At 76, Dorothy Lyman Enjoys Life As Grandma In The Countryside After Success In ‘Mama’s Family’

May 22, 2023 by apost team

Mama’s Family” is perhaps one of the most popular American sitcom series from the 80s to the early 90s in television. One of its longstanding and most-loved actresses, Dorothy Lyman, who played the promiscuous character of Naomi Harper, is still thriving and aging gracefully today. 

Born on Apr. 18, 1947, Lyman grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Violet Brightwell and Hector Lyman, who was a stockbroker back then. Little much is known about Lyman’s childhood, but it was noted that she debuted on her first soap opera on the ABC daytime drama “A World Apart” as Julie Stark. A year later, she also appeared on “The Edge of Night” as Elly Jo Jamison, Gwen Parrish Frame on “Another World” in 1985, and eventually her big role on “All My Children.” 

In her most iconic soap opera role, Lyman played Opal Sue Gardner. Supposedly, Lyman’s character was only set to appear for six weeks, but because of her portrayal and brilliance, the writers decided to write more about her. Eventually, the role scored Lyman two Emmy Awards – Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role in a Daytime Drama Series in 1982 and for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series in 1983. For three years, Lyman played the role excellently. She bequeathed the character to Jill Larson in 1989.

While she was playing the said role, she also began production on “Mama’s Family,” where she became a series regular playing Naomi Oates Harper until 1990. After the soap ended, Lyman had a few guest appearances from several shows and movies back then. 

As her career dwindled down, she focused on other things – raising her family in the countryside and pursuing other artistic endeavors. Read on to learn more about Lyman and her life.  

Dorothy Lyman (1992), (Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

After her big roles in television, Lyman pursued becoming a playwright. Moving to upstate New York might have been one of the biggest decisions she made back then. She relocated to a dairy farm and became a country girl. 

Lyman was married to director-actor John Tillinger. They had two children - actor Sebastian Tillinger and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, who is an Academy Award-nominated producer. The couple ended their marriage in 1983, just as she won her second Daytime Emmy Award. Lyman then married director Vincent Malle, whom she also divorced in 2001. They had one son – screenwriter and documentary film producer Jackson Malle

Speaking to Soap Hub, Lyman detailed her big move from in front of the camera to the homestead. 

“There was never enough work for me as an actor or director after a while, so I learned to do other things to keep me busy. When my oldest child went to college and I got divorced again, I went upstate and became an egg farmer; and the extra time I had motivated me to write,” she explained. 

As Lyman aged, she ventured into writing plays. According to Hollywood Soapbox, her play, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” was inspired by her real-life arm wrestling with the reality of aging as a woman and wanting to pursue more. 

“I ended up writing three plays about women of a certain age facing new challenges, from a woman who wants to go to the moon to a woman who’s being asked to move out from her family farm. And then people wanted to know what happened to that character, which is the genesis of this play,” she also told the outlet

Dorothy Lyman (1992), (Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Turns out, the play also inspired Lyman to make a huge decision to leave New York to become closer to her family in Connecticut. 

“I wrote the play to try to make myself feel better about leaving my homestead that I created upstate,” she elaborated. “It was a good move, but it was very difficult and painful for me. So writing this play really helped me come to terms with making a big change in my own life,” she told Hollywood Soapbox

Even before leaving the limelight, Lyman pursued screenwriting. In fact, she ended up writing and directing a total of 75 episodes of “The Nanny.”

Truly, her passion for screenwriting and being a playwright was a great alternative to her acting in front of the cameras. 

Meanwhile, while she’s not writing, the 76-year-old actress and playwright is also busy admiring horses. During Thanksgiving of 2019, she posted a photo of herself with two of her horses, noting that those were two of something she was thankful for. 

In April 2022, the actress posted a photo of herself riding another horse with a caption suggesting that she did horseback riding on her 75th birthday. Recently in April 2022, she again shared a photo on her Instagram account riding an Icelandic Mare in a nature park.

Reflecting on the decisions she made when she was younger, Lyman had this to say to The Los Angeles Times:

“When you have kids late in life, I think you’re a more patient parent. When I had the big kids, I was young and ambitious, and it all seemed like a big interruption. Now I wish I’d had six kids, ‘cause frankly, it’s not the roles you’ve played that are sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with you or having you over at Christmastime.”

Do you remember Dorothy Lyman? What can you say about her decision to move to the countryside and become a writer? Do you agree with her late realizations about family life? Let us know, and pass this on to your family, friends, and other loved ones!

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