Establishing and maintaining a successful acting career usually represents the pinnacle of an actress' life and accomplishments, which is understandable and to be expected given the competitiveness of the entertainment industry. Radiant, dark-haired actress Cristina Raines made an impact in the 1970s and 1980s with a career that entailed challenging and notable roles with major directors on the big screen, as well as accessible characterizations on television, that helped her establish a considerable following with the general public. Her career lasted 20 years, from the early 1970s until the 1990s, before quietly retreating from the public eye in order to focus on raising her daughter. When her daughter was older, instead of returning to acting, Raines chose a completely different career path for herself. After years of study and hard work, she is now a registered nurse, specializing in caring for patients who are undergoing dialysis. Even though Cristina Raines remains proud of her acting accomplishments, she does not miss show business because of her fulfillment and satisfaction in being a nurse. She now lives a low-key existence that is far from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood. She graciously consented to an interview with Hill Place Blog to discuss her acting roles and about her current nursing career. In our discussions, Raines proves to be a very positive--as well as intelligent, candid, and self-aware--individual who is the first to compliment and share credit with her colleagues, yet does not mince words nor sugar coat the situation when it comes to discussing the challenging aspects of her acting career. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Cristina Raines for opening up her heart and memories for this interview.
Because of her father's work, Raines grew up around the world: "In addition to the Philippines, we lived in Venezuela for a period of time, then all over Asia, and we'd come back to the States a couple of times a year. We lived in Florida for a period of time and then we ended up in Connecticut, where I finished High School, and then I went to college in Boston. The school I attended is now called Bay State College, but at the time it was called the Chandler School for Women. It was an all-girls business school. Back then, your parents would say to you 'You need to learn how to be a secretary, so you'll always have a job.' So I was a legal secretary. That lasted for about ten minutes!" While in college, Raines started modeling to help pay for her tuition, "I was going to college and then I went to visit my aunt and my uncle in Manhattan. My uncle just looked at me and asked 'Have you ever thought about modeling?' I said, 'No' and he said 'Well, I'm going to send you out to meet some people.' So I went and met a bunch of people in New York and Eileen Ford was one of them. There I was working in New York for the summer with every intention of going back to school."
Even though she wasn't planning on a career in show business, Raines' work as a model in New York eventually led to her acting career: "I was modeling for Eileen Ford and I got called in on an interview for a film. When I went there, I didn't know what it was for because, you know, the modeling agency just gave you a list of appointments that you had to go to. I didn't know it was an acting thing and what did I know about acting? I did plays in high school, big deal. So I went on the interview and I told them I wasn't an actress and that I didn't think that this was for me and that I was only there because Eileen Ford told me to be there! (laugh) And the director just glommed onto me! So I did some readings with him and I did a screen test with Keith Carradine and Gary Busey and Scott Glenn and that was the beginning of my acting career."
Raines' film debut turned out to be the offbeat "Hex," originally filmed under the title "Grasslands" in South Dakota in 1971 by 20th Century-Fox, but which got a limited release in 1973. A bizarre period piece set in 1919 Nebraska, Raines played Oriole, a half-Native American woman living on a farm with her sister Acacia (Hilary Thompson). Their lives are turned upside down when a group made up mostly of World War I veterans traveling the country on motorcycles (played by Keith Carradine, Scott Glenn, Gary Busey, Robert Walker Jr., Mike Combs, and Doria Cook) take refuge on their property. When Busey's character attempts to rape her sister Acacia, Oriole uses her powers of the occult to devise horrible demises for the unruly bikers. An almost indescribable melding of horror, biker, and Western genres, "Hex" remains a quirky early-1970s curiosity piece notable for the early performances of Carradine, Raines, Busey, and Glenn, all of whom would find later success in films and television. Raines plays the lead role of Oriole with a subdued air of mystery and self-possession that stands in contrast to the unrestrained energy of her co-stars.
Despite the obscurity of "Hex" (which was released on VHS as "The Shrieking" and on DVD as "Charms"), Raines fondly recalls how, "That's where I fell in love with acting. I was really lucky because all of those people--Keith, Scott, Gary, Hilary Thompson, Bobby Walker Jr., and everyone else in the film--they were just really good performers. They had a lot of passion for what they did, and it sort of lit my passion for acting and was a wonderful experience. Nothing happened with the movie, which is too bad because the director, Leo Garen, was a really interesting man and a really interesting director. I've never really seen the whole film. There's been so many different versions that they edited of it. Everybody got ahold of it and they were re-editing and re-editing it. I have no idea what it is now. (laugh) It was trying to encompass the biker and horror and western genres and you're talking about the 'Five Easy Pieces' era. You've got the guys on these little motorcycles, and I think my character was half-Native American and she has to get rid of these bikers, and so it's also got a witchcraft element involved. I think that description for the film sounds about right! For me, it was a life changing experience. I loved it, I loved South Dakota, and I loved Henry Crow Dog, who was a Sioux medicine man who Leo Garen had on the set and he was just an amazing human being. It really turned my life around--you're talking about a very conservative Southern girl--and all of a sudden I'm in this movie in the middle of nowhere with a Native American medicine man on the set and these crazy actors! It was wonderful, it was taking a real bite out of life and it was a great time for me."
During the filming of "Hex," Raines began an almost 8-year relationship with Keith Carradine and moved to Los Angeles. (In the original, "making of" documentary that appears on the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray release of "Nashville," Keith Carradine reverently describes his relationship with Raines by stating "Ours was a great love and a great passion. And she is, and was, exquisitely gifted.") She signed with Nina Blanchard Modeling Agency, which led directly to Raines landing her first theatrical agent for acting work, "Nina Blanchard was really a mentor and she kind of took me under her wing and said 'Look, do you really want to be a model or do you want to be an actress?' I said, 'I really want to be an actress.' And so she said, 'Let me get you some interviews with some agents.' So she sent me to meet Dick Clayton--who was Jane Fonda's agent and James Dean's agent--and he signed me. He was a really good man with an amazing reputation in this town as being someone with a lot of integrity and a lot of class. He became Burt Reynolds' personal manager when he wasn't my agent anymore. So I signed up with him and that's how I got my first agent in Hollywood."
Dick Clayton also played a significant role in Raines' career by helping her come up with her screen name "Cristina Raines." After being billed as "Tina Herazo" in "Hex," she soon found it necessary to change names in order to improve her career prospects, "I kept being sent out for Spanish-speaking soap operas, and I don't speak Spanish! But they would call Dick to ask me to come and interview for these roles and I said, 'Uh oh, this name isn't going to work.' So he said, 'Let's change your name.' I said, 'OK, what do I have to do?' He said, 'Just think about what you would like to be called.' And I had no clue! I really had no clue what to do--and I think I've told this story a thousand times--but it was raining one day. And I said to Dick, 'What about Rain?' (laugh) And so he said, 'OK, how about Raines?' I said, 'That'll work.' And it did. I remember I asked him, 'What do you think about that name?' And Dick said, 'That's not my decision.' So that's how I became 'Cristina Raines.'"
Raines' first acting job with her new name was a co-starring role in director Andy Sidaris' feature film debut, the low-budget action film "Stacey" (1973). Former Playboy Playmate Anne Randall plays the title role, a private detective investigating the amoral activities of a wealthy matriarch's family. Her investigation uncovers a complex extortion plot and leads to the expected mayhem and violence. In the course of the story, Randall's Stacey becomes acquainted with Raines' character Pamela, a member of the matriarch's family. A fast-paced, entertaining movie released by New World, Raines admits that "I've never seen it. I remember it was kind of a silly movie, but that's OK. I think I was just happy to have that job and to have that opportunity to work. I honestly had a good time on that film. I didn't work very many days on it. I think it was only three or four days. I remember I liked everybody, I liked Andy Sidaris. As a director, he was good. I had no problems with him. I remember that Anne Randall and Anitra Ford were nice. Andy Sidaris and the cast and crew of that film were actually very supportive. There was no negativity at all connected with that experience. It was really fun."
Raines also appeared in the Charles Bronson film "The Stone Killer" (1973), but her work was completely deleted from the final cut. It would be the first time she would work with director Michael Winner, who she would later collaborate with on "The Sentinel" (1977). As she recalls, "It was like a one-day gig, and Charles Bronson was an absolute doll! He was just a sweetheart, but I was way taller than him and so I had to walk below him during our scenes. It was just one scene--it was sort of like a walk on--and I played his daughter, I think, but they cut me out of the film. It was the first time I worked with Michael Winner, and I had no idea about this dude! (laugh) I was literally only there one day. It was basically, 'Here it is, this is your mark, do your scene.' And then Mr. Bronson showed up on the set, we did the scene and he gave me a nod that that was good and that was it! And then I went home! (laugh) I don't remember having any contact with Michael, really. I think I worked mostly with the cinematographer. I had NO idea what was in store for me later on 'The Sentinel'!"
Soon afterwards, Raines landed her first meaty dramatic role in the heartfelt, acclaimed TV movie "Sunshine" (1973) that aired November 9, 1973 on CBS. Raines played the leading role of Kate Hayden, a young mother of a newborn baby girl who learns she has terminal cancer. Married to struggling musician Sam Hayden (Cliff De Young), Kate wrestles with her rage and frustration at having her young life cut short as well as her sorrow that she will never live to see her daughter grow up. Kate courageously faces her battle with cancer with the support and friendship of her physician, Dr. Carol Gillman (Brenda Vaccaro). As Kate begins to deteriorate, she begins recording a series of audio tapes that she intends to leave with her daughter as a journal imparting her life lessons, dreams and aspirations to her daughter after she is gone. Intelligently written and acted, and directed with unflinching honesty and sensitivity by veteran director Joseph Sargent, "Sunshine" has developed a significant cult following among fans who remember it fondly and were emotionally affected by its storyline.
The film refreshingly depicts its lead characters, who are counter-culture individuals living in poverty on the fringes of society, with humanity and intelligence and without succumbing to goofy hippie stereotypes as so many films and TV shows of its period are wont to do. Raines is excellent as Kate and gives one of the best performances of her career. She plays the lead role with an earthy directness, and a lack of sentimentality, that enables the film to avoid becoming maudlin or cloying. She is also fearless in allowing the audience to witness Kate's physical agony and deterioration. There is no sense of glamorizing or downplaying her battle with cancer the way Ali MacGraw did with "Love Story" (1970). Raines also has confidence and honesty in portraying Kate as a flawed individual who, despite her many positive attributes, is also capable of making mistakes and being headstrong and stubborn at times. In one scene, a stressed-out and angry Kate fights with Sam and almost spanks her daughter out of frustration. Kate is not in her right mind at that moment and, in so doing, Raines ensures that she remains a recognizable human being throughout the story and not a saint.
Raines recalls being passionate about her role in "Sunshine" even before she actually landed it, "Dick Clayton called and said he wanted to send me on an audition. This was in the day when actors got the script to read before they would go in. I don't think actors get that anymore. Now it's sort of like you show up and they give you sides to do cold readings. But, fortunately, I got to read the script for 'Sunshine' before I went in. I think that probably had a lot to do with Dick Clayton and his status as an agent. So I read the script and I absolutely LOVED it! And I just went in and did my audition for Joe Sargent and some of the big wigs from Universal and the producers for the show, including George Eckstein, and that was it and then I got it!"
