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Reba McEntire Makes Her Kind of Country

Aired March 2, 2002 - 11:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Coming up next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS: She is the reigning queen of country music.


TIM MCGRAW, COUNTRY SINGER: You hear her and you know exactly who it is, and nobody else can sing like that.


ANNOUNCER: A rodeo-riding girl from Oklahoma who became Nashville's hottest hit-maker. She's now riding success as a star on stage and screen.


REBA MCENTIRE, SINGER/ACTRESS: My gosh, if you would have told me I was doing a Broadway play and a sitcom this year, I would have said no, probably not me.


ANNOUNCER: Reba McEntire: country singing crossover.

Plus: They're two big-screen hunks from different generations.


JOSH HARTNETT, ACTOR: There are so many heartthrob spots that they need to fill or something, and I happen to be around.


ANNOUNCER: The latest scoop on Josh Hartnett and Mel Gibson.


ANNOUNCER: And the Grammys surprise winner. Traditional music- makers staging a big comeback.

Also: She's the troubled high-schooler who has helped "Six Feet Under" get to the top.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LAUREN AMBROSE, ACTRESS: I like the way she speaks her mind. I like the way she's trying to find her way through the world.


ANNOUNCER: Lauren Ambrose: The young actress gearing up for the new season of her hit show.

Their stories and more on now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn.

She is country music's leading lady, but Reba McEntire is so much more than that. She is a bona fide pop culture phenomenon. From records and movies to Broadway and now TV, Reba is red hot.

Here's CNN's Daryn Kagan.


DARYN KAGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Don't let the strobe lights and electric guitars fool you. This high-tech, high- energy production is not a rock show.

It's Reba McEntire, the reigning country music queen in a national concert tour that rocks.

MARTINA MCBRIDE, COUNTRY SINGER: She's definitely one of the greatest singers we have in country music. If you go see her live show, I mean, she's just on.

MCGRAW: You hear her and you know exactly who it is, and nobody else can sing like that.

KAGAN: That unparalleled voice has made Reba McEntire a phenomenon in the world of country music. The superstar wrapped up a two-month 25-city concert tour in September.

She's sold over 46 million records and has won every major country music award. But these days the singing sensation isn't just showcasing her pipes in recording studios and concerts. The country diva is starring in her first television sitcom.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Mom, you rolled Dan's socks into balls.

R. MCENTIRE: What am I supposed to do with them, make puppets?


KAGAN: The show called "Reba," airs on the WB, a network known for targeting young audiences with programs like "Dawson's Creek" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

(on camera): You've never done a sitcom before, have you?

R. MCENTIRE: No. This is the year of the firsts. My gosh, if you would have told me I was doing a Broadway play and a sitcom this year, I would have said no, probably not me. You got your people mixed up.

KAGAN (voice-over): But there's no mix-up here. McEntire began her sitcom on the heels of sell-out performance on Broadway. Reba McEntire scored a Broadway bullseye when she took over the role as sharpshooting Annie Oakley in the Irving Berlin revival "Annie Get Your Gun."

Theater critics were overwhelmed by McEntire.

BEN BRANTLEY, THEATER CRITIC, "NEW YORK TIMES": She was so utterly confident on stage from the first moment, it really was as if it were her home.

KAGAN: The role of redneck cowgirl Annie Oakley may have hit closer to home for Reba McEntire than audiences might think.

R. MCENTIRE: It was mom and daddy and four children on a 8,000- acre cattle ranch that us kids worked as the, pretty much the hired hands.

KAGAN: Born March 28, 1955, Reba now-McEntire was raised on a cattle ranch in Tawkie (ph), a town of 18 in the misty rocky hills of southeastern Oklahoma.

JACKIE MCENTIRE, MOTHER: I guess I was proudest when she was born. It took her forever.

CLARK MCENTIRE, FATHER: She had real fiery red hair, and girlish. And she just -- we would support her -- we couldn't afford many cute clothes.

KAGAN: Reba McEntire's father Clark was a world champion steer roper. Rodeo prize money and selling cattle put food on the McEntire dinner table.

