"I think that auditioning is really hard," says Ally McBeal actress Calista Flockhart. "You're sometimes desperately trying to get a job. It's just like anybody else interviewing for a job it's not easy. It is like dating for God's sake; it's horrible."
"I did a Burger King commercial in which I just wrapped up hamburgers. They didn't even show my face. They were supposed to have my face but you know how that goes. I showed up and they said, 'We'll just use her hands'." That was before Calista's ease with physical comedy scored her an Emmy and those notoriously short skirts became a corporate office staple.
Calista Kay Flockhart was born on November 11, 1964, in Freeport, Illinois, to Kay, a school teacher, and Ronald, a Kraft Foods executive. The family moved often, and Calista, which means "most beautiful" in Greek, was constantly dubbed "the new girl" in the many schools she attended. Not the easiest way to grow up.
She studied acting at Rutgers University in New Jersey and after graduating crossed the country doing regional theatre work. In 1994, the former cheerleader and bowling aficionado made her Broadway debut in a celebrated production of The Glass Menagerie opposite legendary actress Julie Harris and scored a Theatre World Award for her interpretation of Laura Wingfield. Two years later she was back on the New York stage in Chekhov's The Three Sisters alongside future Hollywood heartthrob Billy Crudup of Almost Famous. Then came Ally...
Calista was enjoying the theatre life in New York and wasn't even interested in TV at the time, but a friend passed her the Ally McBeal script and persuaded her to audition. She got the part, and overnight she was the US version of Bridget Jones and part of the zeitgeist. Suddenly, young professional women looking for love had a heroine, and Calista had a $100,000-a-week job a welcome change from the days when she'd be hard pressed to pay two months' rent at one time.
"We looked at hundreds of actresses, and Calista walked in and she was Ally," says prolific producer David E Kelley. "She has a vulnerability and this kind of strength at the same time." And as the press started to talk Calista was labelled anorexic, amongst other things those qualities were put to the test.
Dogged by persistent rumours of eating disorders it didn't help that she'd portrayed a bulimic in an HBO drama Calista rose above it all. "My primary focus is just on acting and doing my job," says the star. "If I let all that other stuff get to me, I'd never get anything done. I couldn't play Ally if I was sick. It is too mentally and physically challenging. I'm healthy, I eat well, and there's really not much more I can say about it."
On January 11, 2001, the outspoken women's rights activist adopted a baby boy, Liam. "It's the best thing that I have done in my life and it really changes who you are," she says. "It's a miracle. Anybody who has children talks like this so I'm not unique and I am not special, but I am in love with my child in a way that I have truly never been in love before." Unflattering news for past objects of her affection including the university sweetheart to whom she was once engaged and rumoured past beaus Ben Stiller, Oscar winning director Sam Mendes and Ally co-star Robert Downey Jr.
A year after adopting Liam, however, she seemed to have found her match. She met Indiana Jones actor Harrison Ford at an awards ceremony in October 2002 and the pair have been inseperable ever since. "Im in love," Harrison told reporters in 2003. "We have a serious relationship. Calista's a really good mother and I enjoy participating in Liam's life." Calista all but retired from showbiz as she focussed on her personal life. "I liked not being in the fish bowl," she says.
But after four years as a stay-at-home mum, the acting bug returned in 2006 when she accepted the role of a career-orientated talk show host in ABC series Brothers & Sisters. Despite feeling torn between wanting to work and wanting to be at home, Calista seems to take things more in her stride these days. "Now she's in a great relationship and she has an amazing kid, she's much more relaxed," says her friend and stylist Elizabeth Stewart. "Her life is more balanaced."
For Calista it is motherhood that remains her leading role and one that influences all her decisions. "Having a son changed my life," she says. "It changed my career. He has changed my life in all those cliched ways. He changed where I go. He changed what I do. He has made me who I am right now."