Over 40 years later, a grateful Raines is quick to share the credit for landing the lead role in 'Sunshine' with the acting coach she was working with at that time, "Before doing 'Sunshine,' I started studying with an acting coach who is still teaching and deserves the most accolades. He is just the most brilliant instructor, and his name is Vincent Chase. He really, really got me to learn how to fine tune my acting skills. At that time, his classes were literally six days a week. You had to show up at 6:00 PM and you usually were done at 12:00 midnight. He made sure that you were committed. It was like my whole world opened up with him in terms of performing. He's a brilliant instructor, just brilliant. And I've studied with a lot of other people but I always went back to him before I would have an audition so that we would work on things and he always had great perspectives. So the fact that I got that part in 'Sunshine,' after only reading with them once, has a lot to do with what I learned from Vincent Chase. I think it kind of stunned a lot of people. They had done auditions in New York for, like, six weeks and then they came out to California to do auditions. I just feel really blessed to have gotten that role and I am grateful to Vincent for teaching me the skills to help me land it."
Raines was barely 20 years old at the time she made "Sunshine." She admits plumbing the emotional peaks and depths of her character was challenging but found assistance in understanding her character from the original audio tapes that the real-life character she was portraying recorded for her daughter. Raines recalls how, "The story of 'Sunshine' was based on the recorded journals of Jacquelyn Helton. She was a very interesting girl who had a very close relationship with her oncologist. I was given some of the audio tapes she had recorded to prepare for this role and I really got a sense of who she was. She was such an old soul and was someone who had made some very sound decisions at a very young age. I think the biggest compliment that I got after the show aired was that the doctor had a very hard time watching it because she said I was like that girl. It was very hard for her to watch it, she was really affected by it. It was a hard performance for me. It really was. I really felt her, I really could feel her. A lot of people sort of look at that character as though she was the 'hippie chick.' With the time era, you could sort of understand that. But, really, she was on welfare and she was really struggling and she had, as I understand it, not a good relationship with her mother at all. She did not have a really happy childhood."
Despite the dark aspects of the storyline, Raines has very happy and positive memories of filming "Sunshine" and is filled with warm memories of her many colleagues on that film, "Carol Sobieski was an amazing writer and she gave us a lot of freedom to change what we needed. It wasn't, 'OK, you have to stick to this dialogue.' She gave us room to move. And Joe Sargent is the epitome of a dream director. Everybody who works with Joe falls madly in love with him because he's such an incredible director. He's such a positive force and he's so full of life and energy and he's a great, great director. He really gave me room to find the character. Joe, I would say, was my favorite director ever. He never tried to dictate or control my performance, he let me find my way. Joe's got a heart the size of a barn. Plus, he was an actor himself, so he really tunes in to what you're doing. Sometimes, he would just say one word to me--it would be whatever had to do with the scene--and he paid such close attention to the performers that he would just look at me and he would just say something and I would get what he was saying. We had really good communication between one another. And he would come up to me and say 'Well, why don't you try this?...' and I would try it and it would work. Or it wouldn't work. It was a real process. He allowed the process of creating to just happen. And we got lots of surprises that way, which is great, and he would be all excited about it. And then you've got Bill Butler who's a brilliant cinematographer. Bill and his wife Iris are still my very good friends. He's just amazing. He did such low lighting, which nobody did back then--and he would say to me, 'I hope this comes out!' (laugh) And I said, 'Oh God, Bill, don't say that to me!' That film was a very, very happy experience for me. That was a really powerful, powerful piece. I worked with great actors. Cliff DeYoung, Meg Foster. I remember feeling very blessed. And Brenda Vaccaro was awesome. She was just awesome. I'm telling you, I just loved her. She was a great lady. Talk about an incredible sense of humor! Very earthy and fun. It was just your dream experience as a performer. I have had a couple of dream experiences in my acting career, but that was my #1."
As a result of working on "Sunshine," Raines was signed to a long-term, 7 year contract with Universal, the studio that produced the film. Raines recalls that, "I wasn't allowed to accept the project without becoming a contract player. It was either, 'You become a contract player or we're not offering you the role.' I think that was the bottom line." As I mentioned before, in my interview with Ana Alicia, Monique James, who ran the talent program at Universal, was known for having strong opinions about which actors she preferred who were under contract to the studio, and could be severe and unfair with those she disfavored. Unfortunately, through no fault of her own, Cristina Raines found being under contract with Universal to be a double-edged sword for precisely those reasons. Raines candidly acknowledges that "Monique James did not like me because she didn't want me for that role in 'Sunshine.' She had her stable of favorite actresses and she apparently fought pretty hard to keep me from getting that role. She made life very difficult for me. I was completely prepared to cooperate and work with her, but she was not a nice person. Not to me anyway. She really, REALLY didn't like me. I was even warned by people to be very careful with her. The reason I got the contract was because the executives in the Black Tower at Universal wanted me under contract, and she didn't have the power to overrule them on that issue. At least that was my understanding. That's why I didn't work as much at Universal as the other contract players. She even fought to keep me from being loaned out to do 'The Duellists' (1977). She went out of her way to try to prevent that from happening. The director, Ridley Scott, called me and said, 'You know I'm getting a lot of pushback about borrowing you to do this film.' Much to her dismay, she also unsuccessfully tried to prevent Bob Altman from hiring me to do 'Nashville' (1975). That happened more than I can tell you. I don't want to volunteer what the other instances were, because it just sounds like sour grapes, but some of them were pretty major films. At this point, I really don't care, but I was warned very early on about Monique and they were right. That's all I can say. Every single role that I was able to get during that time was a challenge just to get it."
Despite Monique James' efforts, Raines' next project proved to be one of the most acclaimed American films of the 1970s, and one of the best films of Raines' career, Robert Altman's controversial masterpiece, "Nashville" (1975), released by Paramount. A documentary-like, Country & Western musical satire of mid-1970s, post-Watergate and post-Vietnam America, "Nashville" told the intertwining story of 24 major characters who are in the country musical capital during one eventful week while a third-party Presidential candidate is organizing a rally to help further his campaign. Raines played Mary, the distaff member of the rock trio "Bill, Mary and Tom" who is unhappily to Bill (Allan Nicholls) while having an affair and hopelessly in love with the other member of the trio, the womanizing Tom Frank (Keith Carradine). Raines more than held her own in such a large ensemble cast and participated in some memorable scenes that continue to be dissected and analyzed by serious film critics and scholars.
Raines is effectively subtle in the scene where she is lying in bed with Tom, repeatedly telling him "I love you, I love you," only to look up and realize that he's asleep the entire time and hasn't absorbed anything she's told him. She is also particularly good in the scene where she argues with her husband Bill on Sunday morning about her infidelity in their cluttered hotel room as campaign organizer John Triplette (Michael Murphy) arrives to try and convince them to appear at the political rally for his candidate Hal Phillip Walker. Raines' Mary tells Triplette with deadpan bluntness "We can't vote for him because we're registered Democrats and, besides, he's kind of crazy isn't he?" all the while putting cold cream on her face and lighting a cigarette in front of Triplette to demonstrate her indifference and disdain to him. Later, Mary has a heartfelt musical moment when she sings, along with her husband Bill and paramour Tom, the bluesy "Since You've Gone," expressing her disappointment and frustration about her affair after having just learned moments earlier that Tom has recently spent the night with bubble-headed, blabber-mouthed BBC reporter Opal (Geraldine Chaplin). Later, Raines also has an effective moment as she watches Tom singing the Oscar winning, iconic "I'm Easy" to a room full of admiring women. Wiping back tears, Mary scans the room trying to figure out who among the audience Tom is actually singing the song to.
Raines recalled that she landed the role in "Nashville" because "I was involved with Keith Carradine at the time--we lived together--and Keith was someone that Bob Altman frequently used in his films. And so people would hang out at his office at Lion's Gate (Altman's production company at the time) and they'd be playing music. And everybody loved Bob, you couldn't not love Bob. And everybody loved Kathryn, his wife, who was just an amazing lady. I remember there was a screening for something he was shooting, and Paul Newman was there, and Keith was shooting a film somewhere. Bob had asked me to come to the screening, and that's when he asked me 'Do you want to be in this movie? Do you want to be in 'Nashville'?'' and so I said, 'Sure.' And that was it! That's how I got cast in 'Nashville'!"
Once filming started, Raines completely embraced the democratic atmosphere of working on an Altman film and recalls that the experience "was like a traveling troupe from the medieval ages. He had people that he liked to use over and over again. He really was good at casting. Everybody had very distinct personalities and everybody would meet at the end of the day to watch dailies, because Bob really liked to have everybody see their own work. And so we'd sit around and watch dailies and then afterwards people would have their cocktails and we'd talk about it and then we'd all go home. But that was nightly. It was like he wanted everybody to be involved in the entire process of making that film. Plus, there was always the dynamics between the actors and their characters on screen and Bob just sat back and watched what was transpiring before him. So it was really an interesting film to work on. He was good at creating that kind of atmosphere. Bob Altman and Joe Sargent were similar as directors. They just had that uncanny ability to just see what was going on and just give you a push in one direction or another without, you know, getting verbose and talking about it for two hours. (laugh) They were just very present and in the moment with you. They were wonderful that way. I had no idea at the time that it would turn out to be such a landmark movie, but I knew it was an Altman film and I knew that he had a particular following. But, you know, sometimes when you're on a set you can feel whether a movie will be good or not, and I just knew 'Nashville' was going to be really good. It's all due to the direction and the cinematography and the sound, which was something that had never been done before, with the multiple people talking all the time. Bob was innovative and creative and he allowed the people that he worked with to be as creative and innovative as they wanted to be and it was so powerful. It was a powerful experience."
Raines has very fond memories of the other 23 principal cast members she worked with on "Nashville" and recalls how, during the ten weeks of filming on location in Nashville, Tennessee, that "we spent so much time together as a group, if we weren't at the motel, where the production offices were located and where everybody was watching dailies and everything, we'd all be in each other's apartments, because we were all staying in the same place. Our doors were always open for each other. We would have dinner together, we would cook together, we got to know each other pretty well for the most part--some more than others--but at least we got a sense of everybody. We all knew we were there for one reason, there were no ulterior motives or agendas with anyone in the cast, and everybody was there to support each other. Working on 'Nashville' sort of became your life while you were there on location. It became kind of an obsession. It became an all-consuming experience. I don't know how else to explain it. Everybody's life became intertwined and it was just like the characters we were playing in the film."
