What a wonderful life — and legacy. Jane Alexander has managed to have an extremely successful career both in Hollywood and in Washington. The 77-year-old Massachusetts native is a Tony Award winner, two-time Emmy winner and four time Oscar nominee, as well as former chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts. But her passion these days lies in animal conservation.
Alexander, now based in Nova Scotia, Canada, is the author of “Wild Things, Wild Places” (Knopf), part international-travel diary, part memoir, sprinkled with educational tidbits about how to help endangered species. The veteran actress will be at the Miami Book Fair at noon Nov. 19.
When did you decide to sit down and write this?
There is a huge crisis with protecting wildlife right now. About three years ago I had the idea I wanted to write a compendium about animals that were threatened with extinction. Then when I got an offer from Knopf, my editor read the proposal and said, ‘I want a book, but not this one. You have been to so many places. I want it from your perspective. I want a personal journey.’ In retrospect, she was right. I’ve lived a double life for a long time. I thought it was about time to come out of the closet [laughs].
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What do you believe is the biggest threat to wildlife right now?
Human incursion. It keeps happening all over the planet due to residential and economic development. The second biggest is the overexploitation of species for food, commerce and the collecting of animals. It is getting very scary. This is a critical time. Everything in our lives comes from natural resources. We have to be careful how we manage the planet. It impacts us all.
Would you ever want to enter politics again to tackle these issues?
I don’t think so. At my age I don’t think it’s the right field for me. Though I would love to be a voice for the scientists who are out there doing the heavy lifting, and spreading the word about solutions. When I speak to people, I tell them how they can help. It’s not hard. Join an organization that supports animals. If you like fish, try Oceana, for example. If you like birds, like I do, contact your local Audubon chapter. The Internet is an amazing resource; just be sure to get outside for some fresh air and turn off the devices once in a while [laughs].
You still do some acting, most recently as a judge in TV’s “The Good Wife.” How do you balance your two interests?
I haven’t been as active in acting. There’s a whole generation that doesn’t know me at all. The millennials see me more as a protector of wildlife, and I love that. They get it in their gut — they want a better future for the kids and their grandkids. I’m not the celebrity I was in the ’70s or ’80s, or even later in the ’90s with the NEA. That has all sort of gone by the by for the most part. For most of my career I was keeping journals about birds and taking trips and now I can just devote the rest of my life to my passion of conservation. I’ll keep my hand in, though, in case a good, meaty part comes along, mostly television.
You look great and show no signs of slowing down. What’s your secret?
It has to be good genes. My grandfather, my father’s father, lived until he was 96. I write about him in the book. I just keep going. I’m kind of like the Energizer Bunny.
Tickets for “A Morning with Actor and Conservationist Jane Alexander” are free but will be required for admission. Seating is on a first come, first served basis. miamibookfair.com