J. MCENTIRE: We thought we were just doing real well.

C. MCENTIRE: Everybody else thought we was going to starve to death, but...

J. MCENTIRE: We didn't think it, did we?

PAKE MCENTIRE, BROTHER: You go catch a horse and punch his cattle up while daddy's feeding him, you know.

KAGAN: Reba is the third of four McEntire kids. There's older brother Pake and sisters Susie and Alice.

The McEntires were skilled barrel racers and cattle ropers. Reba loved the competition, but didn't excel in rodeo like her siblings did. J. MCENTIRE: She liked for the horse to go pretty fast, but not real, real fast.

R. MCENTIRE: See, I wanted to be a world champion barrel racer. We were always in the -- you know, traveling to rodeos. And I thought it was so romantic and so Western. I loved that life.

KAGAN: It was on long, hard drives to rodeos that the McEntires realized their children had talents outside the steer-roping arena.

P. MCENTIRE: Our momma -- so she got us to singing. You know, singing and teaching us three-part harmony.

KAGAN: In high school McEntire and her siblings put their musical talents together.

R. MCENTIRE: Pake, my older brother, was the lead singer of the Singing McEntires. My little sister Susie and I were the harmony singers.

P. MCENTIRE: And we played for everything that the school had, like football games, pep rallies, country music concerts.

KAGAN: While McEntire enjoyed performing, she concentrated on her studies at Kiowa High. She excelled in school and athletics. In 1972 McEntire enrolled at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, about 45 miles from home.

She continued singing and ranching, but still had dreams of becoming a rodeo star.

R. MCENTIRE: Daddy used to always come to me and say Reba, why in the world are you always wanting to do something you're not good at?

C. MCENTIRE: I said anybody that's got a natural talent, I hate to see them waste it on running them old barrels. And that's the worst trouble I ever had with her.

KAGAN: McEntire listened to her father's advice and concentrated on she knew best.

R. MCENTIRE: And I took every music class I could get my hands on -- vocal lessons, and I even fiddle lessons, piano lessons, choir.

KAGAN: In 1974, during McEntire's sophomore year in college, Clark McEntire thought his daughter should put those music lessons to use.

R. MCENTIRE: He said, why don't you sing the National Anthem at the rodeo? Well, there was 9,000 or 10,000 people at the performances every night. And daddy, of course, knowing that you never know who's going to be in the audience that could see me and give me that big break.

KAGAN: That big break came at the national finals, the World Series of rodeo.

RED STEAGALL, RECORDING ARTIST: I heard this girl sing the National Anthem, and it just blew me away.

KAGAN: When we come back: Reba McEntire makes music and deals with disaster along the way.

R. MCENTIRE: Sometimes it seems like 10 years and sometimes it seems like yesterday because it's all so very vivid.





STEAGALL: The emotion in her voice and her carriage and her presentation of lyrics and melodies, I had never heard anything like it.

KAGAN (voice-over): In 1974, after 19-year-old Reba McEntire belted out the National Anthem at a rodeo competition in Oklahoma city, recording artist Red Steagall thought McEntire could have a shot at stardom.

STEAGALL: I asked Reba and her mother to come to Nashville the next spring and cut a demo tape.

McEntire recorded her first demo in a tiny studio on Nashville's Music Row. But record executives weren't interested in the unknown girl from Oklahoma.

STEAGALL: You know, in those days girl singers were not very popular with producers and record companies because they didn't sell records and they didn't sell concert tickets.

J. MCENTIRE: He went all over town trying to find someone, some record company that would sign her.

KAGAN: Eleven months later, in 1975, McEntire landed a record deal with Polygram/Mercury.

Saying goodbye to Oklahoma and the comforts of home wasn't an easy decision for McEntire. She'd also be leaving her boyfriend, steer-wrestling champ Charlie Battles, a divorced father of two she had met on the rodeo circuit.

R. MCENTIRE: You know, family is really big in my books. Not just mine, blood family, but my rodeo family. And I was leaving a family, two families, basically to go into this new world of country music, Nashville, Tennessee.

KAGAN (on camera): All these years later, is there any resentment that you're the one who got the big break? R. MCENTIRE: I don't think so. They were always 100 percent behind me.

