It was easy for Helen Slater to understand the love her character in the Lifetime cable movie "The Good Mother" has for her daughter. The actress, who came to fame almost 30 years ago as a teen in "Supergirl," has a teen daughter going off to college, something that's causing her some anxious moments.
Slater did have to research the darker side of her character, who suffers from Munchausen by Proxy, a form of child abuse where caregivers make a child sick to draw attention to themselves. In the film, the mother made her oldest daughter so sick that she dies. When her youngest daughter begins to show the same symptoms, a family friend steps in to try to save the child.
The task for Slater was to make the character sympathetic enough to keep viewers interested, but evil enough to reflect the horrific nature of the syndrome.
"The first time I had heard of Munchausen by Proxy was in the movie 'The Sixth Sense.' When I started doing research, I found it quite upsetting," Slater says. "If you look at real footage, these are some of the most empathetic people you'll ever see. That's part of the mental illness. They are not aware of what they're doing."
It was the 1984 film "Supergirl" that first brought attention to Slater when she was only slightly older than her daughter. Although the film was considered a mess, Slater's performance has been praised.
" 'Supergirl' was a fantastic experience because I was only 19 and I got to move to England to film it. It was a real immersion into this other world that was a very positive experience," Slater says. "I just wish all of us had been more on top of the storytelling."
She followed it up with movies like "The Secret of My Success" and "City Slickers" and the TV series "Capital News." Slater slowed her acting career when her daughter was younger, but she has stepped up her work in recent years. And, she continues to be a part of the DC Comics family, voicing Talia al Ghul in the early '90s animated "Batman" series, portraying Superman's birth mother, Lara, on "Smallville" and even writing a story for the 50th issue of the "Supergirl" comic.
Her next project takes her to a different kind of tale: recording an audio book — including original songs she's written and recorded — based on five tales from Greek mythology.
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.