Exclusive Interview: Hollywood Legend Cloris Leachman On New Family-Friendly Drama 'The Eleventh'

Jun 27, 2016 10:49 AM EDT

Cloris Leachman is undeniably one of the Hollywood greats. She has appeared in numerous films and shows, including won more Emmy Awards than any other performer-she has eight of them-and scored an Oscar for her work in The Last Picture Show. The 90-year-old actress set a record when at age 82, she appeared on the hit reality show Dancing with the Stars.  

Now, Leachman is adding to her impressive resume: she can be seen in The Eleventh, a family-friendly original drama now being streamed on Feeln, the SVOD (subscription video on demand) service of Hallmark.

The Eleventh follows a young girl (Ren Harris) as she strives to fulfill her late mother's last wish -  to get to know and reconcile with her estranged grandmother, Margaret (Leachman). Throughout her journey, she discovers that the only path toward reconciliation and peace is through truth, forgiveness, and unconditional love.

The drama also stars Ed Asner, (Leachman's long-time colleague from The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Florence Henderson, Christopher Atkins and Tracy Nelson.

In an exclusive interview with The Gospel Herald, Leachman opened up about her latest role, working with other Hollywood legends, and the secret to loving her work - even after eight decades in the business. 

Q: What drew you to The Eleventh and the role of Margaret, a grandmother attempting to reconnect with her estranged family?

A: Margaret is a strong character. She is a little bit stubborn, but would do anything for her family. I think a lot of people will connect to her.

Q: You are a Hollywood legend - what was it like working with other greats, Ed Asner and Florence Henderson?

A: It's great working with old friends! Everyone knows that Florence is a great actress, what a lot of people don't know is that we played the same character, Nellie Forbush, in South Pacific. I, of course, did it many years before on Broadway and she did many years later in the first revival at the Lincoln Center. It's just fun being with two pros like Florence and Ed.

Cloris Leachman
(Photo : Hallmark )
Cloris Leachman stars as Margaret in the new drama,

Q: In what ways will this story resonate with families? How realistic are the dynamics portrayed in this family?

A: Every family has their own sort of dysfunction, some more than others. The underlying message in the series is forgiveness. We watch as a family tries to bring closure to the past through truth, forgiveness, and ultimately, love. Many people don't get the chance to resolve old wounds. I think many people can relate to this story in one way or another.

Q: What do you hope viewers will take away from The Eleventh?

A: Truth, forgiveness, and overcoming obstacles as a team, as a family,  is an important theme of the series.  You get to see all sides of the story... we should all remember that there are always different sides to the story.

Cloris Leachman
(Photo : Hallmark )
Cloris Leachman stars alongside Ren Harris in

Q: You have an impressive career - have you seen a growing thirst for encouraging and uplifting entertainment over the years?

A: I think with all that's happening in the world, people are looking to the creative world to give them something hopeful and positive. It reminds people that there is good out there.

Q: You are 90 years old and still as busy as ever - what is your secret to longevity and health?

A: Doing what you love.

Q: What's your favorite part overall working on The Eleventh?

A: I was interested in doing "The Eleventh" because I loved the story. Family can often be messy, but I was intrigued by the path for forgiveness. Plus, when you add on this amazing cast, how could I say no?