Going down the list alphabetically through the main cast, Raines recalls that "David Arkin was hilarious and a real character. Barbara Baxley was wonderful, a great, earthy lady. She was very bright and would always talk politics, she was very interesting that way, just like her character! I love Ned Beatty, he's just a good guy, and he's very funny. Karen Black was one cast member I didn't know much about. I never really had much conversation with her. She wasn't really there for the whole shoot. She kind of came in and left. She was only really there, I don't know, maybe a week or so on the shoot. I got to know her a little better years later and I liked her. In contrast, I got to know Ronee Blakley really well. I love Ronee. She really was a fragile bird, and I really admired how talented she was. She was great. Timothy Brown I got to know a little bit, not a whole lot, but he was very congenial, comfortable to be around. Nice guy. As you already know, Keith and I were living together and he is a great person who is very passionate and conscientious about his work, and very giving and generous to his colleagues. Geraldine Chaplin was a real character, very interesting to observe and be around. Bob just loved her and I really liked her as well. I thought Geraldine was really cool. Robert DoQui was awesome and was like everybody's best friend on that film. Shelley Duvall was OK. I mean, I knew Shelley for a really long time. I don't know that she was really happy with her role on the film. She would kind of not really hang out. She would, but she wouldn't, you know what I mean? I didn't really spend much time with her on that film. I think she felt...well, she was really upset one night because of her role and I felt really bad for her. Allen Garfield was a cool guy. It's not like I got to know him really well, I didn't, but I remember he was very kind. I adored Henry Gibson! I got to know him very well. He was just the best ever! I loved him! He was hilarious to work with, he just never missed much, and I felt very safe around Henry! (laugh) Scott Glenn was a dear friend of both me and Keith--we worked with him on my first film--and we spent lots of time together. Scott's a great human being, he's a really good guy. He is not afraid of anything. He is the most fearless, fearless person I've ever met in my life. He is a unique human being."
As Raines continues describing the rest of the cast, she acknowledges that, "I didn't really get to know Jeff Goldblum very well on 'Nashville,' though I worked with him again on 'The Sentinel.' I actually got to know more about Jeff at the 'Nashville' reunion screening at the Academy in 2000 than anything else. I never really had a conversation with Jeff on 'Nashville.' I loved Barbara Harris. She was, honestly, one of my favorite people. Absolutely, hilariously funny. She was always coming over and hanging out with us. She just had a great take on everything. She is funny, that lady is very funny. If I needed to laugh, I'd go find Barbara because she was great. I never got to know David Hayward very well at all, and I don't think we ever had a conversation even. Michael Murphy's a great guy, I've known him a long time. He's such an underrated actor. He's very subtle and very good at what he does. He's been doing good work for a long time and he was a dear friend of Bob Altman's and Kathryn. Michael's a really good man, a really good human being with a lot of integrity. He's a hard one to find, there's not a lot of people like him. Allan Nicholls, who played my husband, was an amazing guy, amazingly talented and what can you say about someone you just adore? I just loved him. Dave Peel, I did not get to know him, that's another one I didn't get to know very well, and I really don't know why. I have no excuse because we were often in each others' presence during the making of that film. I loved Bert Remsen. I met Bert Remsen back when Shelley and Keith did 'Thieves Like Us.' I just loved him, such a smart and gracious guy. Lily Tomlin is another one who is great. She's awesome, she's just awesome. Lily is Lily. Lily is unique and honest and funny and has a very good view of what's going on around her. Gwen Welles was a sweetheart. You just wanted to protect Gwen. I loved Gwen. She sadly passed away several years ago. And I adored Keenan Wynn. He was a challenge, at times, but he was brilliant in his role. Just brilliant."
Even though Raines thoroughly enjoyed working on "Nashville," she faced some challenges with incorporating Altman's famous improvisational direction of performers in his films with her own acting style. She admits that Altman directed her to put cold cream on her face during the scene when her character meets with Michael Murphy's John Triplette about appearing at Hal Phillip Walker's rally because "that was Bob telling me what to do because I was telling him 'I don't know what to do here!' (laugh) It's true that I wanted to stick close to the dialogue that Joan Tewkesbury had written for the movie and I wasn't comfortable with doing improv. I don't know why. I just...it made me nervous. Look at all the people I was working with! They were SO good with improv, so great, and I would just freeze at the thought of doing improv in front of them. But that's all right. I got through it because I was working with a lot of good people who were very supportive." Raines also admits that she struggled with singing the Gary Busey-penned song "Since You've Gone" along with her on-screen singing partners Keith Carradine and Allan Nicholls, "I hate it. (laugh) I was just so terrified when I was singing. Bob used to make us all sing our songs when we'd get together and it would just terrify me. I think I've said it a million times, but I would have rather been naked running down the street than singing in front of people! But, you know, it turned out fine. I sang a little bit in 'Sunshine,' but that was different because you're sitting there with your significant other and singing. But, in 'Nashville,' I had to really sing and I was afraid I wasn't going to be any good. Richard Baskin, the music director, worked with all of us to prepare us for our musical numbers and he was good, he was helpful. Keith and Allan were also very supportive. But once you're up there doing it, there's nothing you can do about it, you've just gotta go for it! (laugh)"
Raines recalls that, during the filming of "Since You've Gone," the backup musician playing the base guitar in the scene attempted to give her more confidence in herself, but only caused her to have even more concerns with filming the scene. As she explains, "We were filming in a small club filled with a couple of dozen people and the guy playing the guitar was trying to reassure me and he said 'Remember, hundreds of thousands of people are going to see this scene!' and I froze! I just went, 'Oh my God!' You know what I mean? Because he reminded me that it wasn't just the people in the club who were going to watch this scene, it was also everybody who would see the film. I had to think outside the box when he pointed that out to me! It totally freaked me out, because I was just in the moment there."
While Raines credits the excellence of "Nashville" to Robert Altman's direction, she is also quick to acknowledge the enormous contribution of screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury to the film. As she explains, "Bob was the same way with writers as he was with actors and has given a lot of people opportunities to find their own voice, which is a pretty darn nice gift to give somebody. Bob gave Joan a carte blanche and basically told her to go to Nashville and she came up with the story and characters after visiting the city. Even though the actors were allowed room to improvise and provide input, Joan's job on the set was to coordinate all of their ideas and properly integrate them into the film. That woman worked 24/7 on that film. She was always on call for the actors and it was a very structured script and everyone worked within that structure. Even though there was a lot of improv, there was also a lot of dialogue in the script that was already there. It wasn't like people just went in and said 'Oh, I'm going to do this in this scene' without consideration of how it would work in the overall film. There was a definite structure to 'Nashville.' She worked all the time on that film because there was always somebody in there talking with her about what they wanted to say and do with their scenes."
"Nashville" was one of the most controversial and acclaimed movies of 1975. It was nominated for five Academy Awards®, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress for Ronee Blakley and Lily Tomlin, and Best Song for Keith Carradine's "I'm Easy." It won only one Oscar®, with Carradine winning for Best Song. The film became one of the most discussed and analyzed films of the decade. Even though the acclaim and publicity did wonders towards raising Cristina Raines' profile as a rising and promising young actress, she acknowledges she struggled a bit with the attention and was conscious about maintaining a healthy perspective with her sudden success, "'Nashville' had a very positive effect on my career, but it was also a little scary. I had to back away a little bit from working. It just frightened me because there was so much going on. My thing was not about being a star, it was about being a good performer, so it was definitely interesting and overwhelming. I mean, I was only 20 years old at the time! Jeff Goldblum was not the youngest actor on that set! (laugh) I was still a raw person. I remember thinking, 'What, what am I supposed to do about all of this? How come they want me here? Why do they want me to come there and read for that?' I was really an idiot. (laugh) In contrast, Keith dove right into it. He was happy and really handled the success well, but it terrified me. But that's just the way it is. Those are two different ways of dealing with things and he won the Oscar as a result. Keith was a lot sharper than I am in that way."
One of the major themes of "Nashville" was its examination of the increasingly symbiotic relationship of politics and entertainment. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, due to the climate of the period, more and more actors and entertainers became politically active than ever before. Raines was an exception and differed from most of her contemporaries because of her aversion to using her visibility to influence public opinion. Raines never felt that being an actress and a celebrity gave her the authority to lecture the public on what political views or opinions they should take. She admits that she often turned down opportunities to speak as a political activist because, "When I used to be a celebrity, I was never comfortable with people asking me to use whatever visibility I had to take a political position and influence public opinion. I do not feel that that's the right thing to do. I feel that that's celebrity-worship and I always felt that actors are no different than anybody else. They're just human beings with an opinion. That's a responsibility, trying to influence how people should vote, that's a BIG responsibility. It should be done by people with the knowledge and credentials to speak intelligently on a subject. I just didn't feel right to take a public position on an issue and expect people to follow it just because I was a celebrity. I think it's presumptuous and irresponsible, especially when a celebrity takes a position and it turns out they are not well-informed about it. I mean, if you want to be involved in saving the environment--OK, be involved with saving the environment. But get all of your facts and information and do it as a private individual contributing your time to help. Don't do it as a famous celebrity throwing your weight around. There's all sorts of ways of participating in our Democratic system in America, which is SUCH a gift that we have. And one way of participating is by simply voting in an intelligent and informed manner and being part of the political process. When people don't vote, I get very upset. My daughter is very conscientious about politics, but she's like me: 'Don't throw it around. Just go vote.'"
Raines' first role after "Nashville" was as the female lead in "Russian Roulette" (1975). George Segal, then in the midst of his 1970s popularity, plays a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer who stumbles upon a plot hatched by rogue KGB agents to assassinate the Russian premier while he is visiting Vancouver. Raines plays Segal's love interest and colleague, a file clerk with the RCMP. In the course of the story, Segal and Raines get kidnapped by the conspirators, escape from their custody and work together to try to avert the assassination. Raines' association with Robert Altman helped land her this role because "Louie Lombardo, the director, did editing for Altman. He called me in and I auditioned and got the role. That was a movie I don't remember a whole lot about. It was OK, it wasn't bad. I liked the experience because George Segal is a really good guy. He's actually very funny. I had to try and keep a straight face a lot of the time. He was always making me smile, and we were making a suspense thriller, so that was the challenge of working on that film. And I loved Canada, I loved Vancouver, I just loved working in that area. It was a fun experience. I have more memories of the locations than the actual film. (laugh) I hate to say it, but it's true!"
Raines' next feature film was made under her Universal contract, the horror film "The Sentinel" (1977), directed by Michael Winner, coming after the success of "Death Wish" (1974) and based on Jeffrey Konvitz's best selling novel. Raines had earlier worked with director Winner on "The Stone Killer," but had very little contact with him on that film. Raines starred in the lead role of Allison Parker, an emotionally fragile New York fashion model who moves into an elegant Brooklyn brownstone apartment. She soon falls victim to strange visits from her neighbors (who include Burgess Meredith, Sylvia Miles and Beverly D'Angelo) and is terrified by strange noises and footsteps coming from the empty apartment right above her. She is told by the real estate agent who rented her the unit (Ava Gardner) that, aside from herself and a blind priest (John Carradine) who lives on the top floor, no one else has been living in that apartment for years. Allison eventually learns that the apartment is built over the gateway to Hell, that the Catholic Church owns the building and have selected her to be the next Sentinel to replace the blind priest who has been living there, guarding and standing watch for decades. She further learns that the neighbors she has met are emissaries from Hell who are trying to drive her crazy so that she will commit suicide and be unable to replace the blind priest. Preventing her from becoming the next Sentinel would allow the demons of Hell to escape and spread their evil and hatred through the world. At the end of the film, good triumphs over evil and Allison assumes her role as the next Sentinel, having turned into an elderly blind nun, now guarding the gateway to Hell for generations to come.