P. MCENTIRE: We were a little envious and a little jealous and stuff, but we was proud also.

KAGAN (voice-over): In 1976 one of McEntire's first singles, "I Don't Want to be a One Night Stand," had some mild success, creeping up to number 88 on the Billboard country charts.

STEAGALL: She and I had talked about it, that it probably would take about five years for her career to take off.

KAGAN: Although McEntire's singles were barely hitting the country charts, her love life was taking off. She was ready to settle down with rodeo star Charlie Battles.

R. MCENTIRE: I loved Charlie with all my heart. I wanted to marry him. And it was -- we had a lot of fun. We rodeod together, we ranched together.

KAGAN: Not all the McEntires were happy with her relationship with the divorced older cowboy.

P. MCENTIRE: He said, me and Reba is going to get married, what do you think about it? And I said, well, I don't like it a damn bit.

But really it was not anything derogatory toward Charlie, it's just that nobody's good enough for your kid sister.

KAGAN: In 1976, at 21, McEntire married the 31-year-old steer roper at this Baptist church in Stringtown, Oklahoma.

The newlyweds rarely saw each other. Charlie Battles was busy on the rodeo circuit, and Reba McEntire had music to make.

In 1977 McEntire's first album, "Reba McEntire," was released. That same year she had one song hit the top 20 on the music charts. McEntire was ready to reach a bigger audience.

In September 1977, McEntire got her big audience. She made her debut at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

ALICE MCENTIRE FORAN, SISTER: I stood with her until she got to go on. And I thought, my gosh, it doesn't get any better than this.

R. MCENTIRE: It was a time I felt like I had finally arrived.

KAGAN: In 1982, "Can't Even Get the Blues No More" became McEntire's first single to reach number one on the country charts.

But McEntire was tired of singing the blues for Polygram/Mercury, tired of not making her own creative decisions.

R. MCENTIRE: I wanted fiddle. I wanted the steel guitar back on my records. And they said well, this is where country music is today. I said, well, I don't want to be there. I want to be back to country.

KAGAN: In 1984 McEntire signed with MCA Records and went back to her country roots. She established herself as one of the first independent female entertainers in country music. A few years later McEntire assumed control over her own career management.

MCBRIDE: She's opened doors for all of us, really, with not being afraid to step out of the box and do different things.

KAGAN: The result was the album, "My Kind of Country." It established Reba McEntire as a star. It also brought her the first of an unmatched four consecutive Female Vocalist of the Year awards from the Country Music Association.

By the late 1980s, McEntire had a Grammy for the pop song "Whoever's in New England," three gold albums and a reputation for singing songs that empower women; ballads like "Is Their Life Out There?"

But McEntire's marriage to Charlie Battles was crumbling.

R. MCENTIRE: He asked me to slow down off the road after I won Entertainer of the Year in '86. I guess I kind of chose my career over my marriage.

KAGAN: McEntire filed for divorce. In 1988 she left the Stringtown ranch that she stared with Charlie Battles and found new life and new love in Nashville.

R. MCENTIRE: Narvel and I worked together; it started in 1980. He was my steel guitar player. And it started out as that.

KAGAN: Narvel Blackstock became McEntire's tour manager and eventually her husband. The Texas-bred musician and father of three went through a divorce the same year as McEntire.

The tabloids labeled the country singer a home-wrecker.

(on camera): How do you deal with the tabloids when they say things about your marriage or about other relationships in your life?

R. MCENTIRE: Oh, that hasn't happened in a long time. I forget about all the things that has been written up.

If it's about me, I don't care. If it's about somebody else that I love, I care; and that really ticks me off.

KAGAN (voice-over): By May of 1988, McEntire and Narvel Blackstock were living together in Nashville. A year later the couple married in Lake Tahoe.

In 1990 the couple had a son, Shelby. He's 11 years old now, and usually joins his superstar mom on the road.

P. MCENTIRE: Her and -- Narvel is her perfect, you know, fit for her because they're always looking like "what's next." KAGAN: What's next for McEntire would be a film career.

In 1990 she made her acting debut in the sci-fi thriller "Tremors."

