Practice Makes Perfect

A surgeon in stilettos on her hit show, "Private Practice," Kate Walsh takes off her shoes and opens up about her unusual childhood (her divorced mom, the “original cougar,” married a guy 17 years younger!), her tabloid divorce and what it’s like to be the hardest-working perfume mogul in show business.

by Margy Rochlin
Kate Walsh, Private Practice, Grey's Anatomy
Photograph: Peggy Sirota

Remembering those days, Walsh says, “I have a great support system. I think I’ve always created community. That’s part of moving around so much. I can create an instant home.” She adds with a laugh, “I think that’s served me well and other times not served me well. Like thinking, Oh, hey! Let’s get married!” Walsh now lives in a 1920s-vintage Spanish-style house in the hills of Los Feliz. Recently it dawned on her that she’s been a card-carrying resident of Los Angeles for the past 12 years, actually achieving the geographical stability she’s always longed for. “About a month ago, I had this epiphany: Oh, I live here!” she says. “There’s this thing that was ingrained in me when I was a kid of, like, ‘We got to get somewhere else now.’ I think I just got used to it. I was used to the stimulus that was moving.”

The punishingly long days required of the star of an hour-long TV hospital drama could provoke restlessness in anybody. One way Walsh passes the time is by thumbing Twitter updates into her BlackBerry. “It’s mildly addictive. But when you’re on the set so much, you can kind of check in on people,” says Walsh, whose chatty posts (“Oh Tw’eeties, busy day, very busy. Small anxiety attack. Must keep all the good holiday calm going”) read as if she is corresponding with 80,000 of her besties. “In a strange way, it keeps you company, this world of Twitter people.” She sees it as sort of a salon, albeit with boundaries.

“She’s set up a really nice blueprint of how to let people in but still keep things personal and private,” says Taye Diggs, who plays Addison’s current Private Practicelove interest, heart surgeon Sam Bennett. Diggs is also inspired by Walsh’s multitasking. “There’s not much downtime for her—she’s a busy woman, very driven,” he says, adding that she’s always hosting potluck Sundays or throwing cast-and-crew parties at her house or inviting Diggs and his wife, Idina Menzel, to go out dancing. “She’s kind of a trip: She’ll be away for the weekend doing [charity projects]”—Walsh works with an LGBT youth suicide-prevention hotline, the Trevor Project, and is the face of Oceana’s Getting Sea Turtles Off the Hook campaign—“then report on time on Monday morning having memorized a monologue full of medical jargon.”

As for the show’s numerous “bad news” scenes, Diggs admits to having trouble keeping a straight face during them: “At this point, we’ve said every possible version of ‘You know, I’m sorry, but she’s not going to make it.’ ” For her part, Walsh describes her handsome costar as a “living Adonis” and jokes about the futility of trying to “match up to that” for their love scenes. “It certainly requires you to take care of yourself. But I like to eat food, and I don’t diet. I do Pilates, and I hike with my dog. It’s weird. As you get older, everything changes. Everything starts getting . . . looser. But I think it’s important to accept that. I’m lucky. I’ve got pretty good genes. But I think it’s a weird thing to fight it.”

First Published March 23, 2011

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