Q&A With Mariel Hemingway

The actress and author opens up about her family and how she stays happy and healthy.

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on January 15, 2015

1. Your new book, Out Came the Sun, and the 2013 documentary about your life, Running From Crazy, bring home the personal demons and mental illness that run deep within your family. How have you been able to face and overcome your challenges?

I think there's always a person in a family who says, "I don't want to do this anymore." Maybe not in one generation, maybe it takes two generations. But someone says, "I don't want to keep passing this on." I don't know if my kids are going to be perfect, but they're not going to have secrets between themselves and me.

2. Was it painful bringing up all those memories as you wrote the book?

To be perfectly honest, I had help finding structure. I would write the story itself, each thing as I would remember it. It was really therapeutic. It was actually kind of fabulous, like journaling. I had to get it out.

3. You write that you stayed in an unfulfilling first marriage for 25 years. Why?

My marriage seemed OK because it was better than what I was brought up in. It took 25 years to realize I didn't have to settle and that I could be truly happy.

4. In your book, you said that one of the deepest relationships is with nature. Why is that?

I found peace, joy, and happiness by going outside. Being around rocks and mountains and horses, being outside in wind. Those things kept me alive. I felt more myself when I was climbing up a mountain and feeling everything about my body. That's how I survived my childhood.

5. Your daughter Dree is a model and actor, and your daughter Langley is an artist. How did you feel about them going into the business?

When Dree was born, she was a very showy girl. She's been the same ever since. But I didn't want to let her model until she was 17.

6. Do you worry about the genetic risk of mental illness for your girls?

I used to think about that a lot. Now, because of the things I've done, I know that I can help. It makes me sad that as a society we still fear talking about mental illness when it's far more prevalent than cancer and other diseases. Mental illness is not untenable. You can get to the bottom of this.

7. Is that why you wrote the book?

I wrote the book to be able to say, "I come from these complications and this set of joys and this amazing beauty and all this weirdness." I think it gives permission when somebody who has some kind of celebrity says, "Look, it's not perfect." We don't come from perfect places. I want everybody to feel that it's OK to tell their story.

8. What's your guilty pleasure?

I used to smoke an American Spirit cigarette once a day because I wanted to have something gross that I did, but I quit. Now I drink too much green tea.

9. What's a typical day like for you?

Bobby [her boyfriend, Bobby Williams] and I get up really early. We're outside most of the day. I try to spend a good half of the day outside somehow, even if I have to work. And we cook a lot.

10. What are you working on?

A TV show, a film version of my grandfather's book A Moveable Feast, and a project with Bobby. I'm in a really great and grateful place, to feel this good about life.

Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of "WebMD Magazine."