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Ted Danson Finding His Good Place   

Ted Danson On Finding His Good Place


In a super-cool yoga studio called MINDFL on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, I was waiting for meditation to start. I entered the meditation room, and there was Ted Danson. Tall and lean in indigo jeans, hiking boots, and a deep purple t-shirt and jacket, the handsome, wise-cracking proprietor from Cheers had morphed into a white-haired, chiseled 71-year-old actor from one of my favorite TV series, The Good Place, where he played a demon with a soft spot for humans. In between, he starred in dozens of TV shows and films—winning Emmys, Golden Globes and Critics Circle awards.

A yoga teacher took us through a guided meditation, but I couldn’t let go of my racing thoughts. How relaxed could you get in a room filled with PR people, journalists, and a major TV and film star?

Ted Danson
Photo Credit: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Cigna – Wendy seated second from left-center row

Needless to say, Ted and I were not alone in the studio. We were joined by some 20 health and TV journalists for a press event organized by Cigna to promote its program on managing stress through mind-body techniques. Ted was their poster boy for people of a certain age.

Within about 30 seconds of sitting on my yoga cushion, I knew I wouldn’t last 20 minutes on the floor. Embarrassed, I asked for a chair. Ted, already seated on a chair, looked at me sympathetically—as I later learned, he suffered from arthritis of the hip.

A yoga teacher took us through a guided meditation, but I couldn’t let go of my racing thoughts. How relaxed could you get in a room filled with PR people, journalists, and a major TV and film star?

After the session, Ted answered questions about his history with meditation, stress, fame, and family. He is amusing and self-effacing, even self-mocking about his status as a cultural icon.

Ted Danson
With his wife, Mary Steenburgen, Ted Danson out and about in New York City Photo credit:  Gothamgetty images

He absolutely beamed with happiness when he spoke about his wife Mary Steenburgen, to whom he’s been married for almost 25 years. Mary brought two children to the relationship (she was previously married to British actor Malcolm McDowell), and Ted has two daughters with his second wife, Casey Coates. Together he and Mary have three granddaughters.

When Ted and Mary married in 1995, Ted said he needed saving—from stress, self-doubt, anger, and hypochondria. 

When and why did you first learn the power of meditation?

Ted: It’s always a girl (laughter), in my case Mary, who a year before had been taught TM (Transcendental Meditation). At Carnegie Mellon where I went to acting school, we started every morning with yoga, vocal, and meditation. But when Mary introduced it to me in ’95 or ’96, having a mantra helps you to get you out of your circular thinking. It was familiar and something we could do together. Now that life gets more complicated and more stressful the older you are, I find it a lifesaver. I turn to it out of need as opposed to the discipline of doing it every day.

How do you deal with stress? Is there someone you turn to when you’re stressed?

Ted: My wife Mary. She says, “Look at all your blessings.”  She sees me in such a way and knows me so completely that there’s nothing I’m afraid to share with her. She sees me for who I am—she almost insists that I not be “small Ted,” less than I am. That’s my wife Mary. I also have a psychiatrist that I see. Her name is Dr. Weisberg—could anything be more perfect? Wise berg! I need a whole berg! I know I’m going to be empowered to change something I don’t like, I’m not going to sit where I am that’s uncomfortable, I’m going to make an appointment and go talk about this and get this out of my system. It’s very empowering.

“The difference between feeling victimized and a being a victim is when you turn that around and say, I’m going to take care of myself. I feel empowered, I’m going to take care of it. That empowerment induces health and well-being. “

I also [talk to] my kids at different times, depending on where I’m at and where they’re at. You want people who you know unconditionally love you and are not judging you. The reason my marriage works for me is I’m playing with someone who I know is going to look at their stuff too. There’s a trust that you are both free to open up and look at what you bring to the problem. It’s magic. It’s about being there. To be willing to listen to them and listen without feeling you have to change anything.

I feel like you’re either in love or in fear—and that’s it. If you’re in fear, you’re in other things, including illness. If you’re in love, everything else is working. When you love each other, if one person isn’t in the space of love, it’s like pulling the electric cord out. One wonderful thing about Mary is that she insists we stay in love.

