Anyone who tuned into Guiding Light over the last 35 years knows the name of actress Maureen Garrett. Viewers remember her as Holly Lindsey, one of daytime’s most conflicted and complex characters, and half of the Holly/Roger power-couple that took GL by storm.
Much to her fans’ dismay, Garrett was one of daytime’s most private actresses, remaining decidedly out of the limelight. When she did grant the occasional interview, it was always related to the show. Unlike many of her former costars, she has no memoir, no fan page, and no Facebook or Twitter. Internet searches reveal little more about her than was available in print 20 years ago: She speaks German and French and enjoys swimming and yoga.
With the end of Guiding Light in 2009, the elusive actress, now 64, seemed to disappear altogether. In the 60 Minutes episode profiling Guiding Light’s cancellation (which included several interviews with GL veterans) Garrett was notably absent. It was intentional. When the GL lighthouse went dark for good, she no longer felt the desire to pursue acting. She left New York and quietly disappeared from television.
But now she's back, ready to let her fans know more about her personal life. And she’s starting by revealing her 20-year relationship with her partner, Janet Morgan (pictured second from left).
Together the couple has raised three sons who are now happy and worldly young adults. Their eldest son is living in Stockholm and working on environmental issues. Their second son is an agro-forester in Costa Rica, where he’s working on using breadfruit for poverty alleviation. Their youngest recently graduated from college and is currently leading wilderness treks in the U.S. and Canada.
Garrett and Morgan also opened their home to one of Garrett’s nieces, which the actress says gave her the opportunity to raise a "fine young woman."
As for the contrast of having a relationship with a woman while playing one of the straightest super-couples that ever graced daytime TV, Garrett simply says, “It was acting.”
Garrett admits she didn’t have a whole lot in common with Holly. While she says she shared
some traits with the character, namely “the chase” and various forms of escape, their similarities ended there.
“She wore far too much makeup,” Garrett says, noting that her friends and family were entertained by her glamorous appearance on television: she’d arrive on the GL set straight from her cabin, clad in jeans and boots, and was completely made over. The daily transformation remained temporary, of course. “At the end of the day I almost always washed off the make-up, and with it, Holly’s brand of crazy.”
So why let fans get to know details of her life now? Garrett says, quite simply, that she’s no longer concerned with what people know about her.
While Garrett’s Guiding Light costars knew of her relationship with Morgan, fans of the Holly/Roger saga never had a clue. For several reasons the actress never shared her family story publicly. The first was Garrett’s predilection for privacy. The other reason is even more obvious: when she was center stage on GL, it was simply a different time in history. In the early '90s—often considered by viewers to be the Holly/Roger heyday—very few celebrities publicly deviated from the socially prescribed norms. Ellen was on TV, but she didn’t reveal her sexuality until 1997; the result was a deluge of negative publicity that resulted in her show’s cancellation. Rosie O’Donnell’s popular talk show was on in the same years that Holly and Roger were creating storms on Guiding Light, but O’Donnell didn’t come out until 2002.
Despite what was happening to celebrities coming out in the real world, Garrett says she still approached GL’s writers about creating a storyline for Holly that involved a same-sex love affair. The result? The network wouldn’t touch it. That storyline would come several years later, in a notoriously G-rated plot involving Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia as Olivia and Natalia. (The fact that the storyline wasn’t between Olivia and Holly infuriated viewers, who bombarded Internet forums with comments about the tense undertones and chemistry that the two shared onscreen).
After Guiding Light ended in 2009, Garrett’s decision to leave acting was simply a case of knowing when to move on and not looking back. “I no longer felt the desire to pursue acting,” she says of not turning up in a new onscreen role after the GL’s cancellation. “That muse had flown.”
She left New York and pursued other interests, from sculpting and writing to studying Spanish. However, it wasn’t long before she was drawn back into performing.
When Charles Towers, the artistic director of the Merrimack Reparatory Theatre, offered Garrett the chance to return to theater in the new play, Ghost Writer, she accepted.
The timing proved to be perfect. Playing the character of Vivian Woosley provided a welcome distraction from her mother’s recent passing. For an actress who began in the theater, it was also a return to her acting roots.
While you can expect Garrett to pop up in other roles, acting certainly isn’t the only gig she’s got going. She’s an emphatic supporter of Obama and is passionate about several issues, from clean water and healthy food to pesticide use and access to education. However, her interest in agroforestry occupies most of her time lately. She and Janet have been making frequent trips to Costa Rica, where they’re helping their son develop a food forest.
As for her fans, Garrett thinks it’s great that people are still interested in her, and she’s flattered to learn that people remember her. Her gratitude goes beyond being recognized at the post office or having bank tellers on the phone draw the connection between her name and her voice. She seems surprised that there are clips of her GL performances on YouTube that go back to the ‘70s, and somewhat struck by the fact that people are still commenting about the episodes.
She chalks it up to playing a character that so many people could relate to, and wonders if people weren’t drawn to Holly because she played the role with a measure of discretion.
“I didn’t let it all hang out,” she says of her portrayal of Holly. “Maybe … [viewers] could project their pain and struggles on to her. The fan letters seemed to reflect that.”
More important than all of it though — from the messy human beings that were Roger and Holly, to series of disasters that ended Guiding Light — is the message that Garrett wants her fans to know.
“I am very happy and fulfilled,” she says, before adding in a semi-mocking tone reminiscent of Holly, “and the kids are all right.”
Watch Roger & Holly: "Heaven help me, I love you still!"
Watch Holly say the 'unthinkable' to Blake:
WATCH: Holly in the last episode. Her scene starts at 00:30.