Former prosecutor and TV host Nancy Grace may be best known for her brash onscreen persona and her tough stance against violent criminals. But she’s got a quiet side too — one that allowed her to sit in solitude long enough to write her Hailey Dean mystery books, which have been made into a three-part drama series premiering on the Hallmark Channel on June 10.
“I loved it. I don’t ever get to do it,” Grace said this week about sitting and writing — something she started in the early days of her career, in the 1990s, when she was hosting a Court TV show with celebrity attorney Johnnie Cochran and went home at night instead of painting the town red with her co-host.
“Johnnie was, you know, the ‘it’ guy at the time and would go out to all sorts of soirees and parties and dinners at night, and I would just go home to my apartment and started writing the Hailey Dean mysteries then,” she said.
Grace, 58, spoke with Yahoo Lifestyle backstage before doing a Build interview in New York City (during which she predicted that Harvey Weinstein will go to jail), and she reflected on what it’s been like to see her highly personal works of fiction turned into a television series.
“Hailey is patterned after my experiences as a prosecutor and my experience of having lost my fiancé before our wedding,” she explained, referring to the crime that set her whole career in motion: her boyfriend’s murder when Grace was just 19 years old. “I didn’t really want to go forward with the [fiancé] story arc, because Hailey is not about romance or sex or dating — this is not Sex and the City — she is a prosecutor solving serious crimes. But [the writers were] right, every woman I know, every person I know, has a flaw. Her flaw is she cannot let herself move forward because she cannot risk loving again, ever.” Watching that part portrayed, Grace admitted, is “painful. I don’t like it, but you know, the truth doesn’t always make you feel good. To everyone else this is a murder mystery. But for me it’s very close to home.”
There’s been a lot in pop culture that has hit close to home for Grace recently — including the #MeToo movement blowing the lid off the rampant sexism that comes with being a woman in the entertainment industry. Grace has seen a lot of criticism of her approach and persona over the years, which is something she attributes, at least partly, to a misogynistic culture.
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“I firmly think it’s just hatred, outright hate. I think it’s easy for men to hate women,” she said. “It’s just so ingrained in our society — not giving them a job, not giving them a raise, raping them, taking advantage of them, belittling them, demeaning them, devaluing them in a million ways, whether they even know it or not. … All of that is BS, and it’s hurtful to me. But if I were to listen to all of that criticism and all of that hatred, I’d still be at home hiding under the bed right now. No dream would have ever come true, no task would’ve ever been accomplished, I would never have tried a case. I would still be working in the back of the library — processing books in the back, which was my job in undergrad — where I was perfectly content.”
In addition to her Hailey Dean series, Grace announced this week that she was partnering with iHeart Media to launch a new audio crime feature, “Crime Alert With Nancy Grace,” in July. But her main passion these days is parenting her twins, 10-year-old Lucy and John, with husband David Linch — though she admitted that being privy to so many disturbing crimes has brought a unique set of anxieties to being a mom.
“I hope they don’t read this interview, because I have been spying on them on the nanny-cam all day. I woke up in the middle of the night with nightmares about them because I’ve been away three nights!” she said. “I was just texting their babysitter, and they’re at home with my 86-year-old mother (who lives with us) right now, so the Lord only knows what’s happening. It’s all wild, I’m sure. We have a rescue dog, a rescue cat, and two rescue guinea pigs.”
Regarding that nanny-cam spying, it’s not the only way Grace stalks her kids to make sure they’re OK. “You’ve heard of a helicopter mom? I consider myself a straightjacket mom. I mean, I’m all over them. But I try to do it in a way that they really don’t know about it. I at least try to hide when I spy on them. ‘Mom, was that you in the parking lot today at school?’ I’m like, ‘No.’ ‘Mom, it was you.’ I’m like, ‘OK, I may have driven through.'”
Her kids are her “biggest blessing,” Grace says. “But all my fears are embodied in my trying to protect them.”
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