Kate Walsh, 55, says she doesn't 'want to send the message' that it's 'not OK to get wrinkles': 'It makes me a little sad'

Kate Walsh gets candid about life and career for Yahoo Life's Unapologetically series. (Photo: Getty Images)
Kate Walsh gets candid about life and career for Yahoo Life's Unapologetically series. (Photo: Getty Images)

Kate Walsh is a staple of Shondaland. In the Shonda Rhimes-scripted universe, Walsh stars as Dr. Addison Montgomery, a world-class neonatal surgeon who became a fan favorite on Grey's Anatomy before moving on to her own spin-off, Private Practice. Walsh has since starred on shows like 13 Reasons Why, The Umbrella Academy and Emily in Paris — yet she's also been open about how her career did not take off until her mid-30s, when she put on surgeon scrubs.

"When I got wrapped into Grey's Anatomy, I couldn't ask for a better place to be a female actor than in Shondaland, so I just feel very fortunate," Walsh, 55, tells Yahoo Life. "My experience really wasn't with ageism. My life just gets more interesting and better."

She says that a gift of becoming a household name later in life was developing a "great work ethic," which included years of "flipping burgers" and "waitressing." Walsh, who got her start as a recurring character on The Drew Carey Show in 1997, recalls, "I had tenacity and resilience, and I've been very fortunate to have a lot of supportive people. There is a lot of rejection and criticism in this business, but I guess I was just enough of a masochist."

When things are getting particularly challenging, Walsh turns to her 18-year-old cat Pablo, whom she calls a "source of unconditional love, peace and calm." Her passion for her pet encouraged her to team up with Purina’s Tidy Cats Lightweight Litter, for a campaign about making the holidays more pet friendly.

Walsh, who has never had children and has spoken before about going through early menopause, says that for women without kids, there is a "real pressure" put on one's career — though she's hopeful that's changing.

"I used to think, 'Oh, if you don't have a child, if you're not a mother, you better be really successful at what you do.' Otherwise, what is your perceived value as a woman in this culture?" Walsh says. "But I think that more and more, that's changing…There are so many other stories to tell."

Like many people, Walsh says she's dealt with the pressure to overthink about what her body looks like.

"I feel like I've come out of the womb with a 27 inch waist — you can't not feel that pressure," Walsh says. "But for me, it's about being healthy. I want to look good, and I want to feel good … but as you age, your body changes…It's so typical. When you’re a little kid, you’re like 'I want to look like that, like a woman.' And when you're older, you're like, 'I want to look like I did at 13.' It's just about radical acceptance, and my thing is just health and taking good care of yourself."

While she's spoken out in the past about getting facials and lasers to keep her skin looking its best, she says she draws the line at injectables and Botox.

"Genetically, my mom is Italian, so she has great skin. I've always said look, if I had a different skin type, I may have been Botoxing the heck out of my face, but I don't," she says. "I can't judge it, so I just detach and watch it from an anthropological stand point…For me, I don't want to send the message that 'you're not OK, you're not OK to get wrinkles.' We want to look and feel our best, but aging is our right. It's a little strange and it makes me a little sad. There's a lot of looks out there, but there's this smooth look … it's a little Blade Runner."

These days, many fans of Walsh are excited about the star's TV future — and they hope that includes a lot more time with Dr. Montgomery. Walsh's Grey's Anatomy return included a scene in which Dr. Montgomery attempts to treat a patient experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, who was unable to have the pregnancy terminated in their state due to abortion restrictions. Given Rhimes' comments about not quite being finished with stories on Private Practice, many speculate that the current state of abortion rights might make it necessary for Dr. Montgomery to return to her own show about pregnancy care.

"[Krista Vernoff, the Grey's Anatomy showrunner,] was very passionate, as was I, about doing women's health storylines, and really addressing it — in as much detail and with as much empathy and complexity and objectivity as we could. Shonda Rhimes, when she created Grey's and all her shows, she's always dealt with social issues and what's happening and reflecting it back in the culture. I think that there's a lot more power in terms of social change with art that there isn't necessarily in the private sector or politically. It's beautiful, and I feel very fortunate."

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