One Day at a Time
“I have gone to great lengths to rearrange my life and change from the inside.” Mackenzie Phillips
American actress and singer Mackenzie Phillips, the daughter of deceased rock musician and co-founder of the musical group The Mamas & the Papas, has experienced a rollercoaster kind of life because of drugs and alcohol. First attaining attention as Carol in the mega blockbuster “American Graffiti” (1973), a role she reprised in the 1979 disappointing sequel “More American Graffiti” (1979), Phillips became a household name playing eldest daughter Julie Cooper on the popular CBS comedy series “One Day at A Time” (1975). Her success, however, was cut short by her substance abuse and the producers had to fire her in 1980. After receiving treatment, she was welcomed back to the show in 1981 but was discharged from the sitcom again in 1983. Phillips spent the next nine years struggling with her addictions until 1992 when she eventually became sober again. Since then, she portrayed the role of Molly Phillips on Disney Channel's “So Weird” (1999-2001) and Nurse Harding in the thriller “The Jacket” (2005), which starred Adrien Brody.
A two time divorcee, Phillips is currently married to music conductor/arranger Keith Levenson. She has a son named Shane (now 21 years old) with her second husband, musician Michael Barakan (together from 1997 to 2000). She was married to her first husband, Jeff Sessler, from 1979 to 1981. Before the marriage, she was romantically involved with Peter Asher (together from 1978-1979).
Childhood and Family:
Laura Mackenzie Phillips was born on November 10, 1959, in Alexandria, Virginia. Her parents, rock musician John Phillips and ex-ballerina Susan Adams, gave their daughter the name Mackenzie after John's friend and songwriting Scott MacKenzie, with whom he performed with in a group called the Journeymen. When Mack (her nickname) was three years old, her parents divorced and her dad married Michelle Phillips, with whom he co-founded the popular group the Mamas and Papas. Her famous father went on to marry two other women, including actress Genevieve Waite, before his death in March 2001 (heart failure). Mack has an older brother named Jeffrey Phillips (born in 1957) and three half-siblings, actresses Chynna Phillips (born in 1968; mother Michelle Phillips), Bijou Phillips (born in 1980; mother Genevieve Waite) and Tamerlane Phillips (born 1971; mother Genevieve Waite).
On August 15, 1979, Mack married Jeff Sessler, but the marriage ended in 1981. Six years later, on February 3, 1987, she welcomed her first child, son Shane Fontayne, Jr., with her companion, rock guitarist Michael Barakan, whom she married in February 1997. She divorced her second husband in 2000. Phillips is now the wife of music conductor/arranger Keith Levenson, whom she has been married to since June 2005.
Mackenzie Phillips had her first taste of performing at age 12 when she joined three classmates to form a musical group. In one of the group's performances at the Troubadour, they were discovered by an agent and before long Phillips was on her way to pursuing a career in acting. In 1973, she made a promising debut as Carol, a gabby teen who links herself to Paul Le Mat’s character, in director/writer George Lucas' hit dramatic comedy “American Graffiti,” which earned five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Also that year, she appeared on television in “Go Ask Alice” (ABC), which was based on a book by Beatrice Sparks.
Phillips' big breakthrough arrived two years later when she was hired to star as Julie Cooper Horvath, the eldest daughter of single mother Ann Romano (played by Bonnie Franklin), on the CBS sitcom “One Day at a Time” (1975). The series was a success and so was Phillips. She emerged as the highest paid actress on the show with earnings reportedly $47,500 a week. With newfound fame, Phillips could be seen in several other roles, including 14-year-old Eleanor Roosevelt in the noted miniseries “Eleanor and Franklin” (ABC, 1976), Carol in the sequel “More American Graffiti” (1979), which was directed by Bill L. Norton, and silent screen legend Lillian Gish in the NBC TV film “Moviola: The Silent Lovers” (1980).
Despite her increasing popularity, by this time Phillips had gained notoriety for her consumption of alcohol and drugs, a destructive habit she had begun in high school. Following a series of battles with the producers of “One Day at a Time,” she was fired in February 1980 and her part was written out of the show. Phillips checked herself into the hospital and underwent substance abuse treatment. When she was through, she plunged herself into anti-drug activities, which helped her to return to “One Day at a Time” in 1981. The next year, she resumed her big screen career by playing the supporting role of J.J. in Larry Peerce's “Love Child,” alongside Amy Madigan and Beau Bridges. She also made a return to her musical roots by touring with her dad's group, The New Mamas and the Papas. Unfortunately for Phillips, her reunion with her father led to her old habits. She once again became addicted to cocaine and by 1983, she had been fired from the sitcom for a second time.
After taking a two year hiatus, Phillips resurfaced on the small screen in an episode of “Murder, She Wrote” called “Murder in the Afternoon” (1985), where she portrayed Carol Needom. She followed it up with a supporting role in the NBC television movie “Kate's Secret” (1986), but it marked her last acting role for many years. In the meantime, Phillips continued using drugs and did not enter rehab again until 1992. After nine months of treatment, she eventually became clean and sober.
1994 saw Phillips resume her acting career by making a guest appearance as a drug counselor named Ellen Marks in an episode of the hit show “Beverly Hills, 90210.” She went on to undertake the recurring role of Maureen Dodd in two episodes of “Melrose Place”(1995) and appeared as substance abuse counselor Rachel Sullivan in the CBS daytime drama “Guiding Light” (1996). Also in 1996, she was spotted on the stage playing Rizzo in “Grease.” In addition to joining the touring company, she also briefly appeared on Broadway.
Guest spots in the series “Carolyn in the City” and “Walker, Texas Ranger” followed in 1997, but Phillips did not land a film role until early 1998 when she was featured as Connie in “True Friends,” an independent drama directed by and starring James Quattrochi. It was her first film since 1982. Phillips moved on to a leading role the following year in the comedy “When,” where she played Catherine Brown. She returned to series TV as a regular later that same year in the Disney Channel series “So Weird,” opposite Patrick Levis, Eric Lively and Cara DeLizia. Phillips then starred as Molly in the series “So Weird” from 1999 until the show's end in 2001.
Phillips kept busy during the late 1990s and early 2000s by appearing as a guest star in such series as “Chicago Hope,” “The Outer Limits,” “Crossing Jordan,” “ER,” “The Division,” “Without a Trace,” “NYPD Blue” and “7th Heaven.” In 2002, she had a supporting role in the TV film “Double Teamed” and was cast as Doris in a stage production of “Same Time, Next Year,” by Bernard Slade. Three years later, she joined Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Kris Kristofferson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kelly Lynch, Brad Renfro and Daniel Craig for the psychological thriller “The Jacket,” where she was cast as a nurse.
In 2007, Phillips appeared as Mrs. Swett in an episode of the CBS crime series “Cold Case” and was a presenter at The 5th Annual TV Land Awards. She then appeared in a 2008 episode of NBC's “The Today Show.”
“If it never gets better than it is at this moment, if I never am more successful than I am right now, that's OK with me.” Mackenzie Phillips