What if you’re single?

Ted: Screwed! (Laughter) No, the name [you turn to for help] could be anybody, an animal, a dog, someone that’s not you—that helps you get out of yourself and be more aware of you. If your life is based on spirituality or on a certain religion, you find comfort in wise books. Something that pops you out of thinking you’re the center of the universe.

At the end of the day the mind and body are integrally connected and we’re all connected to each other.

How has this awareness impacted your health?

Ted: My arthritis is killing me, it’s my hip. It gets me to realize it’s my fear. As soon as Mary starts laughing at me, I start laughing at myself. I’m crippled until I go underneath—usually it’s anger. My back is really bad until Mary points out that maybe I’m angry at something. I don’t like feeling honest with my emotions—so my body goes, “You’re mad? I’ll give you something to be mad about.”

As a grandparent, how does meditation help you with family relationships?

Ted: Anything that helps you be more present in your body and your mind, you’re more present to be real. It’s common sense. For me if I don’t meditate, I’ll need a big cry. Something to cleanse my brain to let everything go—it allows me to let go, to be with my granddaughters, my life. Be real, be loving, be present.

Your career has changed over the years—how has your approach to handling stress changed?

Ted: My age changes, I’m not sure it’s the industry changing. I swore to Mary I wasn’t going to say this–my go-to safety valve that brings me down to earth, that brings me out of my panic, fear, anxiety is “And then you die.” Sometimes, that lightens me up. I say to myself, “Either shut up or die,” I don’t care, either one.  Your body and gravity necessitate your having a little bit more of a sense of humor and taking yourself less seriously out of necessity.

How do you take care of yourself physically?

Ted: Get to your doctor sooner rather than later because a small problem can become a big problem.  I am a hypochondriac—but psoriatic arthritis is genuine enough to get your attention. The difference between feeling victimized and being a victim is when you turn that around and say, I’m going to take care of myself. I feel empowered, I’m going to take care of it. That empowerment induces health and well-being.

Did you take anything with you from the set in The Good Place?

Ted: I’ve doing press for the last 2-3 days so I took three suits. I did! Toward the end – spoiler alert– my character is given a wallet and it has all the pictures of the humans in it. I said I want that. I’m not big on memorabilia—if I take memorabilia, my brain goes, “That’s the most important part of my life, it’s downhill.” I didn’t take a mug from Cheers, but I am going to keep this wallet because it has my friends, the actors.

What was it like on the last day of filming The Good Place?

Ted:  We were blessed. Usually, you’re told an hour before that you were cancelled and you’re not going to come back. We were blessed because the creator of our show [Michael Schur] is a thoughtful, decent, amazing man who’s writing about what it is to be decent. He realized in essence what The Good Place is—here’s a thought, a “maybe” on how the universe works. He realized by the end of this year he would have told that story, so vamping just to stay on the air would be the opposite of what that show was about. We had a year to know that we wouldn’t always be here. It allowed us to be in the moment, cherishing each other, knowing we’d not always be here. The last day was emotional, but it was coming all year.



On the Ellen show, Ted exclaimed, “My wife (Mary Steenburgen) is the best grandmother on the planet! She passionately loves being a grandmother.  It’s astounding! It really is!  It’s like you get to eat every dessert in the world and not get fat.  It’s just brilliant!  You get to be sixty-nine years old and parts of your body ache and you get a little grumpy, then grandkids come along and it’s like…Oh I got it! I’m fine! I’m in! Thank you, Lord, thank you!”

According to his interview with Closer, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen had both pretty much given up on love by the time they filmed 1994’s Pontiac Moon together.

 “Life is messy. The older I get, the more I realize it’s okay to be imperfect. Because you can still grow and make changes in your life.”

Ted danson“I announced to all my friends — not dramatically, but very seriously — that I was done with relationships,” Mary told Closer this July. The 2018 Emmy nominee, who’d recently divorced second wife Casey Coates and endured a very public breakup with Whoopi Goldberg, had felt similarly.