"The Sentinel" was arguably Raines' meatiest role since "Sunshine," yet the movie suffered from negative reviews and indifferent box office at the time. Most critics denounced director Michael Winner's use of people who were born with real life physical deformities and disabilities to play the demons from Hell terrorizing Allison in the finale of the movie. It was a tactic reminiscent of the casting in Tod Browning's classic morality tale "Freaks" (1934), but without the intelligence and sensitivity Browning imbued his film with. Raines candidly admits that she has unhappy memories about the film, a sentiment that becomes understandable when one learns about her negative experience working with director Winner during its production. Raines shudders as she candidly recalls, "That was another one where Monique James told the director, Michael Winner, not to use me, and he told me that. He picked me anyway, but that was a terrible experience. All I can say is that the New York Teamsters, who worked on the crew of that film, saved my life. That's all I'm gonna say. They were a stellar group of guys and they protected me from Michael Winner. If any of them are reading this, I want to say 'Thank you' because they made a point of letting him know that he'd better not mess with me. And I've never been afraid of anyone before, but that man was scary. It was really a frightening experience working for him. That man put me through hell. You know...he used people with real disabilities for the finale of that film. They were lovely and kind people, and he was unkind to them. He would also try to shoot Ava Gardner making her look really awful. Ava was still a stunningly beautiful woman, but he would go out of his way to light her badly, on purpose, to try and make her look bad. I wasn't aware at first that Michael was doing that. The cinematographer came over to me and he said 'Look at the way Michael's lighting Ava. He's trying to make her look horrible.' So I said to him, 'OK, let me see what I can do to help out.' I would work with the cinematographer and we would be in cahoots together so that we could figure out a way to give her better lighting to make sure she didn't look bad. What we would do is that I would distract Michael long enough for the cinematographer to reset the camera, that sort of thing. NOBODY liked that man. He was just unkind."
In contrast to working with Michael Winner, Raines remembers the rest of her colleagues from "The Sentinel" with great fondness and respect and acknowledges how working with them brought some balance and perspective to that film. She fondly recalls how "Chris Sarandon is a doll! He is an absolute doll! He's a wonderful guy, he was a lot of fun. He's just a really good actor. Ava Gardner was...what's the word? She was such an icon, she was just this great lady who had a great sense of humor--a bawdy sense of humor--and she didn't miss much. You know, people would kind of try to pull things over on her, like the director, and she just would look at me to show me that she knew what was going on. That woman was savvy. She got very protective of me when she was on the set because he was so awful to me, and then she would step in and do her thing in her Ava Gardner way and he would back off. Yeah, she was real protective, she was amazing. Burgess Meredith was a very interesting man. He was very interested in the world. He had a very interesting history. Burgess was WAY ahead of his time. He was good friends with John Lilly and Carlos Castaneda, and he was interested in things that people are interested in now. He was a great thinker, a great philosopher, and he was wonderful to work with on that film. Arthur Kennedy was an absolute gentleman. Very sweet and very nice and just a powerful actor. Deborah Raffin was wonderful and she and I actually became very good friends on that film. I got very protective of her because Michael was just terrible to everybody. I became friendly with Deborah and her husband Michael Viner. We lost touch with each other after awhile and I was really sad when I learned that she passed away. Beverly D'Angelo was hilarious. She's really funny and Sylvia Miles is an iconic actress, a real pro, and she's been around forever. They just played their roles tongue-in-cheek, they just went for it, no holds barred. (laugh) I had a strange scene with Beverly [where D'Angelo's character casually performs an obscene act in front of an increasingly uncomfortable and appalled Raines] and she just had a wonderful sense of humor about it. It's like I said, she went for it tongue-in-cheek, you know, they both did. They made fun of it themselves. That's how they got through it, which is another thing that made Michael Winner really mad! (laugh) He didn't like anybody, he didn't like anybody having fun, he didn't like anybody liking anybody else! (laugh)"
Raines also has very fond memories of working with legendary makeup artist Dick Smith. Smith devised the makeup for Raines' final scene in the film, which shows how Allison has turned, from a youthful fashion model, into an aged, elderly, blind nun guarding the gateway to Hell. Raines recalls with genuine awe, "What was a treat working on that movie, aside from the craziness of the director, was Dick Smith, the makeup artist. What an amazing man he is, what an amazing body of work he has. He's been a mentor to so many people in the special effects world. He was so helpful to everybody in the business, so helpful to all of these new, young artists. He had me come out to his house, where we had to do the contact lenses and the makeup and everything. That really was me at the end of the movie, in all that makeup, as the blind nun. I had to wear those false contact lenses in my eyes. I tell you what, that was pretty creepy. That was an odd experience and Dick was really sweet. He just said 'Don't worry. You're OK, you're OK. I'm right here' because I was really freaking out wearing that makeup and those contacts."
For many viewers, one of the most interesting aspects of "The Sentinel" is the apartment building that much of the film is set in. Raines recalls that the film was shot on location inside the Brooklyn brownstone apartment on 10 Montague Terrace that was the setting for the film, and not on a sound stage, and that the location helped set the tone for the movie, "Everything was actually shot in that building. It was a pretty creepy location. And my dressing room in the building was actually the room of a priest. There was just some strange stuff that happened on that movie to everybody. It was just, you know, weird coincidences and we all kind of looked at each other and said 'Oh, I don't want to mess with this, this is bad news! (laugh)"
As production on "The Sentinel" continued, it became apparent that the cast of the film were not the only individuals having a difficult time working with director Michael Winner. Winner also feuded with writer Jeffrey Konvitz, who wrote the original novel the film was based on, and with the studio, Universal, over creative decisions. Raines recalls that, "The book was written by a very good author, Jeffrey Konvitz. Konvitz was on set and I think he was protective because Michael Winner was taking great license and changing what he wanted to change without authority. And it upset Konvitz because it was not what he wrote and the book was really very good. So there was a lot of drama and turmoil between Michael and the executives at Universal. Apparently, he wouldn't let anybody see the dailies and he hid them and he just did some weird things and he made everybody's life miserable. To tell you the truth, I've never seen it because it was such a bad experience. I cried every single day to work. It's too bad because I felt at the beginning that it would be a good part and would make a good film. Oh well, I tried! (laugh)"
In contrast to the negative experience, and lukewarm critical reception of "The Sentinel," Raines' next film, "The Duellists" (1977), turned out to be one of the happiest experiences and most acclaimed films of her career. Based on a Joseph Conrad story, the historical drama starred Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel as two French Army officers during the Napoleonic era whose rivalry and enmity with one another sets in motion a series of duels, spread over many years, where both men attempt to defend their honor and pride. An intelligent drama punctuated with beautiful period detail and exciting action, "The Duellists" was the auspicious feature film directorial debut of Ridley Scott, who had already made a name for himself in television commercials. Raines plays the love interest and eventual wife of Keith Carradine's character and has only praise for her colleagues and fond memories of this experience. As she recalls, "Oh, it was the best! 'The Duellists' was a much happier experience for me. That was just a total magic time. Great crew, great director, great script, great cast, great everything. And it was so low-budget that we were working wardrobe, we were doing everything! (laugh) We were carrying equipment, we were all participating and had a hand in just about all aspects of the production! It made those of us in the cast feel even more passionate about the film because we were involved not just as actors but also as crew members. I remember Harvey Keitel is one of the funniest people I've ever met. He is great, he is hilarious. Albert Finney and Edward Fox were so wonderful, both of them. Albert Finney, God, he just opens his mouth and he just commands the room and he is a really wonderful man. Edward Fox is pretty much like he comes across on screen, very serious, because he's a thinker, but he's also got a very wonderful dry sense of humor. You know, if you're not paying attention to what he's saying, you'd miss it, because he's got that dry British humor. (laugh)"
Raines thoroughly enjoyed working with Ridley Scott on his first film and was impressed with the visual beauty that he and the cinematographer brought to "The Duellists." Raines recalls, "As a director, Ridley Scott is very quiet and very intense. He's very, very focused on what he does and with creating his vision for the film. At the same time, he's very available to his performers. I remember he worked very closely with his cinematographer and he used a lot of natural light for that film. Let me tell you, a lot of what you see in that film is a lot of natural light, including scenes that have candles in them. We had a very low-budget, but we had a brilliant cinematographer, Frank Tidy, who created brilliant images for that film. I don't remember a whole lot of lights anywhere, I'll tell you that right now! (laugh) We would shoot it at a certain time during the day and then we'd have to get the shot really fast! (laugh)"
La Hotel la Hoirie and it was run by Mr. and Mrs. Fasola and their daughter Toinette. We became friends and I said to them 'Have you ever had Thanksgiving dinner?' because we were there for Thanksgiving and they said 'No.' I described what Thanksgiving meant to Americans and they got all excited and decided that we were going to make a Thanksgiving dinner for the entire crew and cast! So they went out shopping and I remember that they came into the kitchen with two turkeys and they had to be plucked! (laugh) When I told them we also have pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, Mr. Fasola said 'That's what we feed the pigs!' because he had his own little garden and everything. (laugh) I remember we cooked for two days. I had my family send over some cranberries in a box and we made cranberry sauce. We made pumpkin pie and apple pie and stuffing, and Mr. Fasola went down into the cellar and brought out some very special wine and we had a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner. It was just one of those experiences that was really magical. Everybody really enjoyed the dinner and people played music, because Keith is a great guitarist. It was a moment of all of us sharing cultures and it was really, really wonderful. 'The Duellists' was just one of the best experiences of my life and acting career."
Raines' next several projects were leading roles in television miniseries based on best selling novels produced by Universal and aired on NBC. First up was the lead role in "Loose Change," the adaptation of Sara Davidson's best selling memoir of three women attending and graduating from Berkeley in the 1960s and experiencing the cultural and political upheaval of the time period. Raines played Kate Evans, a role based on Sara Davidson herself, and starred alongside Season Hubley and Laurie Heineman. A 6-hour miniseries that aired over three nights from February 26 thru 28, 1978, "Loose Change" is remembered for the technical error that occurred when NBC, on the show's second night, accidentally aired approximately 20 minutes of the third night's episode. Raines recalls that "I really, really liked the people I worked with on that show. I loved working with Season Hubley and Laurie Heineman, and Gregg Henry, Ben Masters, and Stephen Macht were all great. Gregg was the one I worked with the most, but they were all great guys. Gregg Henry's a wonderful person, he's a really great guy, he was a lot of fun to work with. When I say that someone's fun to work with, it's not just that they're fun to work with. It's that they're generous performers. They're present in the scene and they want the scene to work. They come up with ideas. It's working with someone as a team to create something good. There's a joie de vivre, there's a joy in it. Whenever I have that experience with an actor like Gregg and I say 'He was a joy to work with,' I'm saying that it's someone who is professional, someone who is creative, someone who enjoys what they do, someone who enjoys working with other people and is not looking in the mirror. They're present and they're with you and what's important is the work. I also really liked Sara Davidson. She was awesome, a really interesting lady. She's a really good writer and her book was really good. However, it was fraught with problems because they had changed it significantly from the novel. But we made it, we survived it. I understand why Davidson wasn't happy with the miniseries. That was a battle that she had with the producers over the changes they made to her book, so there were some definite problems on that show."
