It will a June wedding – June 22nd, to be exact – for Brooke Burns and “Warrior” director Gavin O’Connor. And the leggy beauty who rose to fame on “Baywatch” tells us they’re planning their nuptials to include about 100 of their nearest and dearest. “We’ve gone back and forth – ‘Let’s run away!’ ‘Let’s have only the girls’ – because he has a daughter as I do. And then we decided we wanted to have our friends to share this and to have a big party.”
Burns has an awful lot to celebrate. Madison, her daughter with ex-husband Julian McMahon, is a thriving, athletic middle schooler. She has been able to take acting assignments that fit with her family life – including Lifetime’s April 27 “A Sister’s Revenge.” And she’s alive to do it all, a fact particularly meaningful to Burns as it will be eight years in November since the diving accident that could have taken her life or left her paralyzed. It did leave her with a broken neck. It took a surgically-implanted titanium plate and rod and weeks of recovery for her to overcome her injury.
“I always say scars are a sign of victory not defeat,” she declares.
Burns is thankful for the paradigm shift in perspective brought on by her brush with death. “I remember coming out of the hospital and thinking, ‘Okay, its time to re-evaluate,” she tells us. “The first thing that hit me was, ‘Who am I spending my time with?’ I did a total clean out of friends, of people I knew maybe didn’t have the best of intentions, of people who made me wonder, ‘Why am I with this person?’” It’s easy, she notes, to accumulate such acquaintances in the rush of building and keeping a career going in the industry — of “keeping the plates spinning,” as she puts it.
“I tried to go home more, and be with family more, and spend time with the people who mean the most to me. In my parenting, it gave me an incredible sense of seizing the day and making every day with Madison count.”
Burns admits, “It’s easy to get away from that thinking, but I’m fortunate to have constant reminders of what’s important in life and to try to keep my eye on the game in that kind of way. You think about what you want your legacy to be at the end of your life. So it’s almost like having that deathbed kind of perspective in everyday living.”
What it has meant to her professionally is working in a way that allows her to honor her priorities. Recent years have seen her in a string of made-for-cable-TV films.
“My fans are like, ‘Okay, you’re here and then you disappear.’ Part of that has been by design. Having a daughter in middle school is very different from having a young child. It’s a different kind of balancing act,” she observes. “I just remember the middle school and high school years being difficult. As a mother, I want to be fully present for Madison during this time. That’s been key. Julian and I have worked very hard to balance, to make sure one of us is in L.A. if the other parent is out of town. So, these kinds of films, these crazy, insane, really hard hours – but in the big picture, shorter-term schedules – make really great sense for me. Going to Ottawa for four weeks, six weeks, then having time at home works for my life.”
“A Sister’s Revenge” gave her the chance to play a bad girl like never before.
“I’ve gone from Hallmark to pure evil,” she notes. Burns has a great laugh like a cascade of bells that rings out as she talks of this character, who is hell-bent on causing pain and suffering in the life of the man she believes responsible for her sister’s death.
“I loved all the complexities of her. She’s so focused and single-minded about what her mission is, and yet at the same time, to accomplish that mission, she has to play so many different roles. She is seductive, flirting with this man. She tries to befriend his wife. She has to pull off these different roles. So it kept me on my toes.”
This offers vicarious thrills for women, of course. It sounds like every man’s nightmare?
“Yes, exactly! Onscreen payback for everything bad a guy’s ever done to me.” She laughs that laugh. Then she demurs. “No, no. It’s just a treat to do something so different and step outside the box. She really steps out of reality – that’s how far gone she is.”
Meanwhile, Burns is awaiting word on “Where Have You Been All My Life?” – described as sort of a “Dating Game” for the social media age. She’s made two installments for the Game Show Network and will soon see if and when it’s scheduled.
As far as getting back into the series game? It’s something I would be open to – if it were in L.A. I know the hours can be tough, but at least being able to come home at night makes a big difference. But going out of state or out of the country — I would probably have to wait a couple of years before I decided to relocate anywhere, for sure.”
She has a daughter, and soon, a husband to think about.