When Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick had their first child, Travis, in 1989—Sedgwick, like a lot of parents, felt awakened to a new kind of fear. "The minute I had a child I was like, God, I want to make sure there’s a good place here for him," Sedgwick tells Glamour. "[Kevin and I] are both people who are spurred into action, and we like to be part of giving back. It's our responsibility." Bacon and Sedgwick became early crusaders for climate change awareness, practicing conservation, minimizing their plastic use, and taking care of the ocean. In the 30 years since, activism has become an even bigger part of their lives, both on their own and as a couple. (The two have been married for over three decades.)
During the 2018 midterms, Sedgwick and Bacon became laser-focused on local politics. They teamed up with Swing Left, a national grassroots organization of nearly a million volunteers and donors working to flip red states blue, like in Virginia (a current focus for the group). "People-powered movements are the only way we’ve been able to get any social change done in this country," Sedgwick says of her work with the organization. "Whether it’s the woman’s right to vote or gay marriage, it always starts with the grassroots. Having people who live in the areas talk to their neighbors and encourage them to vote because, as we see in a lot of these races, it comes down to a relative handful of votes. We're living in a time where I’m traumatized every day, so what is the antidote to that? For me, it’s being part of the solution."
Recently Bacon and Sedgwick hosted a letter-writing party at their home, crafting personalized notes to likely Democratic voters that them to turn up to the polls, and filmed a PSA, encouraging others to do the same. "There’s something very empowering about putting your hand to paper in that way," says Bacon, who first became politically engaged at the age of 13, when he volunteered on a mayoral campaign in Philadelphia. "We have a right to use our vote to voice our opinions, so to actually be asked to write down in a letter why [you should vote], that's powerful."
For the couple, activism is a shared value, and just one of the foundational principles on which they've built their 31-year marriage. Here, Sedgwick and Bacon let us in on a few others.
Be each other’s mirror.
Kevin Bacon: For years I encouraged Kyra to direct, because I really thought she’d be great at it and would enjoy it. But directing is a big step to take because you go, "Oh, can I really stand there and tell all these people what to do?" So I just kept saying to her, "I know you can do this." I knew she could do it because when she would visit my sets, she'd always be so close to blurting out some kind of direction or suggestion. Also, in the way that she would analyze the films and television shows she would watch. She’s incredibly opinionated about the way things are shot, the music, the casting, all of that. So when this book that she’d been developing [for film], Story of a Girl, came along, she was in this meeting and said, "I’ll direct it." From the first time, she made that commitment, and they said, "Okay, sure." I’ve never seen her in work situations to be as happy as she is when she's directing. She just absolutely loves it, and she's great at it.
Kyra Sedgwick: It really is amazing that he saw in me something that I just didn’t have the confidence to wrap my arms around. It really wouldn’t have happened unless he kept pounding the table. So when the opportunity to direct Story of a Girl came up, I raised my hand. It’s been really a life changer for me. I love it. I feel like it’s something I’ve always been meant to do, and he saw that before I did. I think that’s amazing.
Know when it’s your turn to step up.
Bacon: She’s made a lot more sacrifices than I’ve made. Kyra felt really strongly that, when she started to have children, she needed to be there for them. In many cases, because of the kids, she would make decisions careerwise that weren’t the best for her career. We kept staying in New York because we wanted to raise them in New York, but there was more work in Los Angeles. Then when The Closer came along—I don’t even look at this as a sacrifice—but the kids were still in high school or junior high and she had this opportunity to go out to California and to be a lead in a TV show. I said, "Listen, I’ll stay with the kids." In this case, this was the first time in our lives I said, "I’ll stay home, I won’t take anything." Both of us knew that I said that, but in the back of my mind I was like, "I hope I don’t get offered anything great." But for the most part, she’s the one that did the sacrificing.
Sedgwick: I worked a lot less when the kids were younger, and yes, some of that was a choice, but I also want to say not everybody has that choice not to work. So we were lucky enough to be in a situation when we both didn’t have to work. I think you just make your priorities and sometimes they put restrictions on you that hurt a little bit, and that’s okay. And we learned as we went what works and what doesn’t. There was a time in the ’90s that I did Heart and Souls, and he went off to Africa to do this movie and we had almost two months apart. We were like, Okay, that doesn’t work. Never again. But we learned from that misstep.
Don’t hit below the belt.
Sedgwick: I think the biggest fight we ever had was when I wanted to move back to Manhattan and he wanted to stay in Connecticut. That was a big one, and it lasted a long time. But we don’t hit below the belt. Neither of us has the constitution for that, and I mean that in a good way. I don’t think we could dish it out or take it, frankly. Ultimately, I don’t want to fight and he doesn’t either.
Bacon: We don’t start with "No." "No, you can’t do that." "You can’t go away." "You can’t do that job." It’s kind of the opposite. If something comes up, we mostly say, "This is our lives; we’ll make it work." Our lives are a little nuts with not knowing where we’re going to be one day to the next. There’s a part of us where this is what we need, and this is what we thrive on. If it weren't, we wouldn’t have chosen this life. We’re very, very much homebodies. We’d prefer to stay in and cook and not stay in hotels or be on airplanes. But on the other hand, we always have a suitcase packed because I think we're vagabonds. That’s what we do. If something comes up, we talk about it, but not from the "Oh, shit, you can’t go away. You can’t go to Australia for three months." That’s not the place we start.
Sometimes you have to make the bed.
Bacon: When we first got together, she was more the messy one. But when I left home, I was an absolute slob. I lived in a pigsty. My first apartment was a roach-filled disaster. Through the years I've tried to get the chaos out of [my home] because my work life is chaotic. She’s moved in that direction too. I still don’t really like to make the bed, because we’re going to get in it in another 12 hours, but she really, really likes a made bed. I’ll do it, but she does a little bit more of that, and I do a little more fixing stuff.
Sedgwick: Nobody wants to come home to a trashy kitchen if you've been away for a while; it’s nice to come home to a clean place. Kevin also cooks a lot, and I cook when he’s working. We have help too, which is another way in which we’re incredibly lucky. But there’s diapers to be changed and shopping to be done and toilet paper to pick up. There’s a lot of monumentally unsexy things about being married for 31 years.
Keep it fresh.
Sedgwick: I started skiing when I was 40, which was something we never did together [before]. I swear one day we’ll take some kind of dance lesson or something awful like that. Kevin gave me a ukulele, and that was something really new and cool. I wouldn’t call myself inherently musical, but it is super fun. And I can’t pick up my ukulele without him picking up his guitar and wanting to jam. Sometimes I’m like, "Let me stumble through this on my own!" But he’s a natural teacher.
Bacon: I’m a musician, so we always have guitars around. Now that she’s learned to play the ukulele, if I take out my guitar, she’s more apt to take her ukulele out too. It’s nice. She travels with a ukulele, it’s always with her, and we’ll pop up some song we’re thinking about singing or she hears on the radio and is like, "Do you think I could play that on the ukulele?" I'm like, "Yeah sure, let’s figure it out."
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Samantha Leach is the assistant culture editor at Glamour. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @_sleach.
Originally Appeared on Glamour