Raines' next major project was another period piece, the epic 12 episode, 25 hour miniseries "Centennial," based on James Michener's novel, which aired on NBC from October 1, 1978 to February 4, 1979. A Western drama that recounted the nearly 200 year history of the fictional town of Centennial, Colorado, Raines played Lucinda McKeag Zendt. The daughter of French/Canadian fur trader Pasquinel (Robert Conrad) and his Native American wife Clay Baskett (Barbara Carrera), Lucinda is raised by Scottish trapper Alexander McKeag (Richard Chamberlain), who marries Lucinda's mother after the death of Pasquinel. Lucinda later marries Mennonite Levi Zendt (Gregory Harrison), has two children with him, and opens a general store in Centennial that becomes one of the community's central businesses. The role allowed Raines an opportunity to play Lucinda from her teenage years to an elderly woman. Produced by Universal, "Centennial" was both critically acclaimed and a ratings success, and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Drama.
Raines has very fond memories of "Centennial" and readily recalls how she "loved every minute of it. I took my grandmother with me on that shoot because my grandfather had just passed away. It was wonderful for her because she hung out with everybody and she was like everybody's mascot. I remember Kario Salem, who played my brother in it, came up to me at the airport because 'I have to meet the woman who's traveling with her grandmother and her dog!' And I said, 'Well, that's me!' (laugh) Yeah, that was an awesome piece to work on and I remember how James Michener came on the set--and my grandmother is a writer--and they became friendly. I got a very sweet letter from Mr. Michener when the show was over. I just loved everybody on it. It was another life changing experience for me on an internal level, because I learned a lot and matured during that time. And I just loved my character so I felt very much at peace and at one with that character. It was really nice to play Lucinda. Barbara Carrera used to call me 'Loose Linda' and I used to call her 'Basket Case.' (laugh) Richard Chamberlain was fine to work with, a little bit of a character. A couple of years ago, I ran into him and I said 'Hi, Mr. Chamberlain. Remember me? I played your daughter on 'Centennial' and he looked at me like 'Who the Hell are you?!' (laugh) I think what that was about is that Chamberlain was the kind of actor who showed up on the set completely in-character and he stayed in-character the entire time we worked together. On the set, he always spoke as his character, McKeag, and addressed me as my character, Lucinda. We never had a conversation as ourselves, as 'Richard Chamberlain' and 'Cristina Raines' on set. I never socialized or got to know him as 'Richard Chamberlain.' Because he is such a dedicated Method Actor, I think that's why he didn't recognize me after all these years because he probably associated me in his mind with my character. I was not offended that he didn't recognize me because I admire that dedication and he's still a lovely guy. Gregory Harrison, who played my husband, was wonderful to work with. He's just a great guy. Everybody was wonderful."
Because Raines' character, Lucinda, experiences much in her lifetime and is allowed to age before the audience's eyes, the role offered much depth and range. Raines recalls that "Of course, I liked the younger portion of the story, but I also liked the portion where her husband Levi leaves because he's going back East to see his family, and her character doesn't know if he's ever going to come back. I had them make me a fat suit for that age period because nobody at that age is still skinny. I wore a size two at that time and I was really thin. The fat suit looked great, and the old age makeup was great. You know, I liked all of the miniseries, really, and how it showed the passage of time and how the community and characters developed because time moves on. Thing's change. They shot it in the same chronological order as the book. They did Robert Conrad, Barbara Carrera and Richard Chamberlain first, and then they brought me in, and then the actors who came later in the story would join the show when it came time to film their scenes. It was not one of those shows where all the actors, spanning the different eras of the story, were there at the same time. They did shoot some of the scenes in Texas, the cattle scenes and all of that, while we were filming the rest of the show in Colorado at the same time. A lot of that was second-unit and then they brought them back and everybody ended up in Greeley, Colorado. That's where we all stayed, at the Holiday Inn where we'd get into the little bus every day and drive to the set. (laugh) It's funny, the things that you remember from a shoot."
During this time, while Raines was still with Universal, she was in the running to play Loretta Lynn in the film adaptation of her memoir "Coal Miner's Daughter." The notion of casting Raines was mentioned in a May 13, 1979 Washington Post article about the making of the film. Even though Raines was reluctant to discuss what films during her Universal contract Monique James sabotaged her chances of appearing in, Raines acknowledges, when asked, that "Coal Miner's Daughter" was one of them. As she recalls, "Joe Sargent, who directed me in 'Sunshine,' was going to direct it and he wanted me for it. And what happened there was more political than anything else, I think. Monique James had her hand in that, she tried to stop me from being cast in it. I screen-tested for it and, in the end, they went with Sissy Spacek. Joe Sargent ultimately walked away from the project because there were creative differences in general between him and the producers. Because he didn't want to direct it anymore, I said to him 'Joe, this is gonna make you a huge director. This is going to be a huge hit.' Well, was it? Yes! And Sissy Spacek was absolutely brilliant in it and deserved winning the Best Actress Oscar. Things happen for a reason. Sissy and I knew each other in New York because she was also a model for Eileen Ford. We weren't like best friends or anything, but we knew each other that way and we hung out together. She was always a great girl."
At this point, Raines had grown tired of Monique James' interference with her career. Rather than continuing to struggle with the situation, Raines took proactive measures and requested to be released from her contract with Universal. As she recalls, "I think when I signed the contract it had to be for 7 years, but I actually requested to be released from it after 5 years. It's a long story, but I was released from it after I did 'Centennial.' I had a friend at Universal who had some influence and he made a phone call and that was that. It was a relief to be able to freelance and make my own decisions about my career, but I admit that I liked Universal overall, and I liked all the people I worked with at Universal except Monique James. The executives at Universal in the Black Tower actually were very supportive of me and my career there. I had no bad experiences at Universal with them. They were good guys. I didn't do as many TV guest roles at Universal as the other contract players because Monique didn't want me working at all. But, during my contract, I still guest starred on some of their shows--like 'Kojak' and a couple of other ones--basically because it was the producers of those shows that requested me."
Now working as a free agent, Raines co-starred in the TV movie "The Child Stealer" (1979) starring Beau Bridges and Blair Brown, which aired March 9, 1979 on ABC. Bridges plays a divorced father who kidnaps his two daughters with whom he shares custody with his ex-wife, played by Blair Brown. Raines played Bridges' well-meaning girlfriend, who initially believes his stories and goes along with helping to raise his daughters while they are on the run from the law. Eventually, she wises up and leaves Bridges when she realizes that he does not have his daughters' best interests at heart. Raines is proud of "The Child Stealer" and describes the film "as a really good experience. 'Child Stealer' was great because it was a very intense storyline and Beau is great. I worked with him a couple of times and Beau's a good Joe, a good guy. And I loved Blair Brown. She's another one of those actresses who's just magic on-screen and she's an amazingly kind human being."
Raines reunited with her "Nashville" colleague Joan Tewkesbury for the TV movie "The Tenth Month" (1979), which aired September 16, 1979 on CBS. An adaptation of Laura Z. Hobson's novel, "The Tenth Month" stars Carol Burnett as a middle-aged, single woman who learns that she is pregnant for the first time and decides to have the baby out of wedlock. Burnett's character moves out of her home and into an apartment across town so that her colleagues and neighbors are unaware of her pregnancy. She plans to make arrangements to adopt her own child so that the baby will never suffer the stigma of being born illegitimate. Raines played Burnett's close friend, Nancy, a young married woman expecting a baby who is supportive of Burnett's efforts. Intelligently written and directed by Joan Tewkesbury, "The Tenth Month," is an effective drama that touches upon numerous feminist issues without becoming preachy because Tewkesbury leaves the audience room to form their own opinions. Raines thoroughly enjoyed working with Tewkesbury again and recalls that "The Tenth Month" was "a wonderful working experience. Joan was a friend for a long, long time. She's a wonderful writer and I thought she was also a good director. She kind of was a trailblazer for women because she was directing before a lot of women were directing. And because she was directing at a time when women still weren't directing, she's experienced a lot of harder bumps than a lot of people. I also enjoyed that film because Carol Burnett is a munchkin! She is everything you want her to be. She really is that woman in your living room that you watch on TV. She's got a wonderful sense of humor and she's very bright. She's great. She's a mensch, she's a real mensch."
Cristina Raines started off the 1980s by appearing in the British motorcycle racing drama "Silver Dream Racer" (1980), starring rock star David Essex. Essex plays a motorcyclist Nick Freeman who wants to compete in a race against ruthless American racer Bruce McBride (Beau Bridges) while riding an experimental, prototype motorcycle developed by his late brother. Raines played Julie Prince, Nick's love interest, who helps raise the financial backing needed to help Nick prepare for the competition. A "Rocky" type underdog drama set in the racing world, Raines fondly recalls that the film "was really fun and awesome! That was a cool, cool movie to work on. I really didn't know much about the motorcycle racing world, and I learned a lot about it while working on that film. It was a really neat experience and I couldn't hear for a month because of all the motorcycles, but that was OK. (laugh) David Essex is an absolute dreamboat to work with. He is a gentleman and he's funny and he's smart and he's a really good actor. He was great, I really liked him."
While Raines has fond memories of "Silver Dream Racer," she admits she was not a fan of the original ending, where Essex's motorcycle spins out of control moments after he wins the race, and his character is killed. Raines was not alone in this matter, and the Rank Organisation, which produced and released the film in the UK, re-edited the film and deleted the crash from the ending after they received negative feedback from critics and the public, which allowed the film to have a more update finale. The censored ending was used when the film was released in the United States in 1983, and most fans of the movie remain unaware that the original released ending was grislier. Raines candidly admits that "I felt the original ending, with David's character being killed, was a terrible ending. I wasn't aware that they cut that ending out later on. Finally they figured it out! I always disagreed with the director's decision to use that ending. I never liked the fact that he dies at the end. Who wants their hero to die at the end? Really? I mean, it's just bad moviemaking!"
Raines also appeared in a co-starring role in the feature film "Touched by Love" (1980) released by Columbia Pictures. Based on Lena Canada's memoir, the film starred Deborah Raffin as Canada, a physical therapist who helps facilitate a pen-pal relationship between a young girl with cerebral palsy (Diane Lane) and Elvis Presley that serves as a form of therapy for the girl. Raines played Raffin's sardonic roommate, a fellow therapist working at the institution for young people with disabilities. Raines fondly recalls how the making of the film, "was a very nice experience. Deborah Raffin and her husband Michael Viner produced the film. As I mentioned before, Deborah and I became friends after we worked together on 'The Sentinel.' I remember Diane Lane was lovely and already a powerful actress. I looked at Deborah at one point and I said to her, 'That girl is going to be a HUGE star.' She is so talented and she was already such an amazing actress at the time we made that film. It was incredible how good she was at that age."