But Reba McEntire's budding movie career was soon overshadowed by tragedy that would change her life. In March 19991, eight members of McEntire's band were killed when their chartered plane crashed after a show in San Diego.

McEntire had stayed behind.

P. MCENTIRE: It's just like part of the family, you know, being killed, you know. It was just terrible.

KAGAN: Determined to carry on after her loss, McEntire went back to the studio. In May 1991 she dedicated the song "For My Broken Heart" to her band.

R. MCENTIRE: It changed my life to where it made me realize so firmly that this second could be your last.

KAGAN: When we return: Reba McEntire makes every second count. The country star leaves Nashville and heads for the Great White Way.

BRANTLEY: It really does come naturally to her. Reba is just there. She inhabits it thoroughly in the media.


ZAHN: Reba McEntire isn't the first Nashville notable to find success beyond country music. Plenty of rhinestone cowboys have cashed in by trading in their microphones for the camera. But "Where Are They Now?"


ANNOUNCER (voice-over): Singer/songwriter Mac Davis was one of the first country crooners ever to crossover. He penned Elvis's hit "In the Ghetto," as well as songs for Kenny Rogers and Nancy Sinatra. He also starred in his own self-titled variety show in the '70s. In 1992 he hit Broadway, playing the title character in the hit musical "The Will Rogers Follies."

So where is Mac Davis now? Davis is still acting, making guest appearances on TV shows like "King of the Hill" and "That '70s Show." He also starred in the recent TV movie "The Dukes of Hazard" as the balladeer, following in the footsteps of late country singer Waylon Jennings.


ANNOUNCER: PEOPLE IN THE NEWS will continue after this.


ZAHN: Reba McEntire gets her gun and some rave reviews on the Great White Way when PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues.

But first, this week's "Passages."


ANNOUNCER (voice-over): Former NBA all-star Jayson Williams turned himself into New Jersey police Monday. He was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the shooting of limo driver Costas Christofi. Christofi was found dead from a shotgun wound to the chest at Williams' estate on Valentine's Day.

JOSEPH HAYDEN, WILLIAMS' ATTORNEY: The matter will be in debate, a tragic accident.

ANNOUNCER: Williams has had trouble with guns and the law in the past. The witty NBA analyst has been temporarily benched by NBC.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: In this corner: the Long Island Lolita.


ANNOUNCER: In this week's latest sign of the Apocalypse, "Celebrity Deathmatch" comes to life when B-level stars duke it out in the ring. Matches signed for the three-fight Fox special are Amy Fisher against scandalous skater Tonya Harding and the "Partridge Family"'s Danny Bonaduce against Barry "Greg Brady" Williams.

No world on the third fight, but possibilities we'd like to see: the battle of '80s kitsch -- Arnold against Webster; or Mr. T. against ALF.

For more punchy celebrity news, pick up a copy of "People" magazine this week.



ZAHN: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

Reba McEntire made her big-screen debut in the cult classic "Tremors." In it she played a gun-toting survivalist, a role that couldn't have hurt when Broadway came looking for someone to play its most famous sharpshooter.

Here again is Daryn Kagan.


KAGAN (voice-over): Reba McEntire brought Manhattan to its feet.

MCENTIRE FORAN: She is hilarious as a comedian. It was like I could have walked up on that stage and she could have been talking tome. It was so natural a performance. It was so Reba. J. MCENTIRE: I cried through most of it, and laughed too, and I was very, very proud.

KAGAN: Reba McEntire's family has reason to be proud. McEntire turned the revival "Annie Gets Her Gun" into one of the hottest shows in town. The country singer had never acted on stage before her Broadway opening last January.

BRANTLEY: There is a sense of the vultures gathering when someone crosses over from another world onto Broadway. I think Reba disarms people right away as soon as she's up on the stage. She fills that huge theater, but without seeming exaggerated, without it seeming like caricature.

KAGAN: McEntire's caricature now joins other Broadway stars on the wall at Sardis, one of New York's famous theater restaurants. Veteran Broadway actresses singing McEntire praises back stage.

JOAN COLLINS, ACTRESS: I thought, this woman is astonishing. She has got to have been studying with, you know, the best acting coach in New York for months.

