Calista Flockhart has reflected on her time in the title role of hit legal drama Ally McBeal, saying she “felt on trial” herself in the media.

Flockhart played the part of McBeal in the series that ran for five seasons between 1997 and 2002, and increasingly focused on the romantic lives of the lead characters.

Despite, or because of, its popularity with viewers, the show became a litmus paper for commentary in the media, with Time magazine suggesting that it signified the “death of feminism” with the female cast members’ short skirts and slim figures.

Flockhart told The Times of London that what had started out as “creating something really special” then “went to s**t” with all the scrutiny of her character’s appearance and obsession with her biological clock, symbolised by the vision of a dancing baby. She recalled:

“My short skirts, allegedly the death of feminism and, of course, people were talking about my weight… I felt like I was on trial for something. It was bizarre.”

She said of that time:

“I never knew if my heart was going to break into a million pieces or if I was going to die laughing. It was that absurd… To me, the show was about one woman, who happened to be vulnerable and weird. I didn’t think she was representative of all women.”

Flockhart appeared later in family drama Brothers and Sisters but has mostly stayed away from the screen since. Now she returns as Lee Radziwill in Ryan Murphy’s Feud: Capote vs The Swans on Disney+.

Tom Hollander plays Capote with Naomi Watts, Diane Lane, Chloë Sevigny and Demi Moore as Flockhart’s fellow Swans, whom Capote gossiped with and then betrayed by revealing their secrets in a magazine article in 1975.



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