The Multitalented Molly Ringwald

Jan 13, 2014
Originally published on January 14, 2014 5:13 pm

Molly Ringwald has gone far beyond being the girl who made such a splash in films like 1985′s “The Breakfast Club.”

Though she continues to act, she is also a singer, on tour promoting her 2013 jazz album “Except Sometimes.” And in 2012, she published the book “When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories.”

As Ringwald told Here & Now’s Sacha Pfeiffer at the time, she found the novel form to be freeing.

“One thing that I’ve found over the years is a little bit of frustration at just being able to play one character,” Ringwald said. “When you write, you can be all of the characters.”


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MOLLY RINGWALD: (Singing) Won't you come see about me? I'll be alone dancing, you know it, baby.


You might not recognize the voice, but the name of this artist will probably ring a bell if you're a fan of '80s movies like "Pretty in Pink" or "The Breakfast Club." This is Molly Ringwald, the star of both of those, with her take on "The Breakfast Club's" theme song, "Don't You (Forget About Me)."

She's currently touring and promoting her latest album, called "Except Sometimes." And as you may be gathering, in the past few years, Molly Ringwald has moved far beyond teen queen stardom. She has a music career. She also became an author in 2010, publishing "Getting the Pretty Back," a combination advice book and memoir. And in 2012, Molly Ringwald made her foray into fiction with "When It Happens to You," a novel written as a series of short stories.

The book starts with a tale of a couple struggling to become pregnant and follows them as infidelity unravels their marriage. Other characters are woven in and out in sometimes surprising ways. We spoke to Molly Ringwald when "When It Happens to You" was first published and asked her how expressing herself as an author differs from expressing herself as an actor.


RINGWALD: One thing that I've found over the years is a little bit of frustration at just being able to play one character. When you write, you get to play all of the characters, so there's something really freeing about that. I'm not hemmed in by my age, my gender, my weight.


RINGWALD: I can play all of the characters and I really love that.

PFEIFFER: And we don't want to go too far into the stories because letting readers have them unfold naturally is really interesting. They interconnect. And when I began reading, I didn't know whether we were going to see these characters again. But slowly, they piece together. As you wrote, did you know whose story you were going to tell next?

RINGWALD: I originally thought that I was going to write a collection of short stories along the general theme of betrayal. And I thought that the stories would be shorter and have a connection but sort of almost a random connection. I mean, that was my original idea. And as soon as I wrote the first story, I realized that that wasn't going to work at all, that I really wanted the characters to be - I wanted there to be less characters. I wanted them to be more connected, and that's really sort of when the novel began to take shape.

PFEIFFER: You felt like I can't introduce this person and then not go more deeply into this person's perspective?

RINGWALD: Exactly. For me, I wanted to know more. Once I ended the first story, I thought, what's happened to this couple? You know, they've been together for all these years. You pretty much know from, I think, really soon that this betrayal has taken place. And I thought I really wanted to know more about them.

PFEIFFER: You mentioned that relatively early on, you can sense the betrayal is coming. And for me, it was actually very ominous. It's this moment when one character says to another, I'll walk you out to the car. And I just thought, this is not going to end well. But there is a character who doesn't have her own separate story. And this is this person who seems to be a somewhat key character. I'm thinking of the music teacher. So why not offer that person's viewpoint?

RINGWALD: You know, I've thought about it. But I felt like having her point of view was almost too Rashomon in a way, you know? I tell this story from a bunch of different points of view, but I just felt like - it's almost like a picture that's too full. I felt like there needed to be a little bit of a blank canvass. And that was just my instinct.

PFEIFFER: You've said that you are adapting this novel into a screenplay?

RINGWALD: I have plans to do that, yes.

PFEIFFER: And you've also said that one of the characters you'd consider playing is the one named Marina. You've joked it's because she's a redhead like you.


PFEIFFER: But we learn in one of the stories inside the novel that she comes rather unexpectedly into motherhood and has some mixed feelings about that. Would you read a little bit from that part?

RINGWALD: Absolutely. (Reading) Marina had no interest in motherhood. She relished her freedom with a zeal that only grew stronger as she watched her girlfriends steady marches toward maternity. One by one, their personalities became as disfigured as their bodies. They were perpetually fatigued and unkempt. Their walls were covered with sloppy finger paintings housed in expensive frames, and their speech was taken over by motherese, peppered with the words potty, wee-wee and wah-wah.

PFEIFFER: Now that character eventually does have a child. But your novel also gets into the toll that motherhood can take on people and the conflicted feeling that parents can have about their own kids. How does your own experience as a mother play into that?

RINGWALD: I don't think that you have to be a mother to write about motherhood credibly, but I will say that it definitely has given me an edge.


RINGWALD: You know, I spend a lot of time on the playground. You know, I spend a lot of time around my children and also around other children. And I think that it's something that's very interesting to me.

PFEIFFER: There's a character in your novel who's an actor, and he seems really tired of his fame. And he's sort of been pigeonholed into this part he's played for a long time and he's really weary of that. That made me wonder if you were channeling yourself.


RINGWALD: I have to reiterate that this is a work of fiction.


RINGWALD: You know, I mean, I think as a fiction writer, I take from all different aspects of my life and other people's life. Yes, I'm an actor, so I'm sure that I took certain aspects, mostly the humorous aspects of that character.

PFEIFFER: Like when he's on the plane and he's mobbed by flight attendants who insist on his picture and he just wants to sit down.

RINGWALD: That's right.

PFEIFFER: Many reviewers have given your book positive reviews as a piece of writing. And some of those positive reviews seem to suggest it's good, even though she's an actor. And I wondered if it was frustrating for you sometimes to feel not judged as just an author but as a celebrity author.

RINGWALD: Well, I really knew that that was going to happen. In fact, the reception of my book has been overwhelmingly positive and, for me, absolutely astounding. I really thought that people were going to have their knives out for me and was fully prepared for that. In fact, I don't even read reviews. Just like I don't think I've read a review of my acting since I was 19 years old.


RINGWALD: Yeah. I do think that it's somewhat condescending for people to judge me as an actor rather than as a writer. But on the other hand, I guess, people have incredibly low expectations, so they might be - I might have it easier than a lot of other writers.

PFEIFFER: It's said often in Hollywood that there really aren't roles for older actresses unless you're Meryl Streep. Do you - as you get older, do you see yourself moving more into writing and maybe writing more of the roles that you want to play?

RINGWALD: I think so. I think somewhere around 40 I realized that if I was going to play any interesting parts, I was going to have to write it myself.


RINGWALD: You know? And at 40, it was a real turning point for me, where I thought, you know, enough of this waiting around for other people to do things.


PFEIFFER: Writer and actress Molly Ringwald's book is "When It Happens To You." Molly, thank you very much.

RINGWALD: Thank you.


RINGWALD: (Singing) So take my hand and take my heart. It's time for us to start forever. I just want to be with you.

PFEIFFER: Our interview with Molly Ringwald originally aired in September 2012. From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Sacha Pfeiffer.


I'm Robin Young. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.