MICHELE LEE, ACTRESS: I've seen other people do the role, and Reba is a surprise.

KAGAN: And McEntire surprised her young fans as well. Boy band member Lance Bass.

LANCE BASS, 'N SYNC: And the comedic timing was so perfect. I think that and it was a perfect lead into the TV show she's doing now.

KAGAN: Just months after her Broadway success, McEntire added sitcom star to her resume. She has a lead role in the WB hit called, appropriately enough, "Reba."

R. MCENTIRE: I play a lady named Reba Hart. I'm married to a dentist. He's having an affair with his hygienist. We find out during court mandated therapy that our oldest daughter is pregnant.

ALLISON GIBSON, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: We have a lot of crazy things, obstacles that she's got to beat, teen love, you know, cheating husband, all kinds of things that are in country songs that Reba's been singing about for a long time.

KAGAN: Actor Christopher Rich plays McEntire's unfaithful husband.

CHRISTOPHER RICH: She does have that particular gift that certain actors in this business, who've never had any real training for it, just have. It's that pop, you know. They can do it, and she can. She rocks.

KAGAN: Reba's sitcom creator, Allison Gibson, says McEntire brings her rock show appeal to the set.

GIBSON: As a concert performer and a superstar, Reba has presence. She knows how to work an audience, and a sitcom thrives on people that can do that.

KAGAN: Fans of Reba's sitcom have thrived. It's doubled the WB audience in that time slot from last year, and won a full season of shows for this year.

RICH: The show really is hers. We are all reacting off of her, and it's not something that was conceived or required of us to do. It's sort of the way it falls into place when you have a cultural icon, plus you get a really good person like Reba.

KAGAN: Reba McEntire has conquered music, theater, and television. What could be left?

FORAN: What I want her to do is a remake of Lucille Ball. She can flit her eyes and do the funniest facial expressions.

GIBSON: I think that's been one of the most exciting things to see, is what she can do with a physical comedy, and I think it's going to fun to see her grow in that, as we find out more what she can do.

KAGAN: McEntire says there still are a couple things she can't do.

R. MCENTIRE: I would really like to learn how to cook. In one part of "Annie Get Your Gun" I ask Brent Barrett, who plays Frank Butler, I said "can you bake a pie?" That's the honest to God truth. I never made a pie in my life, and I'll do that someday, but I'd like to have a garden. Me, you know, start to finish a garden.

KAGAN: And what would you plant?

R. MCENTIRE: Everything. Everything.

KAGAN: Everything. That's not a tall order for Reba McEntire. The star's career is still growing. This year she took home a People's Choice Award for Favorite Female Actress in a new television series, and if you missed her on Broadway, you still have a chance to see Reba McEntire play Annie Oakley. McEntire is getting ready to shoot a small screen version of "Annie Get Your Gun."


ANNOUNCER: Coming up, the old-fashioned sound that suddenly hit.


T-BONE BURNETT, PRODUCER: I think we're seeing a trend now to a respect for music again.


ANNOUNCER: The story behind this year's sleeper, at the Grammy's. And when we come back, Mel Gibson fights a war, and Josh Hartnett fights his urges.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HARTNETT: Whether you expect it or not, you're going to laugh.


ANNOUNCER: This week's "Screen Scene" when we return.


ZAHN: They are two generations of Hollywood heartthrobs, Mel Gibson and Josh Harnett, and both return to theaters nationwide this weekend. Mel goes to war in the new drama, "We Were Soldier" while Josh Hartnett tries to go it alone in the romantic comedy, "40 Days and 40 Nights."

It's all part of this week's "Screen Scene."


KAGAN (voice-over): Actor Josh Hartnett is on the rise in Hollywood.

LEAH ROZEN, MOVIE CRITIC, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: I think in terms of his contemporaries, essentially looking at leading men in the 20 to 24-year-old bracket, he right now is sort of leader of the pack in the same way when, during the height of the Brat Pack era, there was Tom Cruise and then there was the rest of the brat pack.

KAGAN: In the actor's latest film, "40 Days and 40 Nights," Hartnett take a comic turn. His character makes a promise to abstain from sex for 40 days.

