Stefanie Powers gives no hint of jet lag during an afternoon conversation - despite having flown in to Los Angeles a night earlier from Kenya, by way of New York. Youthful, dynamic and beautiful at 72, the red-haired actress also gives no hint of slowing down. She divides her time between performing, globetrotting and the wildlife conservation issues that melded with her animal-loving nature during her near-decade-long love affair with the late William Holden back in the 1970s.
She is here to talk about Love by the Book, the Hallmark Channel Original Movie debuting tomorrow (January 24), in which she has a small role as proprietress of a book store coffee bar - a woman attuned to the romantic and business woes of young store owner Leah Renee.
"They have a wonderful formula - putting the young ones who have the problems with the older ones who have the voices of wisdom," she says of the cable channel's exceedingly popular flicks. Powers admits she's surprised by some of the Hallmark Channel devotees she has come across, "friends of mine who are terribly sophisticated, who you might expect to dismiss these movies as too corny. They love them."
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Of course, a few of her friends are emoting for the Hallmark Channel cameras themselves - like former Hart to Hart leading man Robert Wagner, who recently did a Santa Claus cameo, along with wife Jill St. John as Mrs. C., in Northpole. The thought of a Wagner-Powers reunion movie makes Powers smile. "Any chance to work with him I'd love," she says.
Most of the work she'd like to do is in theater, and she has plans brewing both for the West End and Broadway this year and next. Powers maintains homes in Los Angeles, London and Kenya and travels often. She'd love to see more of Mongolia, where she enjoyed playing polo. She's also played polo riding an elephant in Nepal. As if that weren't extreme enough, a few months ago, the life-long rider tried extreme cowboy racing, which combines cowboy skills with an obstacle course.
"I had so much fun, I can't wait to do it again," she says.
In 2009, Powers lost her mother, with whom she was very close, and fought lung cancer. She says she came out of it healthy, but with an intensified awareness of the passage of time, and a more acute desire to accomplish things she wants to do. Those things include saving endangered species — a passion she shared with Tom Carroll, one of the directors of the William Holden Wildlife Foundation she established in 1982, and her long-time partner until his death last year. She sadly admits the battles to save creatures on the brink of extinction are fraught with terrible frustration.
"I'm not sure I don't get disheartened, but I'm also angry - and if you still have anger in your belly, you do something about it," declares the actress, who works not only through her Foundation, but is involved in efforts to save jaguars in Central America, wild horses in North America, and elephants in Africa.
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Some 11,000 students a year visit her Mount Kenya wildlife reserve — students Powers hopes to fire up enough that they leave ready to "preach the gospel of conservation."
It appears that age is no stumbling block for her. How does she feel about the weight of years? "One day it will come down," she says, "but until then, I'm not going to hesitate to tackle anything."
Photo credit: Lifetime
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