Sally: I had been through so much by then that I was able to say, "Who gives a rat's hind end?" The people who stand on the sidelines and criticize aren't actually in the arena, spilling their blood. It's your courage and skill that got you there.
Oprah: It took me getting to my 50s before I could say "Whatever!" about other people's criticism, especially when it's not true.
Sally: It still hurts like hell. The minute you tell yourself, "I'm never going to feel those things again," you stop growing because you're too busy armoring yourself.
Oprah: That's right. You realize that even though it hurts, you can't sit in your house and mope about it.
Sally: Especially if you have children to feed. I had Peter, my first, at 22; Eli, my second, shortly after; and Sam when I was 40. So I had a kid in college, another at home being a rascal, and one just being born.
Oprah: You won an Emmy for your role as the mother of grown children on Brothers & Sisters. Did raising three sons influence your portrayal of Nora Walker?
Sally: In every way! God stepped in and handed me this role to work out so many things in my own life. Like turning 60: What does that mean, especially when you don't have a mate? And what does it mean to be the mother of three grown-ups? It's hard for me to tell where Nora ends and where Sally begins. Except Nora doesn't have a career, and she's a little overbearing in a way that I'm not—or at least, I think I'm not. My sons might have a different take on that.
Oprah: If your sons were with us now, what kind of mother would they say you've been?
Sally: You mean if they were going to be honest? Eli would say that I've been a good and loving mom, but that I haven't done a lot of things well. It's true; when he was grown, he told me that I didn't discipline him enough. Can you believe it? I said, "I'd like you to try to discipline the kind of boy you were. You were absolutely uncontainable!" I now see him parenting his own son, and watching your kids become parents tells you what kind of parent you might have been. You know that at least something you gave them gives them the ability to care for their own children. My oldest son is this miraculously loving parent to his two little girls. When I watch him with them, I think, "Boy, I would have liked to have had comfort like that." They won't have any trouble knowing how to love or be loved. To raise children who go on to be great parents is an accomplishment—that's the Oscar moment in life.
Oprah: That's why America has responded so well to the show.
Sally: This whole world is about family. War is really about what someone has done to hurt our families.