That's smarter than the commercials make it look. You know, it really is an intelligent little film. It was pretty challenging going through the psychology of the character and like living through the moments and having kind of an odd beat. You know, whether you expect to or not, you're going to laugh.

KAGAN: At 23, the actor already has 12 films to his credit, including "Pearl Harbor" and "Black Hawk Down."

ROZEN: I thought he was quite good in a small movie called "O" which was a contemporary day, a current day adaptation of Othello. And that's the movie where you said, "let's see what else this guy can do."

KAGAN: Josh's teenage heart throb status grew after he starred in the 1999 independent film, "The Virgin Suicide," directed by Sophia Coppolla, daughter of director and wine maker, Francis Ford Coppolla.

HARTNETT: When I turned 20, Sophia Coppola gave me a bottle of wine that said, you know, you're not a teen heartthrob anymore.

ROZEN: Josh Hartnett has become the No. 1 heartthrob, and then there are the rest of those cute guys.

HARTNETT: I guess I try to keep that kind of stuff out of my mind. It's all kind of arbitrary, you know, like there's so many heartthrob spots that they need to fill or something, and I happen to be around.

KAGAN: At 46, Mel Gibson's proved he's still got what women want.

ROZEN: I'm always willing to watch Mel Gibson in pretty much anything. I think Mel Gibson is sort of exactly what you want in a leading man. He is a man's man and women think he's pretty darn cute.

KAGAN: More than a pretty face, the actor stepped behind the camera in 1996 to direct his epic film "Braveheart," winning two Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture.


KAGAN: And in his most recent film, "We Were Soldiers," Gibson plays real life Vietnam war hero, General Hal Moore.

MEL GIBSON: It's just a terribly compelling story. It's a true story. A lot of the fellows that came back from Vietnam were given the cold shoulder and it's kind of a monument to them.


KAGAN: The actors attended a two-week celebrity boot camp in preparation for the film.

GIBSON: Well, that's what I called it. A lot of guys wouldn't agree with me. They thought it was pretty hard, and I agree it was tough, and when you're 45 years old and try to do it, oh you know, "just take it easy on me, will you fellows" you know. The whole idea of a war experience, fight for survival is frightening.

I just think the extraordinary nature of what human beings are capable of in hard situations, you know. It usually takes a hard situation before one's spirit is tested, you know.

KAGAN: The veteran actor worked closely with the 80-year-old retired general during filming, and got a firsthand history lesson about the Vietnam War.

GIBSON: For someone that hasn't experienced horror of war, I think I got a pretty good look through his eyes. He was able to acquaint me with many things I didn't understand, and he entrusted us with the graver responsibility of doing honor to his men.

KAGAN: In a town where fame can come and go over lunch, Mel Gibson continues to land Hollywood's top male roles.

ROZEN: I think Mel Gibson, all throughout his career, has been pretty darn smart about playing varied kinds of roles, going from comedy to drama. He's had a fairly long career now. You're looking at 20 years of movies.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ANNOUNCER: Now a movie soundtrack that surprised everyone at this week's Grammy Awards.


BRUCE BURKHARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the movie, "O Brother, Where Art Thou" American was reintroduced to bluegrass, roots music. It wasn't George Clooney and friends behind the mike, but a group of talented musicians who started the revival.

RALPH STANLEY: Maybe if you'd have heard it 30 years ago, who knows they could have liked it then.

BURKHARDT: The "O Brother, Where Art Thou" soundtrack has gone platinum several times over. It won critical acclaim, which was vindicated by five Grammy Awards this week, including an upset win for Album of the Year.

BURNETT: I think we're seeing a trend now toward respect in music again too, which is a good thing.

BURKHARDT: Bluegrass has many different monikers, be it old time, old country, or roots music, its simplistic songs and down home charm tell tales of days gone by.

Seventy-five-year-old Grammy winner for the song "Oh Death," Ralph Stanley recalls a time where family and friends would gather, pick up some instruments and play.

STANLEY: I played on the porch, in the corn crib, the barn, out in the woods, under trees, just anywhere.

