockhart from her own work are probably familiar with her husband, Harrison Ford. Flockhart and Ford got together in 2002 after meeting at the Golden Globes and went public with their relationship in 2003. Despite their 22-year age gap, the couple has been inseparable ever since. They went through an exceptionally challenging time in 2015 when Ford was in a frightening accident.

When Ford isn't acting, he's passionate about aviation, and he just might love flying his planes as much as he loves being in movies. But in March 2015, Ford was taken to the emergency room after being injured in a plane crash. Naturally, Flockhart did not want to leave his side, and when he was released from the hospital, she was completely focused on helping him recover. It's understandable that someone might want to dial back on work after that experience. When you see someone you love struggling, it can feel like everything else just fades into the background.

She won't travel for shoots

Yes, Flockhart is definitely a homebody. According to the crew of Supergirl, she generally won't sign on for projects that shoot outside of Los Angeles. That's absolutely her prerogative — if she doesn't want to travel for work, she doesn't have to. But at the same time, there is no denying that this seriously limits the projects that she would be willing to work on. Just think of how many films and TV shows are shot in New York City. And there are plenty more that are shot on location in other states or countries.

The entertainment industry is definitely not just contained within Los Angeles. But if an actor chooses to only work on shoots in LA, they are automatically writing off a ton of opportunities. This became an issue on the set of Supergirl when production moved from LA to Vancouver — although Flockhart continued with her role, there was speculation that she might quit the job.

No more movies

When you take a look at Flockhart's recent work, you'll notice something curious: she hasn't appeared in a film since 2005. Flockhart actually got her start with small parts in TV shows. Her very first TV role was a babysitter named Elsie in the soap opera Guiding Light. After a few more bit parts on various TV shows, she began landing acting jobs in movies like The Birdcage and A Midsummer Night's Dream. But eventually, she switched back to working in TV, and it's been well over a decade since she's appeared in a film.

Perhaps TV was all she wanted to work on all along, and although she was willing to give film a chance for a few years, she realized it wasn't her favorite medium. Or maybe she prefers TV because she gets to work with the same cast for a longer period of time. Either way, choosing solely to work in TV also limits her options. Obviously, there are plenty of jobs in TV alone, but there's no doubt that she would have more opportunities if she was still open to working in film as well.

She's not a workaholic

So far, Flockhart has been on hiatus for almost a year — her last appearance on Supergirl aired in October 2018, and she isn't slated to appear in any TV shows premiering this year. But this is definitely not Flockhart's longest break from acting — far from it, actually. From 2011 through 2014, Flockhart had no on-screen credits at all.

After Brothers & Sisters wrapped, she took a couple years off to spend time with her family, indulge in her other interests, and just relax. Honestly, most of us wouldn't hesitate to take a lengthy sabbatical if we had millions stashed in the bank already. It sounds like a nice way to unwind — definitely better than a mere two-week vacation from work. But it's got to be tough to stage a comeback in the industry afterwards. After all, plenty of other equally talented actors were working consistently while she was taking time off.

Easing into retirement?

Even when Flockhart started working again in 2014, she wasn't trying to hustle like crazy. She did voiceover work for one episode each of Robot Chicken and Penguins of Madagascar, had recurring roles on the series Web Therapy and Full Circle, and made an appearance on the show Facetiming With Mommy. After landing the part of Cat Grant on Supergirl, Flockhart didn't even remain a regular cast member for long. The show premiered in 2015, and by 2016, Flockhart had already dropped down to a recurring role instead. She didn't take on any additional work during this time.

It seems like Flockhart simply wanted to work part-time, which was probably somewhat motivated by Supergirl shifting production from LA to Vancouver. She was clearly easing up on acting commitments well before taking her current hiatus, appearing in easy-to-miss guest appearances rather than the ongoing spotlight roles of her Ally McBeal or Brothers & Sisters days. Hey, if you can easily support yourself by working part-time, why not? But once again, reluctance to take on full-time commitments makes it harder to land roles.

