Actress Sally Field steps up to the bench in 'The Court'

Monday, April 1, 2002

LOS ANGELES -- Kate Nolan is stepping into a new career. The popular, politically savvy, 50-something ex-governor of Ohio has been appointed to the Supreme Court.

Nolan is played by Sally Field, who is taking her own "leap of faith" into new territory on ABC's hour-long drama series "The Court," which debuted Tuesday.

"It's very, very challenging for me to try to step up to the plate and play someone like this -- even though the character has a lot of ingredients in her that I understand -- wondering, 'I know I'm good, but am I good enough?'" the 55-year-old actress said.

Field has plenty of film and television experience to boost her self-confidence. She starred in "Gidget" and "The Flying Nun" TV series in the 1960s, and her films include "Steel Magnolias," "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "Forrest Gump."

She's won two Emmys -- for "Sybil" in 1977 and for a guest role on NBC's medical drama series "ER" in 2001 -- and two Oscars, for 1979's "Norma Rae" and 1984's "Places in the Heart."

"In my wildest dreams I could not have thought of a better scenario for me," Field said. "I don't think I've ever really played an intellectual before."

She is quick to stress that the series isn't built around her character.

"I don't carry the burden of screen time. The stories aren't all about this one character. ... As a television viewer, which I am, I find that shows that are ensemble are much more interesting."

Learning Supreme Court history and procedures has been interesting, said Field, who also has immersed herself in thoughts about what "women who have reached a powerful position in their 50s have gone through to get there."

Earlier this season, CBS debuted "First Monday," also a drama series about the Supreme Court (8 p.m. Fridays). Field watched the pilot, but no later episodes. "They are a wonderful group of actors," she said of the cast, which includes James Garner, her co-star in 1985's "Murphy's Romance."

In comparing her show with "First Monday," Field stresses the more feminist slant of "The Court" as well as its complex tone, which she believes will accurately represent the machinery of the judicial process.

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