LOS ANGELES, Oct. 12 (UPI) -- Mariel Hemingway burst onto the Hollywood scene as a teenage ingenue in the 1970s. She earned a Golden Globe nomination co-starring with her sister, Margaux, in Lipstick at age 14, and played Woody Allen's teenage love interest in Manhattan.
After a thriving movie career in the '80s, Hemingway transitioned to television in the '90s with the divorce lawyer drama Civil Wars and the short-lived C.P.W. A role on an episode of Roseanne also made headlines for Hemingway. In TV movies in the 2000s, Hemingway played real-life characters Maria Shriver in See Arnold Run and Tipper Gore in Warning: Parental Advisory.
The actor, and great-granddaughter of author Ernest Hemingway, said her focus shifted in the 2010s to mental health activism and her wellness foundations. The Wall of Mexico is Mariel Hemingway's first acting role since 2016.
"I usually just wait for something to come along that seems interesting," Hemingway told UPI in a phone interview.
Filmmakers Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyzak piqued Hemingway's interest when they offered her a role in The Wall of Mexico, a film about a Mexican-American family who, locals believe, possess a literal fountain of youth.
In the film, the Arista family builds a wall around their property to prevent locals from dipping into their well water. Hemingway plays the mayor, Ann Mason, who shows up to negotiate between the Aristas and protesters of their wall. The mayor's scene took a day and one-half to film, Hemingway said.
The actress said she always writes the history of the character to get ready for a role. Hemingway said the history she thought of for Mayor Mason is too personal for her to reveal, but she said she imbues all her characters with some personal quality she shares with them.
Balancing acting and activism
The 2013 documentary Running From Crazy followed Hemingway on her journey to understand her family's history of suicide and mental illness. Margaux died by suicide in 1996. Mariel said she has been diagnosed with depression.
"My worry, instead of putting me in a corner and in a dark hole, made me proactive," Hemingway said. "I decided I'm not going to be the victim of any of this."
Hemingway runs the company Barefoot Life with her boyfriend of 11 years, Bobby Williams, and the Dead Poets Foundation with artist Nico Carpinelli and psychologist Howard Asher. Hemingway also wrote the books Running with Nature, about mindful living with nature, and Out Came the Sun, a further exploration of the mental illness, addiction and suicide in the Hemingway family.
"My life is really focused around mental health and physical health and how the two are very much intertwined," Hemingway said. "I'm also about creating solutions for people with mental health issues, whether it's suicide ideation or mental health problems of any kind."
The Dead Poets Foundation is developing a website to provide visitors with resources for mental health issues. Hemingway said she also wants to include breathing techniques on the website, as breathing and meditation exercises have been vital to her mental health practice.
Barefoot Life is launching The Barefoot Life Show podcast this month. Hemingway hopes to create a community for listeners who may be struggling.
"Bobby and I like to say you take the 'I' out of illness and you add 'we' and it becomes wellness," Hemingway said. "Wellness is a community gathering together."
Hemingway hopes to interview experts in breathing techniques like James Nestor, experts in soil and farm-to-table systems and other celebrities who share her interests.
"We'll be talking to experts, scientists that back up these things," Hemingway said.
Her movies made a difference, too
After Lipstick and Manhattan, Hemingway earned starring roles in Personal Best, the Dorothy Stratten biopic Star 80 and The Mean Season. Looking back at her film work, Hemingway realized many of her films tackled social issues.
In Personal Best, Hemingway played a track athlete who begins a relationship with her teammate. Hemingway says it was groundbreaking to tackle LGBTQ relationships in a mainstream movie in 1982.
"Maybe they weren't the biggest box office [hits] but I never realized the impact that they would have," Hemingway said. "Then, everything was taboo. It was all new."
Hemingway played a role in LGBTQ depictions on television when she kissed Roseanne Barr in a 1994 episode of the comedian's sitcom. The episode was controversial in 1994, but Hemingway hopes it helped pave the way for more portrayals of LGBTQ characters on television.
"Now, we have labels for all the movements," Hemingway said. "Whereas at the beginning of a movement, you don't know if you're in a movement because you're just a part of it. Then you find out that you're a part of something that changes the way we look at things."
While acting as a teenager, and coping with undiagnosed depression, Hemingway realized she was searching for a sense of family among her film crews. Those proved to be short-lived, as cast and crew dispersed once filming wrapped.
"I would go into depression afterwards because the fake families that I created in my mind were all of a sudden gone," Hemingway said. "Because I was so young, I didn't understand what it was that I was going through."
When she does pursue film and television projects, Hemingway says she can now manage her depression. In addition to breathing and meditation, Hemingway uses techniques such as yoga.
She says she has also had success with brainwave technologies, which synchronize the hemispheres of the brain to create new neural pathways. However, there is little medical research on the technique yet.
"I was in fight or flight most of my life," Hemingway said. "When I was pulled out of that, I was like holy [expletive], you can be happy every day? This is brand new."
Future acting projects for Hemingway may include a television series adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway memoir A Movable Feast, which she would also produce. She also hopes to direct an independent film.
"I don't need to be a featured actor anymore to feel as though I'm being creative or making a contribution," Hemingway said.
The Wall of Mexico is available on video-on-demand Tuesday.