BURKHARDT: While enjoying a core following for many years, with acts like Bill Monroe and the Carter Family, bluegrass never reached a wide mainstream audience.

STANLEY: It may have been some music that didn't suit the public, I don't know, and I think that we're searching for something and I think they found it when they heard the soundtrack of "O Brother."

BURKHARDT: Alison Krauss, the Grammy winner from this year, is one of the new breed of bluegrass artists who also appears on the "O Brother" soundtrack.

ALISON KRAUSS: I had no idea what would happen with the record. I've always said if people could just hear it, that it would take off.

BURKHARDT: And take off it did. The album has sold over four million copies to date. It's success has resulted in that down-from- the-mountain tour, 20 shows across the country, playing to sellout crowds.

KRAUSS: I was watching other people play, and thinking I can't believe how lucky I am to get to be a part of this.

BURKHARDT: Ralph Stanley took home Best Country Male Performance for "Oh Death," an emotional win. It is his first Grammy Award in a career that has spanned over 180 albums.

STANLEY: Well, I've been nominated four times for the Grammy, and I went twice, but I've never been lucky enough to win.

BURKHARDT: A down home movie that sparked a national bluegrass phenomenon. Music though has always been a part of America's fabric.

KRAUSS: I think bluegrass is probably a lot more places than where you think it might be. It's just hard to find. Once you find it, it means a lot.


ANNOUNCER: Coming up on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, she's got one foot in the grave, and we're laughing all the way. "Six Feet Under's" Lauren Ambrose, when we return.


ANNOUNCER: Now back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS with Paul Zahn.

ZAHN: Who would have thought that a dark comedy about a dysfunctional family of California undertakers would ever be a hit? But death certainly becomes the quirky and irreverent ensemble cast of "Six Feet Under." Lauren Ambrose plays Claire, the youngest member of the Fisher family. The 22-year-old actress is one of our people to watch.


AMBROSE: "Six Feet Under" is a show about life and about families, and how we relate to one another.


AMBROSE: It deals with very complex issues that don't have easy answers.


AMBROSE: It's a new experience for me to live in this character for so long. I love being an actor, and I love being a cog in the wheel. It's very humbling. The first movie I was in was called, "In & Out" and Frank Oz directed it and Kevin Kline stars in it, and it was this little role I had playing a student of Kevin Kline's.


AMBROSE: And it was -- and I showed up on the set and Debbie Reynolds was walking by and Tom Selleck was over there and Jim Cusack and Matt Dillon standing over there on his cell phone. I thought, "what am I doing here?"

"Psycho Beach Party" is a parity of '60 surfer movies and '50 psycho dramas and '70s slasher films all rolled into one, and I play this surfer girl named Chicklett, and she has multiply personality disorder. She's being hypnotized and she's channeling, she starts picking up the frequencies of her radio.

There's this movie "swimming" that's coming out this month. It's about this girl Frankie who works in her family's restaurant in Myrtle Beach. She's very soft-spoken and kind and really not busted out of her shell, not making active choices for her life.


AMBROSE: You read the pilot, you read a pilot and go, "I like this and I want to be a part of it" and certainly seeing Alan Balls' name on the front of the script was reassuring.


AMBROSE: People seem to really like Claire. I think Claire is a person that everybody wishes that they could have been in high school in a way, because she says things that -


AMBROSE: Wow, I wish I thought of that. She just says it how it is and she's kind of looking for the truth. I like that she's always trying to take the high road, even though it doesn't always work out for her.

I want to play this character as truthfully as I possibly can and make her real, because I think that I owe that to 17-year-old girls, to have somebody who is as real as we can make it on TV.


AMBROSE: My grandmother suggested I become a funeral director, because it would always be steady work, as opposed to the acting thing. But, maybe per her suggestion somehow, cosmically it's worked out that I've melted the two. I don't know.


ZAHN: The new season of "Six Feet Under" premieres this weekend on HBO. Coming up next week on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, six months after 9/11, some of those who survived. How are they coping today?

That's it for this edition of "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS." I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for joining us, and remember to join me Monday through Friday at 7:00 a.m. Eastern for "AMERICAN MORNING" right here on CNN.

So long, have a great week.




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