More: Your résumé is incredible. What’s been the highlight of your career?
DA: One of the greatest things I have ever done was the movie Amistad with Steven Spielberg. He touched on our history and the topic of slavery, which is a very difficult topic for us in this country. Amistad also touched on the bravery of the African men, and that meant a lot to me personally. It was an important film. I have been fortunate that my work has made a difference.
More: What’s left on your to-do list?
DA: I want to direct opera one day.
More: Now you’re teaming up with Medtronic and the National Council on Aging to kick off a new national awareness initiative called Join the Pace Makers. They want to educate the public about the incompatibilities between pacemakers and MRIs. Why get involved?
Debbie Allen: Heart disease is in my family. I lost my dad and my aunt, and my uncle was one of the first recipients of a heart transplant. Also, one of my best friends had to have a pacemaker put in recently. What was upsetting to learn, he also needed an MRI but could not have one because he had a pacemaker and the two were not compatible.
More: You and your sister [actress Phylicia Rashad] were very close with your father and even named your production company after him?
DA: Yes. We still have it. I still miss my daddy. It is like yesterday that he died. I still can’t believe it has been 28 years since I lost him.
More: What sparked your interest in getting involved with this cause?
DA: There is a new pacemaker that is compatible with an MRI. That is important information people need to know and information I want to communicate. I mean, when you are told you need a pacemaker, how are you supposed to know that there are different kinds and that it may prevent you from getting an MRI?
More: Because heart disease is in your family, are you good about going to the doctor?
DA: I do get regular checkups. I even had the test where you have a monitor all night long. Because of our family history, I have also educated my children about their eating habits, their workout habits and things to look out for. More women die from heart disease than breast cancer.
More: Most women don't realize that.
DA: If there is any cause for celebrity, it is not to get the good table at a restaurant. It is to be an activist and put your mouth out there about a cause that's important.
Click here to read Nancy Travis Stands Up with Tim Allen.
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