More family matters

In 2001, Flockhart's life changed forever when she brought home her adopted son, Liam. She adopted him when he was born, and when she married Ford, he happily stepped into a fatherly role. Now, Liam is 18, and like plenty of other teenagers, he's getting ready to go to college. Before he leaves to start that new chapter, Flockhart wanted to make sure that she got to spend plenty of quality time with her son.

It seems like this could be a primary reason behind her decision to take time off work. Will we see her taking on new projects once Liam gets settled in at college? Only time will tell, of course. But any parent can understand the decision to take time off work to be with their kids, especially when it feels like they're growing up so fast. Even celebrities can be affected by becoming empty nesters.

Different priorities

Like most celebrities, Flockhart has grown and changed after decades in Hollywood. She's not quite the same person she was when she first walked on to the set of Ally McBeal. "I think I'm older, I think I'm wiser. I think my priorities have changed a lot," she said when reflecting on her career path. "My family is very important to me… I like to get home for dinner. I like working in L.A. That's pretty much it."

Flockhart isn't going to go for the same roles that she once did, simply because, well, she's not the same actress that she once was. Although this means being a bit pickier, she has no problem saying no to roles that don't suit her. At this point in her career, she's not going to settle. Make no mistake, being more selective is by no means a bad approach, but it does follow that consistently staying busy might be elusive.

Dealing with the media

When Ally McBeal aired, Ally wasn't exactly hailed as a feminist hero. There was plenty of criticism directed at Flockhart's character, and it was all too easy for people to conflate Ally's personality with Flockhart herself. As the Los Angeles Times recalled, some people viewed Ally as a "neurotic, man-hungry female that is a setback for intelligent, liberated women." Of course, this wasn't a pleasant experience for Flockhart, and she took it personally. Why wouldn't she? It was her first major role.

People who have worked with Flockhart admit that the media has often been too hard on her. "Wherever she shows up, for whatever reason, she's such a lightning rod for media and scrutiny and a certain kind of resentment, and I don't think that's always easy for her, but she's doing it," said Brothers & Sisters executive producer Ken Olin told the Times. "She's had to be tough. That hurts her feelings."

The Hollywood rumor mill

Flockhart has always tried to maintain a separation between her professional and private life. She wasn't the kind of actress who liked to give juicy tell-all interviews, and she certainly didn't want the paparazzi following her every move. Unfortunately, her efforts to have a somewhat normal life behind the scenes gave off the impression that she was chilly and unapproachable, rather than strategically guarded in order to protect her own privacy. It's a shame that this resulted in a reputation for being too reserved.

"I don't know what people expect. I don't know what people want me to do," Flockhart told the Los Angeles Times. "And if they get disappointed that I don't satisfy something that they're looking for, then I don't quite know what that's about." Flockhart isn't a huge fan of doing promo events for shows, either. All of this has worked against her when it comes to the way she has been portrayed in the media.

No longer a leading lady

On Ally McBeal, Flockhart was the leading lady, and this breakout role established that she could handle the pressure of such a position. But at the same time, Flockhart reached a point where she personally did not want to deal with that kind of pressure again. She didn't want to be the star of the show anymore. She still wanted to work in television, but she was looking for a different kind of role this time around.

That's exactly why she agreed to be a part of Brothers & Sisters — she specifically wanted to be on an ensemble show. She was also told that she would only have to work part-time, and while the hours were long in the beginning, it wasn't like working on Ally McBeal. Overall, playing Ally was simply exhausting for Flockhart. While she was very grateful for that experience and all of the doors it opened up for her, she didn't want to repeat it on another show.

A possible future project

Ally McBeal was a hit, so it's no surprise that some of the people involved with the original production might be interested in the possibility of a reboot. We seem to be in a golden age of sequels anyway, so why not test the waters and see if any networks are willing to give it a chance? Flockhart is hopeful about the prospect of an eventual Ally McBeal reboot, which could get her back into full-time acting.

Unfortunately, you shouldn't hold your breath waiting for new episodes. So far, no progress has been made, and whether or not the idea actually comes to fruition remains to be seen. In the meantime, Flockhart doesn't seem to be worried about going back to work. She could easily retire if she wanted to, but if this renewed Ally McBeal idea ever gets off the ground, maybe you'll see her on your TV again. Until then, well, it's never a bad time to go back and binge watch the original series.