But shooting a five-hour canoe scene as husband and wife helped turn fiction into fact.
“We paddled in sync,” he remembered“We went out as friends and by the time we came back, we were in love … Ironic how life works in those moment. Once you throw up your arms and surrender, a lot of times things come your way.”

“I get nervous around her because I want to impress her. I am the luckiest,” Ted replied. “When I die, I will have known in this life what it is to love as a human being and to be loved, and I am so grateful.”

Danson told Closer, “If I corrected my mistakes — which are cringers — would I take them away if it were to alter anything about where I am now? No,” he said, “Life is messy. The older I get, the more I realize it’s okay to be imperfect. Because you can still grow and make changes in your life.”

Danson revealed in a TV interview that his daughter was on the set during the scene from Creepshow (1982) where his character returns from the dead encased in rotted flesh and seaweed. He purposely tried avoiding his young daughter out of a fear of scaring her. Finally, despite his best efforts, she went up to him, looked at him and simply said, “Oh, Hi Dad”.

Just two of the sweetest examples of them professing their adoration: “I’m ridiculously in love with him,” Steenburgen confessed to Closer. “I find him endlessly fascinating. He surprises me all the time and most of all he makes me laugh.”

“I get nervous around her because I want to impress her. I am the luckiest,” Ted replied. “When I die, I will have known in this life what it is to love as a human being and to be loved, and I am so grateful.” And for someone who has plenty of (fictional) experience with the afterlife, that’s pretty high praise.


Ted Danson: passionate and active ocean environmentalist

Most people know Ted Danson as the affable bartender Sam Malone in the long-running television series Cheers. But fewer realize that over the course of the past two-and-a-half decades, Danson has tirelessly devoted himself to the cause of heading off a looming global catastrophe—the massive destruction of our planet’s oceanic biosystems and the complete collapse of the world’s major commercial fisheries.

“Educate yourself… Become an informed consumer. Become an international activist. These [environmental] issues are big and worldwide.”

As the author of Oceana, Ted Danson describes his other, 20-year career as an ocean activist and shares the often frightening yet hopeful news about the crisis in our oceans. Danson’s journey began when he joined a local protest in the mid-1980s to oppose offshore oil drilling near his Southern California neighborhood. Today, Danson is a leading spokesperson on international ocean issues and a board member of Oceana, the largest organization in the world focused solely on ocean conservation.

Ted Danson

Ted Danson
Washington, Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Actor Ted Danson is arrested at the Capitol for blocking the street after he, Jane Fonda, and other demonstrators called on Congress for action to address climate change and ending reliance on ‘corrupt’ fossil fuel industry.











Ted Danson’s Amazing Career

Ted DansonTed Danson was born on December 29, 1947 in San Diego, California. He started acting on the soap opera Somerset before moving to The Doctors in 1977. He also had guest roles on Laverne and Shirley, B.J. and the Bear, Family, Taxi and Magnum, P.I. In 1982, he was cast as a lead in Cheers, where he earned 11 Emmy nominations and nine Golden Globe nominations, winning each twice. He later reprised his role in guest spots on Frasier, The Jim Henson Hour and The Simpsons. He later starred in Something About Amelia, earning a Golden Globe and an Emmy nomination for his work. He starred in Ink and Gulliver’s Travels before landing on the longer-running show Becker, which aired from 1998 to 2004.

He also starred in Help Me Help You and Damages, the latter role earning him another Emmy nomination. He received another Emmy nomination for his role in Rescue Me. He starred in Bored to Death and joined the cast of CSI in 2011 and CSI: Cyber. Danson was cast in the sitcom The Good Place. He has had roles in other movies such as Three Men and a Baby, Cousins, Made in America and Saving Private Ryan.



Ted DansonWendy Schuman is a proud grandmom and freelance writer who makes her home in West Orange, NJ. She is a former editor of Parents Magazine and Beliefnet.com. Wendy and her husband helps new generation of college grads in  Millennials in WonderlandTo learn more about Grad Life Choices, their pro bono coaching program, click here.

To read more from Wendy in GRAND


Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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