Raines' next major project was the lead role in the prime time soap "Flamingo Road," which aired for two seasons on NBC. The 2-hour pilot movie aired on May 12, 1980, with the subsequent series of 37 episodes running from January 6, 1981 to May 4, 1982. Raines played the street-wise, yet sympathetic, Lane Ballou, who arrives in the corrupt Florida town of Truro as a dancer in a seedy carnival. Lane butts heads with evil Sheriff Titus Semple (Howard Duff) when she decides to leave the carnival and make a life for herself in Truro. Titus disapproves of Lane's burgeoning relationship with deputy sheriff Fielding Carlyle (Mark Harmon), whom he plans to groom for a career in the State Senate. The situation escalates when Lane is thrown into jail for a month-long prison term after spoiled heiress Constance Weldon (Morgan Fairchild), who is engaged to marry Field, complains to Titus about Field's relationship with the carnival girl. While Lane is in jail, Field (who believes that Lane ran out on him) marries Constance. When Lane returns to Truro, she gets a job singing at a roadhouse/bordello run by Lute-Mae Saunders (Stella Stevens), who is secretly Constance's natural mother. Lane and Lute-Mae become best friends and Lane begins dating successful and upstanding businessman Sam Curtis (John Beck) while still pining away for Field. Meanwhile, Constance's kind and decent adoptive mother Eudora Weldon (Barbara Rush) is compassionate towards Lane, while her husband, paper mill owner Claude Weldon (Kevin McCarthy) agrees with Constance and Titus that Lane is trash who should be driven out of Truro. Lane, meanwhile, is also befriended by Constance's good-natured brother Skipper (Woody Brown), who disapproves of his father and sister's shallow perspective on life, as well as ethical small town newspaper publisher/editor Elmo Tyson (Peter Donat). Various plot threads emerge over the course of the series based on this scenario.
A juicy, thoroughly entertaining nighttime soap produced by Lorimar, the production company behind "Dallas," "Flamingo Road" started promisingly in the first season when it focused on Raines' character Lane and remained the story of a poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks who challenges the corrupt politicos and businessmen who want to drive her out of Truro. In the second and final season, when the show focused more on Morgan Fairchild's Constance, and less on Raines' Lane, the qualities that distinguished it from other nighttime soaps became less apparent. Nevertheless, Raines was excellent as Lane Ballou, giving a natural, spontaneous and, at times, edgy performance in the role. She brought substance and earthy intelligence to the role that ensured Lane retained her independent, rebellious nature even as the character establishes herself in Truro society and stakes a claim to live on the wealthy, eponymous Flamingo Road. In one scene, in the second season, after Lane has been harassed by mobsters terrorizing her and her new husband Sam, Raines has an emotional scene expressing Lane's fears, anger, and frustration about the situation. Rather than giving a mannered performance, as some prime time soap actresses of the 1980s are wont to do, Raines digs deep and gives a raw, unaffected interpretation of the scene that demonstrates her ability to think outside the box while playing Lane.
Raines humorously recalls how she landed "Flamingo Road" by simply going "on an audition for it. And then I went on an audition again for it. And then I did an audition for it in front of the network! (laugh) It was one of those situations. Gus Trikonis, who I have worked with twice, was the director of the pilot. After auditioning all of those times, I got the role." Coming from a background working in films, Raines found that appearing on a weekly series "was a whole other animal. It was really long working hours for everybody, especially the crew, because the crew worked even longer hours than the actors did. For the cast and crew, doing a series is demanding work for everyone involved, and it's intense." Despite the intense work schedule, Raines enjoyed "Flamingo Road" because "I loved playing Lane Ballou. She was a great character. You know, she was the girl from the swamp, the underdog, trying to make a life for herself. I liked how she was complex and flawed, even though she was basically the good character on the show. That's what made her such a great character. Lane had a temper and she was a little scrappy! (laugh) I liked her friendship with Lute-Mae. I also liked the dilemma in the first season of Lane having to choose between Sam and Field--the drama of her needing to pick between one guy who was obviously not good for her, Field, and the other guy, Sam, who was. You always wanted that character to end up with the guy who would be good for Lane because she had such a rough time growing up. I always felt Field was not right for her and that Sam was better for her in the end. I liked 'Flamingo Road' because it was almost like a throwback to a 1940s movie, which it was! That's what was nice about it: it was a little different to what was being done at the time. I didn't know at first that it was based on a movie with Joan Crawford until I got the part and then I watched it and it was really good. Joan Crawford was an amazing actress, and her version of Lane was also a great character."
Throughout the run of the series, Raines enjoyed working with the creative personnel working behind the scenes on "Flamingo Road" and recalls how, "the writers were fun and they tried to help us and work with us. We would have read-throughs and, if something didn't work, they'd work to change it until it was right. I really loved Rita Lakin, who wrote and produced the show in the first season. She was wonderful. Rita Lakin had a tough job on that show. She had to deal with the network, NBC, because people were constantly trying to change her writing. But Rita was the heart of the show for me. She was the heart of the story because of the way she put it together. She was wonderful. I also liked all the directors on that show. There were some new and young directors who worked on it who brought some freshness to it. But I also remember that Fernando Lamas directed an episode and he was fantastic! He was wonderful and old school and he was just great. He brought an elegant quality to the show that was like something out of a 1940s movie. He just had great sensibilities as a director."
Raines has mostly positive memories of her on-screen colleagues on "Flamingo Road, and recalls how, despite the on-screen acrimony that existed between her character Lane and Howard Duff's Titus Semple on the show, "Howard Duff was one of my favorite people in the world. He just didn't take any sh-t from anybody in any way, shape, or form! (laugh) He was AWESOME! Even though our characters, Lane and Titus, hated each other, we were buddies, we were very good friends. I really liked Howard Duff a lot." Raines also liked many of the other cast members of "Flamingo Road" and readily adds that "John Beck is great. He's just a real good Joe, he's a good dad. He's just a real solid guy, real solid. Easy to work with, great sense of humor. Good guy. I have a soft spot in my heart for Stella Stevens, and I have a huge soft spot for Barbara Rush. But I have soft spot for Stella, even though Stella could occasionally be a bit feisty on the set. But, you know what? She's a really good actress and I was always a little protective of her. Isn't that funny? I don't know what that was about--maybe it was a character thing because my character Lane always felt protective of her character--but she was great as Lute-Mae. And she's perfectly capable of handling herself, believe me, she's been around the block a few times! (laugh) As I just mentioned, I love Barbara Rush. She's a grand lady, she's really fantastic. Kevin McCarthy, who played her husband, was a real character and I liked him. He would do things on set like he would start to move a glass in front of Barbara Rush's face during a take, and she would move his hand back out of the way! (laugh) Barbara's so smart. She knows how to take care of herself and she doesn't miss anything. Peter Donat was a sweetheart! You mentioned his name and I saw his face and it made me remember what a good guy he is. Woody Brown's adorable. He and his wife and I were very close friends for a long time. We have lost touch with each other through the years, but Woody's great. He's really salt of the earth."
During the run of "Flamingo Road," Raines (who was no longer with Keith Carradine) began a relationship with her co-star Mark Harmon, who she had already met and worked with in 1978 on "Centennial." Their relationship would last for four years, from 1980 to 1984. In a 1986 People Magazine cover story, Harmon stated that "Tina taught me how to stop and notice the oak trees and smell the flowers...She will always be a very special lady to me." Today, Raines speaks of Harmon with respect and describes him as someone who is "wonderful to work with. He's present, he's there, he's very generous and he's very giving as an actor. I also remember him as being a very detail-oriented and perceptive individual. Mark's a great actor and a great guy."
Even though she liked most of her colleagues on "Flamingo Road," Raines acknowledges that she and her on-screen rival Morgan Fairchild were not particularly close off-screen. Raines candidly admits that "I really liked everybody in that cast, except for one person. (laugh) Morgan and I were not friends and we just didn't get along. I think we are just two very different individuals with two very different ways of viewing the world, two very different ways of going about things. You might say that the dynamics between us as individuals was not unlike the dynamics between our characters, Lane and Constance. Maybe that's why it worked so well on-screen? (laugh) So, what the hell, at least it made our scenes on the show work!" Along with Fairchild, Raines also admits that she did not enjoy working with Executive Producer Michael Filerman on "Flamingo Road." With the same level of candor, Raines acknowledges that "Michael Filerman is not one of my favorite people in the world. You know how I feel about Michael Winner? It's very close. Michael Filerman is a nasty man. He is the kind of person who goes out of his way to sabotage people. Michael Filerman tried to blame Mark and me for supposedly destroying the show and that it was supposedly our fault that it got cancelled. I'm not quite sure how I found out, but I got wind that he had been saying that, and action was taken to make him stop it. That's how awful he was. That's what I meant when I said he tried to sabotage people. It wasn't us who were the reason the show was cancelled. That's about as far as I want to go on that subject. Like I said, I really dislike Michael Winner and Michael Filerman is his bookend. (laugh)"
One positive aspect of "Flamingo Road" was that it allowed Raines an opportunity to hone her singing abilities, which were first put to use in Robert Altman's "Nashville." Because Lane's character worked as a singer in Lute-Mae's roadhouse, Raines sang on an almost weekly basis on the series, performing standards such as Crystal Gayle's "Don't it Make My Brown Eyes Blue" or Loretta Lynn's "Blue Kentucky Girl." She also introduced new songs such as the Holly Dunn/Stewart Harris penned number "Could it Be Love," which I have blogged about before and which Raines performed on the show three separate times. After being nervous about singing in "Nashville," Raines readily acknowledges "Isn't that weird that I was singing on 'Flamingo Road' every week? Well, we prerecorded the songs I performed on the show. There was a friend of Mark's who was into music and who was a great guy and had a lot of creative people around him. He produced my music for the show, and we used a lot of new songs that were written by some of his talent. It kept the cost down for the producers to have him record songs for the show. We recorded the songs and then we shot it on camera with me lip-synching to the playback. I liked singing 'Could it Be Love,' I thought it was a good song. I also remember that I sang a number called 'You Never Gave Up On Me.' I believe it was written by one of the writers who worked for Mark's friend. I sang it, and then Crystal Gayle recorded it. It was weird because I had sung Crystal Gayle's 'Don't it Make My Brown Eyes Blue' earlier on the show, which was a standard. I don't know, maybe it's because I had to do it over and over and over again, I felt more comfortable about my singing. It wasn't as frightening anymore, it was OK."
During her time on "Flamingo Road," Raines competed three separate times on "Battle of the Network Stars," the now-legendary series of biannual ABC TV specials where the stars of shows from all three major networks competed with one another in a variety of athletic and sporting events. Held at the Pepperdine University campus in Malibu, Raines competed on the NBC team in the segment that aired December 5, 1980, alongside 'Flamingo Road' co-star John Beck, and also in the November 20, 1981 and May 5, 1982 segments with her other leading man from the series, Mark Harmon. Raines has fond memories of appearing multiple times on the show and recalls that "I did it several times because it was a lot of fun and it was very athletic. It was competitive and it was challenging. I didn't have to prepare extensively for it because I studied ballet intensely and pretty seriously at the time and so I was in really good shape to begin with, though not anymore! (laugh) And Mark was a runner, and I was also a runner, and so we were both in good shape and it was fun for us to participate on that show. All the events were fun to participate in, but the one that made me laugh were the water events. They were kind of weird and challenging to do. I remember Maud Adams was on our team and I said to her, 'I don't do well in these water events.' And she said very confidently, 'I'm very good at unusual things.' (laugh). She said it with that wonderful European accent. I just laughed so hard and she was brilliant. She just whipped it up in that event. It was fun, it was like strategizing so we could figure out 'Who's good at this?' and 'Who's good at that?' or 'How do you feel about participating in this?' and 'Where do you want to line up?' You really had to work as a team to make it work. I think the teamwork aspect was one of the reasons I really enjoyed doing 'Battle of the Network Stars.'"
