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AARP The Magazine

What I Know Now

Actress Kathy Bates on Road Trips, Surviving Cancer and Being a Late Bloomer

HARRY'S LAW -- Season 2 -- Pictured: Kathy Bates as Harriet

Academy Award-winning actress Kathy Bates joins the cast of the FX series "American Horror Story." — John Russo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

First, a bit about Kathy Bates.

Her great-great-grandfather was once President Andrew Jackson’s doctor.

She won the Best Actress Academy Award for playing obsessed fan Annie Wilkes in Misery, the 1990 film version of the Stephen King novel.

She disrobed for a nude hot tub scene with Jack Nicholson in 2002’s About Schmidt.

And, most importantly, Bates, 65, is joining the cast of the FX series American Horror Story, which begins its third season on Oct. 9. 

See also: Mark Harmon, Christine Baranski and other boomer stars on TV

Here, what Bates told AARP The Magazine what she knows about ...

Roots

I'm from the South. You can tell from my accent, and the fact that I love lots of ice in my drinks. I am partial to bourbon.

Patience

I was 42 when I first starred in a hit movie. I figured that if the work was good enough, sooner or later it would be recognized.

Humility

When I became a successful actress, my mother used to say, "What's the big deal? You didn't discover the cure for cancer."

Marriage

Some of us shouldn't get married, and I'm one of them. I tried it but wasn't very good at it. It's not a talent that I possess.

Hitting the Road

I've always loved driving. I own an RV and drove it to Memphis a couple of years ago. I stayed in an RV park on the Mississippi. It was wonderful to watch that river roll by. On the road, some people don't have any idea who I am; they just see some old woman doddering around. I don't have paparazzi chasing me — I'm not of that ilk.

Self-Assurance

We're so fixated on the movie-star look that it's been a bit of a struggle to find the kinds of roles I would love to do. An interviewer once said to me, "Well, you're not Michelle Pfeiffer." I thought that was so rude! I told him, "Well, she's not me."

The Importance of Vigilance

I had ovarian cancer in 2003. When I went in for a scan last year they found a tumor in my left breast. I wasn't going to fool around; I had a double mastectomy. Breast cancer runs like a river through my family. My mother and niece had it; my aunt died of it. Even if you test negative [for genetic mutations that predispose you to cancer] — like I did — you can't assume you're OK.

Acceptance

Like anybody, I wish I wasn't getting older. I wish I had legs that were 50 inches long and thin. I'm sorry I had to have my breasts removed. There are lots of things I wish were different, but I have wonderful friends I rely on for my happiness. And I've been blessed with a keen mind and many interests.

Kenneth Miller is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer.

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ONE-ONE-ONE WITH VALERIE HARPER: Go behind-the-scenes with Valerie Harper and her husband, Tony Cacciotti, as they talk to AARP about the actress's terminal cancer diagnosis and determination to keep living her life to the fullest.

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