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Matlock star to Visit Twin City

by Jim Longworth

Nancy Stafford is a former beauty queen and a successful actress, and though she has turned many a head, Nancy has never allowed Hollywood to turn hers. In fact, Stafford has walked away from lots of big time acting jobs. The reason? Her high standards and abiding faith in God.

JL: Did you turn down roles because you objected to the way you might be portrayed, or because of objectionable material?

NS: Oh yeah, and at a time in my career when I couldn’t afford to be so picky. But everyone has to choose their own boundaries, and God is going to show you what you should and should not do. For me, I always read the entire script, not just my part because I care about the entire message of the story. It doesn’t have to be all sweetness and light, it doesn’t have to be G rated, but I do care about redemption. I care about consequences. And the reality is with every role you choose, you’re telling the world what you believe. So I turned down a lot of things and was actually fired by three agents. They would say, “Nancy you don’t want to work”. And I would say, “Oh you don’t understand how much I want to work, I just don’t want that work”.

Fortunately Nancy chose to work in the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed medical drama “St. Elsewhere” which brought her widespread notoriety, and led to a six-year run on “Matlock” as Andy Griffith’s legal assistant Michelle Thomas.

NS: It was awesome working with Andy. He’s absolutely the best. It was a party every day. He’s a sheer delight and we got along famously. I adored him. He also loved my husband Larry who plays fiddle and mandolin, and so often Andy would elbow me and say, “Get Larry to come over and bring his instruments”.

But it was Nancy’s musical spouse (also a minister) who impacted her decision to leave “Matlock”.

NS: The show had just been picked up by another network which prompted them to shift production to Wilmington. I had just gotten married to Larry and decided that I didn’t want separation to be the first thing that happened in our long awaited marriage. So I chose to stay in L.A. for that reason. It was a little scary, but frankly I didn’t give it a second thought.

Today Nancy still performs when a good role comes along, but she is also well known as an accomplished author. Her latest tome is Beauty by the Book: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You, an inspirational guide to achieving inner and outer beauty. I asked her if she is concerned about the increasing number of girls who starve themselves and have plastic surgery just to live up to the Hollywood image of beauty.

NS: Very concerned. My biggest heartbreak is that these girls are literally starving themselves, abusing themselves, being incredibly unhealthy, and have a deep-seeded self loathing which is really at the bottom of this. They are trying to live up to images that are not even real, they are altered. It’s great to say, “Love who you are and have high self esteem”, but for me the true healing that came about with my own insecurities and feeling of inadequacy, has come when I finally accepted the love of my Heavenly Father. That’s the secret weapon to combating all of life that comes after us.

Nancy will be appearing at next week’s Western Film Fair in Winston- Salem from July 12 through 14, along with actress Julie Adams (Creature from the Black Lagoon) Roy Thinnes (The Invaders), Ed Nelson (Peyton Place), Lanie Kazan (Lust in the Dust), and singer/actress Connie Stevens. All of the celebrity participants except Nancy have starred in a number of western movies and TV shows. Still, Stafford was a big fan of TV Westerns like “Bonanza,” “The Virginian” and “The Rifleman,” and she’s quick to remind anyone who will listen that she did, in fact, star in a Western, sort of.

NS: It was an episode of “Matlock” titled, “Nightmare” in which we were all visiting an old Western town. Andy steps on a loose board and it knocks him out, so he has this nightmare where we’re all back in time in the old West. I play this horribly seductive character, a saloon madam, who turns out to be a murderer. I got to drive a buggy with horses, and dress in Western style.

Nancy Stafford a murdering madam?

What’s the world coming to?

The Western Film Fair runs from July 11-14 at the Hawthorne Inn in downtown Winston-Salem. For more information visit www.westernfilmfair. com or call 828.524-5251.

JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11am on WMYV (cable channel 15).

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