"Flamingo Road" ended in 1982, as a result of losing in the ratings competition against ABC's "Hart to Hart." However, Raines did not regret the show's premature cancellation after only two seasons. Raines and Mark Harmon received word of the cancellation while they were in Canada doing a well-received tour of the stage play "Key Exchange." Raines recalls, "I was in Canada doing 'Key Exchange' and I looked at Mark and I said 'I don't know how I'm going to go back and do another year of 'Flamingo Road.' I just didn't want to deal with Morgan or Michael Filerman anymore, and I also had concerns because the storyline in the second season was veering into strange directions with all of that voodoo stuff. I kept thinking 'What's going on with the show?' but then it was cancelled. Even though I didn't want to do the show anymore, I did miss working with Howard Duff and John Beck and Stella Stevens and Barbara Rush, and the rest of the cast and crew. They were wonderful and I am glad I had that opportunity to work with them for two years."
After "Flamingo Road," Raines appeared in the horror anthology film "Nightmares" (1983) released by Universal. Raines appeared in the opening segment of the film titled "Terror in Topanga," as a chain smoking housewife who sneaks out in the middle of the night to buy groceries and a pack of cigarettes, completely ignoring news bulletins of an escaped psychopathic killer on the loose in the area. As she drives home, her character notices that her car is running out of gas, causing her to pull into a dark, scary filling station where she and the killer come face-to-face. Raines recalls that "it started as a movie of the week. It was kind of an anthology shot for television, with several different stories, and for some reason they decided to release it as a feature film. I don't know why they decided to do that, but that was a film that I never saw. I had no idea that it's developed a bit of a cult following. Joe Sargent directed me in that and so that was a good experience. I really trust Joe. He's one of the most trustworthy people in the world and whatever project he would ask me to do, I would have no problems about doing it. I liked that little vignette I appeared in and I enjoyed working on 'Nightmares.'"
Raines' next few projects found her working in England again. She played the title role in "The Late Nancy Irving," a 1984 segment of "Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense." She played an American professional golfer in England who has been kidnapped by an ailing millionaire who shares her same rare blood type. A staged car accident allows the public to believe that she has been killed, while she is held hostage and has her blood transfused into the body of the millionaire. At the end, Nancy summons up enough resolve to turn the tables on the millionaire and free herself from this nightmare. Despite the intriguing premise, Raines candidly admits that "'The Late Nancy Irving' was awful. I loved being in England. I made a bunch of really wonderful new friends while I was working on that, but the project itself was not great." Much happier for Raines was her appearance in the British comedy "Real Life" (1984) opposite a young, unknown Rupert Everett. Everett plays an immature young man, who lives a Walter Mitty type of existence creating a false image and making up stories about himself. In the process, he becomes involved in an art heist and romances Laurel, an American divorcee played by Raines. Raines fondly recalls how "Rupert was a very sweet guy. I knew Rupert was going to be a huge star. I just knew it. He was just a very interesting human being. Very smart and full of life. He made working on 'Real Life' a lot of fun."
Raines also appeared in several TV movies in the 1980s, including "The Return of Marcus Welby, M.D." (1984), which aired May 16, 1984 on ABC. Raines played a fashion model struggling with kidney disease. Raines has fond memories of making that film and that "everybody on that set was great. Even though it wasn't a movie where I got to know the people on a very personal level, that was really a fun movie to work on because it was a very pleasant set to walk onto." Raines also enjoyed working on the TV movie "Generation" (1985), which aired May 24, 1985 on ABC. A futuristic drama set in 1999 that dramatizes the intrigue surrounding a typical American family on the eve of the 21st Century, Raines played a doctor continually in conflict with the rest of her relatives. Raines recalls that "I liked the story, it was set in the future, and I thought it was an interesting premise. It was another positive experience where the cast and crew worked well together. That's the movie where they asked me to dye my hair a lighter color, because everybody else in the film, who played my relatives, had very light colored hair and they wanted me to look like part of the family. (laugh)"
She also enjoyed playing a prosecutor in the TV movie "Streets of Justice" (1985) which aired November 10, 1985 on NBC. Raines recalls, "I researched the role by visiting the Los Angeles Courts and observing several trials so I could get a feel for the setting. I really enjoyed researching the role. I found the legal issues that attorneys have to deal with to be very intense. I also remember that one of the crew members in the art department drew a sketch of my character in court, like the way they had sketch artists dramatize a trial on the TV news with drawings instead of airing it on TV. She gave it to me the day I finished my role on that movie and I have it framed in my house. It's a nice memento from that film." "Streets of Justice" also proved significant in Raines' life because it reunited her with writer/producer Christopher Crowe, who she briefly encountered while working on the horror film, "Nightmares." Raines explains, "The producer of 'Nightmares' was a man named Christopher Crowe, but I didn't actually get to work with him on that. I didn't meet Christopher until I did 'Streets of Justice,' which he was directing, when I met him on the audition for that." By this time, Raines was no longer involved with Mark Harmon. Raines and Crowe started a relationship while working together on "Streets of Justice" and were married in 1986. They were married for ten years, and have a daughter together who recently received her Masters degree in Psychology.
Throughout the 1980s, Cristina Raines also made frequent guest appearances on hour-long dramatic series. She appeared on many Aaron Spelling produced shows like "The Love Boat," "Fantasy Island," "Matt Houston," "Finders of Lost Loves," "T.J. Hooker," and "Hotel." Raines has vivid and warm memories of appearing on these shows and recalls that "Herve Villechaize and I had previously done a play together that Joan Tewkesbury had written called 'Cowboy Jack Street,' so it was good to see him and work with him again. I actually had a lot of fun on 'Fantasy Island.' 'T.J. Hooker' was fun too and William Shatner is a riot, he's a real character. 'Love Boat' was another good show to work on. I have to say, Aaron Spelling ran his shows like a finely tuned machine. He was an excellent producer. He did not put up with people with a negative attitude or negative behavior at all. I liked working on his shows because they were so well run and people were so professional and kind. It was always a nice experience to be on a Spelling show. Always. I mean, if someone said 'Do you want to do an Aaron Spelling production?' I would say 'Absolutely,' because he was a genius at what he did. It was the same experience when I did 'Matt Houston,' 'Hotel' and 'Finders of Lost Loves' for him. You'd go to work, do your job, people were great to work with, and you'd go home. There was no drama."
Raines also appeared on numerous action/adventure/detective shows in the 1980s such as "Simon & Simon," "The Fall Guy," "Murder, She Wrote," "Moonlighting," "Riptide," "Hunter," and "The Highwayman." Raines enthusiastically recalls how, "'Simon & Simon' was one of my favorites. Jameson Parker and Gerald McRaney were a blast to work with. I also remember I loved working with Lee Majors on 'The Fall Guy.' We were doing this one scene in a semi-truck--I can't even remember the whole story or what the show was about--but we were in a truck and they jumped from filming one scene to another scene to another scene, all of which were set in that truck, and neither he nor I knew the lines! (laugh) Lee ripped up the script and it was all over the dashboard and we were trying really hard to just get through the scene and be real and I just lost it at one point. I said to him 'I feel like I'm in a hamster cage!' (laugh) Lee was great to work with. He was a lot of fun and he was such a gentleman and he treated everybody so well. That's one of my favorite shows, because I really had a wonderful time, and I laughed a lot. I know people don't see Lee as funny, but he is hilarious. 'Murder, She Wrote' with Angela Lansbury was also great. She really, truly is the 'grand dame.' Just her body of work, she's just an incredible actress and she was wonderful. A lot of people would tell me, 'Don't approach her about this, don't approach her about that,' but I didn't find her that way at all. She was very, very kind and generous. Sam Jones on 'The Highwayman' was another one that had me laughing, because he's hysterical. The thing about Sam is that he's funny, but he doesn't know he's funny, but then again I have a pretty absurd sense of humor. (laugh) I really enjoyed working on 'The Highwayman.' On the other hand, 'Hunter' was not one of my favorite shows. I just didn't feel comfortable on the set. It was like 'OK, do your job and keep going.' 'Moonlighting' was a better experience. The producers were great and Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis were great. I remember that he was very protective of her. You know, the gossip at the time was that they didn't get along, blah, blah blah. I don't know how much of that was PR. But they actually got along very well on the show that I was on, and I just remember how he was very protective of her. So it was nice to see that. It just reminded me that you can't believe everything you hear. I never minded doing guest roles on television, I really enjoyed the shows that I was on."
One of Cristina Raines' best TV guest roles in the 1980s was in the "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" episode titled "Prisoners," which aired December 8, 1985 on NBC. Written and directed by her future husband Christopher Crowe, Raines played Julie Nordstrom, an upper middle class housewife whose husband Glen is continually absent on business trips. Julie's sheltered existence is turned upside down when her home is invaded by escaped convict Jack Royce (Yaphet Kotto). As Jack enjoys the luxuries of Julie's house, the two become acquainted and find that they actually have much in common with one another. They both enjoy the same game shows and they both realize they are lonely individuals who each feel stifled, isolated, and imprisoned in their own confined existence. A remake of the 1956 episode of the original "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" entitled "You Got to Have Luck" with John Cassavettes and Marisa Pavan, "Prisoners" is a poignant, well-acted two character piece that examines how these individuals from such disparate backgrounds are, in actuality, mirror images of one another. Raines has very warm and fond memories of working on that episode and recalls that "Yaphet Kotto is a very spiritual man, and an amazing actor to work with. He was awesome and I really, really enjoyed working with him. He was such a spiritual guy and such a powerful, powerful actor. He was so powerful in our scenes together. He is an absolutely giving and generous actor and so creative and imaginative. It was wonderful to collaborate with him on that one. It was a wonderful experience, really an incredible experience for me to work with him."
Raines' association with the "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" show ultimately went beyond appearing on camera, as she ended up working second unit on numerous episodes of the series. Raines recalls that she was at a crossroads in her life and career and looking for new challenges at the time, "I had decided I wanted to get behind the camera and I wanted to learn about production. And so I worked second unit for awhile on 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents.' After I acted on the show, I said to Christopher, 'You know, I would really like to get behind the scenes.' And Christopher agreed and he and Universal provided me that opportunity, which I was very grateful for. It was very exciting and I learned a lot and it was just great. I needed a change at that time in my life. Something needed to change for me. I was always an internal person, always trying to figure out what was going on inside. And I decided I wanted to get more involved in production so that's what I did."
