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The Lipton Plunge : Thoroughly 'Mod' actress dives into CBS series 'Angel Falls'

September 05, 1993|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Peggy Lipton's blond hair is shorter. And she's not wearing bell-bottoms or love beads. But all in all, Lipton really doesn't look much different than when she burst on the TV scene 25 years ago as undercover cop Julie Barnes on ABC's "The Mod Squad."

These days, the former model is one of the stars of the new CBS continuing drama "Angel Falls," which premiered on Aug. 26. Lipton plays Hadley, the wife of Luke (James Brolin), the high school basketball coach in a fictional Montana town. Both Hadley and Luke are consumed with grief over the recent death of their infant son.

"She's definitely trying to get through (life)," Lipton says, curled up on a sofa in her publicist's office. "Living in that town, she's sort of an outsider. She always has been. She never really fit in. It's very hard to hold back her feelings."

Lipton was drawn to "Angel Falls" because of creator Joyce Eliason's writing. "The script is wonderful and really stands on its own," she says. "It's embellished by very good acting and the feeling of something pastoral. Underneath is this undercurrent of passion, pain and joy and sensuality--not a cluttered piece with a lot of urban Angst. "

And certainly nothing like Lipton's last series, "Twin Peaks," in which Lipton played Norma, the owner of the bizarre town's diner. Though the David Lynch-Mark Frost series aired on ABC for only one year--1990-91--it's developed a cult following around the world. Repeats of the series currently air on Bravo.

Lipton says she receives a lot of fan mail from "Peak" freaks. "Especially in Europe and places like that," Lipton says. "It's still hot in Europe." She admits, though, she was glad when the series ended.

"It wasn't going in any direction," she confesses. "It never worked after the first season."

"Twin Peaks" was really the first time TV audiences saw Lipton since "Mod Squad" ended in 1973. Though she did star in the 1979 TV movie "The Return of the Mod Squad," Lipton basically retired from acting to raise her two daughters, now teen-agers, by Quincy Jones. After she and Jones divorced in the late '80s, Lipton decided to return to acting.

"It was very scary," she says. "I had a push-pull thing inside me that I wanted to do it." Lipton had even obtained the name and number of a respected acting coach, Sandra Seacat, but was unable to pick up the phone to call her.

"I had become so insulated in my world as a mother, that I didn't know how to pick up the phone and call anybody to put myself out there," Lipton says. "I don't live my life anymore that way."

After two weeks, Lipton mustered the courage to call and leave a message with Seacat. "The next day I got a call back," Lipton says. Seacat told Lipton to join her class that day.

"She broke that kind of fear," Lipton explains. "I used to sit under the table near the door, so if she ever called on me I could get out. I was so scared. I felt like I was 16 again."

Lipton had just turned 21 when "Mod Squad" premiered. She, Michael Cole and Clarence Williams III played "hippie cops" for the Los Angeles Police Department.

"There are a lot of old people around who remember 'Mod Squad,' " Lipton says, laughing. "There's a lot of young people who are watching reruns. I never found it dated."

Lipton received four best actress Emmy nominations as Julie and girls all across America emulated her hairstyle and funky clothing.

"I never saw myself as trend-setting," Lipton says.

She didn't have time. "We were always working. Fame really drove me into my house. I was very paranoid. I didn't like going out. I had no idea how to be comfortable with the press. I was very young. It was really hard for me."

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