You might know Mackenzie Phillips from her part in the movie American Graffiti or her role on the Disney Channel series So Weird. But for TV fans who came of age in the ’70s, the former child star is best known as Julie Cooper on One Day at a Time. Phillips has been a regular presence on television through the decades, but she’s also faced some serious challenges—and spoken openly about how she’s overcome them. Read on to find out more about Phillips’ career since One Day at a Time, and see what she looks like now.
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Mackenzie Phillips got her start as a child actor.
Audiences first saw Phillips as pushy 12-year-old Carol in the classic 1973 film American Graffiti. Two years later, she landed a starring role on the CBS series One Day at a Time. The show followed divorced mom Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin), who was raising two teenagers, Julie (Phillips) and Barbara (Valerie Bertinelli). Phillips starred on the show for the first five seasons, but her struggles with addiction led to her being fired, per Variety. She returned to the series in a recurring capacity, though she was eventually fired a second time.
Through the ’80s and ’90s, Phillips continued to act, appearing on a number of popular series including The Love Boat, Murder, She Wrote, Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, NYPD Blue, and Chicago Hope. In 1999, she was cast as rock-star mom Molly on the Disney Channel series So Weird. The show ran for three seasons, ending in 2001.
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She is now sober and has spoken openly about her struggles.
After getting fired twice from One Day at a Time, Phillips continued to struggle with addiction, culminating in a 2008 arrest for drug possession. She was on her way to a reunion of the beloved ’70s series. Phillips documented the arrest and decades of challenges in her 2009 memoir High on Arrival. Now sober, she speaks candidly about her life.
In a 2019 interview with Variety, Phillips said, “There’s so much stigma attached to not only being a person with an active substance-use disorder, but for being a person in recovery. The more people speak out and the more transparent [they are]—the more people are willing to, as we say, ‘recover out loud’—the more people will understand it’s not a shame-based thing to get help. It’s really rather courageous.”
Phillips had recent roles on Orange Is the New Black and the One Day at a Time reboot.
Younger TV viewers (particularly Netflix fans) might recognize Phillips from her more recent roles. In 2o18, she had a memorable one-season role on Orange Is the New Black as Barb. In an interview with the Associated Press at the time, Phillips spoke about playing a hardened inmate and looking her age. “I’m a woman of a certain age who hasn’t had any plastic surgery and plans to keep it that way,” she said. “Consider this: Had I been Botox’d and nipped and tucked and lifted, they never would have hired me. I’m very proud of my age because I never thought I would live this long.”
But Phillips took on a lighter part on another Netflix show: the reboot of One Day at a Time. She was reunited with creator Norman Lear, whom she had worked with on the original series. “I’m working with Norman Lear again, and hanging out with Norman on set. We have a real long history together through my addiction, and his kindness has only grown over the years,” she told Variety in the 2019 interview.
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She also works as a counselor helping others through recovery.
Phillips doesn’t only speak about her own struggles with addiction—she also helps others overcome theirs. In addition to acting, she became a counselor at Breathe Life Healing Centers in 2016. In an interview the following year with the Los Angeles Times, Phillips explained why she decided to take on a new career. “All my life I’ve been interested in why people do the things they do,” she said. “When I was little, I wanted to be in the field of abnormal psychology. But the acting train pulled into town and off I went. I recently started realizing: I’m not going to be alive as long as I have been. What do I want to do with the rest of my life?”
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