One of Cristina Raines' most unusual projects during this time was her starring role in the six-hour Italian TV miniseries "Quo Vadis?" (1985), directed by Franco Rossi and produced by RAI-TV in Italy and Channel 4 in the UK. An adaptation of Henryk Sienkiewicz's classic novel, which had already been made into an epic MGM film in 1951, the miniseries dramatizes the personal drama and political intrigue taking place in Rome under the rule of Emperor Nero, in 64 A.D. Raines played Poppaea, the scheming and devious, yet tragic, wife of Emperor Nero (played by Klaus Maria Brandaeur). Possibly the most sinister role she had played since Oreole in her film debut "Hex," "Quo Vadis?" allowed Raines an opportunity to play the sort of scheming vamp and femme fatale that had become popular in 1980s television. Raines recalls that "Quo Vadis?" "was kind of a weird project. I went over to Europe to film it and the director was very confused because he didn't get why I was laughing while we were filming it. He would say, 'Excuse me? Why are you laughing?' And I said, 'Well, because it was funny!' (laugh) We shot that in Yugoslavia and that was a very strange place to shoot it. I had my grandmother with me again on that shoot so that was nice." Because "Quo Vadis?" was an Italian production, the dialogue was not recorded live while scenes were shot and Raines ended up being dubbed in both the English and Italian language versions by another actress. As Raines explains, "I think they completely dubbed me with somebody else in the final film. I remember that they wanted me to fly back to Italy and do all the dubbing and I said 'Just find somebody else to dub me' because I didn't want to go back. (laugh)"
Despite the unusual pedigree of this production, Raines admits that, "I had some fun on that show. Freddie Forrest was my saving grace on that piece. He's a great guy and he's hilarious and he had me laughing the whole time, which made the director crazy! Unfortunately, I didn't get to know Max Von Sydow at all on that shoot. I remember Klaus Maria Brandaeur was a very intense actor. Very intense. [mimicks Brandaeur] 'I'm going to be a big star!' [mimicks her response] 'OK, Maria! Whatever you say!' (laugh) He's very intense and he's a great actor, but he had his own way of doing things. At the same time, he's also a great guy and he has a wonderful sense of humor. 'Quo Vadis' was just one of those things where we'd look at each other and say 'We have five more days to go before we can get out of here!' (laugh)" Another aspect that Raines enjoyed about working on "Quo Vadis?" was the sheer scale and spectacle of the project, as she found herself continually in awe of the production design of the miniseries, "I will say that you have to give the Italians an awful lot of credit. They are brilliant at art direction and set design. They seem to magically make things happen. You walk onto a set and you go 'Oh my God!' You really felt like you were in a palace, but it's all entertainment. They are just magical craftsman and artisans. I don't know how they do it. They are just brilliant at creating those settings. So that's what I enjoyed more than anything on 'Quo Vadis.' Everyday, I couldn't wait to arrive at the studio so I could check out the sets. I also remember how they were great at costuming and makeup and all that. What can I say? They take a lot of pride in their work and they just love making movies!"
Back in the States, Raines returned to the big screen in the Universal release "North Shore" (1987), a surfing drama set in Hawaii. Raines appeared briefly in a small role as the mother of the main character and recalls that "they needed to make me look older for the role because I was playing the mother of a teenager. (laugh) The irony was that my baby had just been born and they were hitting me in the face with age makeup to make me look older. (laugh) Randal Kleiser was the producer of that film, and I remember that he was a very cool guy. I really liked him. He's the one who wanted me in 'North Shore,' he just called up and offered it and asked me if I would do it. I liked working with Randal, he's really a talented producer. I don't remember the director, I only remember Randal. All I remember is that it was just a short shoot, in and out, and that they felt I looked too young to play the mother, which is fine. I thought, 'OK, whatever!' (laugh)"
Raines' best role during this period came in 1988 when she was cast as Navy Commander Kimberly Michaels, a nurse who served in Vietnam and is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, on a two-hour episode of "Highway to Heaven" that aired December 7, 1988 on NBC. In the course of the story, Michael Landon's guardian angel Jonathan Smith, who is working as a counselor in the military hospital Commander Michaels is stationed at, helps her finally deal with her painful memories. Raines is particularly good in scenes with David Aykroyd, playing a Navy doctor she is dating, and with a very young Matthew Perry, the adopted son of a Marine Corps Sergeant Major, who she ultimately learns is the child she had with a Navy pilot who was shot down over Vietnam and gave up for adoption years earlier. Raines fondly recalls working with Michael Landon on this project, "Oh my God! What a human being! I swear to God, that man took care of the people who worked for him. He, again, had sort of a troupe like Altman did, and his troupe was more his crew. He wrote all of those shows, and he directed them as well. The guy had more energy, he accomplished more than 10 people put together. Oh my God, that guy made me laugh so hard. I really was in tears. He was so hilarious. And I remember Matthew Perry from 'Friends' was in it and he played my son that I gave away. That was a wonderful experience and wonderful character. I already knew a lot of Vietnam Veterans. That was my era, so I had a lot of passion for that story and that character. I absolutely loved working with Michael Landon. I loved working on that project. The crew was great, the cast was great. It was one of those projects where I felt, 'OK, I feel really good about being an actress and going to work today.'"
During the filming of her "Highway to Heaven" episode, Raines came to an epiphany that eventually led her to quietly end her acting career after almost 20 years. "My daughter was about, I guess, six months old and I had her with me and I had my nanny there while we were shooting down at the Marine Corps base down in San Diego. And afterwards I said to myself 'I can't do this. I have to raise my own daughter. I don't want anybody else doing it.' Because, you know, there were long work hours, long days when you're working as an actress. And so that's when I kind of said, 'You know, I think I'm just gonna back off from that for awhile.' And then I backed off for a long time! (laugh)."
Raines continued working as an actress sporadically up until 1991 and then left acting in order to completely devote herself to being a full time mom. When her daughter was older, and Raines began examining her career prospects, she decided not to return to acting and, instead, decided to pursue nursing as her new vocation. In the late 1990s, she started studying to become a nurse and eventually graduated from a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) program and took the requisite licensing exam which allowed her to render basic nursing care under the direction of a physician or registered nurse. While working as an LVN, Raines continued her education and eventually earned her Associate's Degree in Nursing, which allowed her to take the national licensing exam to become a Registered Nurse.
Even though Raines' acting roles have included playing nurses, doctors, and patients, it turns out that that had little influence upon her decision to pursue nursing. In describing her path to becoming a nurse, Raines explains that "nursing sort of chose me. I went back to school and I started taking classes and there were so many things that I enjoyed doing. I took photography courses and I had a teacher who really wanted me to go into photography, and I loved it. But then I found myself taking more and more science classes and really enjoying them. The next thing I knew, I was being offered a position in the nursing program and I said 'Well, sometimes, the universe decides for us in certain ways, and this is where you're going now. OK! I'm in for the ride!' So I went into the program and it just fit for me. It's another aspect of who I am. There was just something about nursing that touched my soul. It felt like a calling to me. So nursing kind of chose me, and it was a good choice."
Raines is extremely proud, enthusiastic, and passionate when she speaks about her work as a nurse and explains that her satisfaction from her current career stems from the fact that "It's a heart-to-heart connection with people. Patients are in a very vulnerable place and there's no time for game playing when you're caring for them. Patients really need someone there who is going to be present for them. It's very real and I've always had kind of a caretaker quality anyway. I am a dialysis nurse. I work with people who are on dialysis and I specialize in peritoneal dialysis. I really like what I do. I find it very challenging and fulfilling work and I love it."
While most people would agree that Raines' work as a nurse demonstrates how she is a well-rounded individual, she does not believe that her current career somehow makes her better or more substantial than other actors who continue to earn their living in that profession. As she explains, "I think we all have many aspects to ourselves that we need to explore. I don't think we need to have what we do for a living completely define who we are. You can be a writer and you can be a horse trainer. You can be a nurse and you can be an artist. One of the doctors that I work with is an amazing artist. I mean he blows me away. I say to him, 'Let me see what your last work is,' and he shows me and I'm 'Wow!' because he is truly talented. Even when I was working as an actress, there were other things that I did that fulfilled my spirit and were other aspects of who I am, such as studying ballet. One of the things I enjoy doing in my personal time is writing. I think that's where my creativity is focused now."
In 2000, while she was studying to be a nurse, Raines reunited with the cast and crew of "Nashville" for a 25th Anniversary screening held at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills that was moderated by Charles Champlin. During that time, she also appeared with the cast for a photo shoot that appeared in "Premiere" magazine to commemorate the making of the film. Also appearing that evening for the "Nashville" screening were director Robert Altman, screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury, music coordinator Richard Baskin, and cast members Ned Beatty, Karen Black, Ronee Blakley, Keith Carradine, Robert DoQui, Allen Garfield, Henry Gibson, Jeff Goldblum, David Hayward, Michael Murphy, Dave Peel, and Allan Nicholls. Raines fondly recalls, "That was really nice to see everybody. It was such a good experience that it was kind of bittersweet. While watching 'Nashville' again that night, because I never liked watching myself sing 'Since You've Gone,' I realized more than ever how supportive Keith and Allan were when we filmed that scene. I was in abject fear doing that scene and watching it that night I could see how wonderful they were to me and how encouraging they were while we were filming it."
During the time she was transitioning to a new career, Raines briefly returned to acting with a co-starring role in the independently made feature film "Melinda's World" (2003). She played the strict, extremely religious mother of Melinda, a young girl searching for happiness and her own identity in 1950s mid-western America. The film is now notable as the debut for a young Zac Efron, playing the love interest of the main character. Raines remembers very little about "Melinda's World" and explains that, "I think this was done sort of as a student film. The director, David Baumgarten, saw a picture of me and my daughter somewhere. I think he was interested in casting my daughter in the film, and then he found out what I had done as an actress in the past and he cast me. It was more like a student film than an actual feature. It was just a little five day thing that I did. I really kind of did it just for fun. David, the director, was a sweetheart and I think he's done a lot of theatre and he's very talented. I didn't even know it was made into an actual movie. No wonder Zac Efron always looks familiar to me. I had no clue it's a two-hour movie on DVD! And I don't think I was any good in it either. I think I was tired and worn out. I was going to nursing school and studying at the time. I didn't do it with the intention of thinking it would start my acting career again. I just sort of did it on a whim."
While Raines continues to take satisfaction in her nursing career, she is also very proud of the accomplishments of her daughter. With beaming pride and enthusiasm, Raines describes how her daughter "has her Masters in Psychology, she's getting her hours to become a Marriage and Family Therapist, she is working with foster children, and she's going to sit for her psychology boards. She's also a very accomplished competitive athlete. I'm really proud of my girl, she's a real go-getter. And she's planning to get married later this year! My little girl's all grown up! We're in the midst of the wedding planning now, getting things organized. She's just so happy, and so is he, and that's all you want for your kids is for them to be happy with their lives."
Cristina Raines is unique among actresses because few people in show business have the intelligence and resolve to reinvent themselves and develop new skill sets for a second career in life. Even though her life is now focused on nursing, and she rarely allows herself an opportunity to look back at her prior career, she remains proud of her work as an actress. Raines is grateful for the opportunities and experiences that being a film and television actress afforded her in life. When asked to select what were her favorite acting projects, she readily admits that "'Sunshine' was one of my dream experiences. 'Centennial' would be another one, it was an amazing experience. 'Nashville,' was an excellent experience too, but I was playing a pretty unhappy person in that one. (laugh) Mary was a character in a bad place in life, she was just p-ssed off! Mary was not a happy person, she was a mess, but it was a great film, great experience. (laugh) 'The Duellists' was another special experience, absolutely. And the first season of 'Flamingo Road' would be another one. The first year was great, and Lane Ballou was a great character to play. So those are the projects I'm probably the proudest of. I was very lucky as an actress. But I don't really live in Hollywood or interact around show business anymore. Sometimes, I might run into someone from my past career, or I might hear from them by email, and it's always nice to reconnect with them. But my world is nursing now and I'm very happy with what I'm doing."