200 Weight Loss and the Pursuit of the Life She Loves: “ER” Actress Yvette Freeman

What You Will Hear:

  • 🙂 Story of George Clooney Pull Pranks during “ER”
  • Weight Loss Journey of an Actress
  • Overeating as Addiction – Confession of an Actress 
  • Don't Miss Life for the Golden Apple – Actress Story
  • What it Means to have a Balanced Life – Actress Story
  • Going back to School, Start Something New in Your 50s?
  • Add Youth to Your Age – Actress Story 

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More about our featured guest

Actress Yvette Freeman (nurse “Adams” in ER) shares her weight loss story and her idea of “adding youth to your age” and pursuing the life you love.

Our guest, award-winning actress Yvette Freeman, is probably best known for playing the role of Nurse Haleh Adams, for all 15 seasons, on the NBC drama ER.  Additionally, she has guest-starred on over a dozen TV shows and motion pictures. More recently, she has just been nominated by SAG, for her role as Irma in Orange is the New Black, and is currently seen in the National Progresso Soup ad, as the old white haired lady! With her great singing voice, she’s won numerous awards from local theaters in Los Angeles to off-Broadway, for her performance in the play “Dinah Was” – recreating the role of Dinah Washington. In addition, she added director to her credits, with several short films.

Full Transcript

[00:16] Joel: Welcome to Relaunch. Your daily dose of fresh ideas, practical steps, and solutions. You could think of this show as being your personal prescription for relaunching into the life and business you love, and if you are a daily listener, welcome back to the show and thank you for tuning in, and being involved in the before and the after show online conversations, and if you are new here, just know that you are among friends. And our guest today, your most likely gonna recognize her, from her role as Nurse Adams from the show that everyone loved. A show…

[00:44] Pei: Indeed.

[00:46] Joel: Yeah, a show that was the longest running primetime medical drama in US history. Get this Pei, 15 seasons, the show ran. 1994 to 2009, and the show I'm talking about, of course, is ER, and the actress that played the character of nurse Adams from the very first season, to the grand finale in 2009, is the amazing Yvette Freeman. And Ivette is here today on Relaunch. Ivette, welcome welcome.

[01:24] Speaker 3: I am so glad to be here Joel, thank you so very much.

[01:28] Joel: This is going to be such a fun show and as you know Yvette, this show is all about the relaunch. And while we've all experienced numerous launches and relaunches in our life, what I usually do, is I usually ask our guests to kind of zero in on the relaunch that has been the most significant for them, or the most transformational, and then just kind of unfold the story from there, and we might start that way here in just a few minutes if that's okay, but before we get into that Yvette, I couldn't have you on Relaunch without talking a little bit of showbiz with you. So is it okay if we talk a little bit of showbiz?

[02:08] Yvette: Yes let's talk showbiz.

[02:11] Joel: Alright now shoot straight with me Yvette. You've been on the set, you were on the set of ER for 15 seasons. You've directed short films, you've been in a dozen tv shows and movies, you've sung on stage, you've won awards, and even right now, you're in a national progressive, or not progressive but Progresso soup commercial. So you've got some acting and performing experience. So with all that experience under your belt, what has been the funniest practical joke, blooper, or malfunction that you've either experienced, perpetrated, or witnessed? What say you?

[02:54] Yvette: Oh [chuckle] That was… Okay, let me see. We would have to start with ER. We would have to start with putting gel, the lubricant on your gloves, and you have to pick up instruments while your being shot while the film's rolling, and without showing that your getting ready to slip and fall, or do something like that, and that would perpetrated by Mr. George Clooney, he would play these kind of games on all of us, and each one of us would get… And you could never figure out how to get him back. He was so brilliant, I mean, and he would do things like you have your gloves and then on the instrument itself, you had to pick it up and pass it to the next actor, and you're like, and it's heavy thing, okay? And the thing is slipping through your hands and you can't show what's going on on your face 'cause the camera is on you. It's in a wide shot, so therefore you can't make any mistakes. So your holding back from giggling, and their also holding back from giggling, 'cause everybody else knows, but you get through it. So those are the kind of things that would happen on that show and they're the most wonderful times of my life was doing that show.

[04:20] Joel: So let me ask you this, is Clooney one of the bigger practical jokers?

[04:24] Yvette: He's fabulous, and he takes time and thinks them up. Okay? He's fabulous.

[04:28] Joel: Okay. So it's part of his scheme.

[04:34] Yvette: It's just, I think it's his joy if he can get you. There's lots of stories. Like he picked up a piece of trash, he picked up a painting, he hung it on his wall and told a friend that it came from so and so, and so and so, and the friend said “I just have to have it, I just have to have it”, and he gives it to him and lets him hang it on his wall, and he lets it be for like a year. And then he finally tells him he picked it out of the trash. [laughter] That's pretty darn good.

[05:01] Joel: Clooney keep you guessing.

[05:06] Yvette: I still think that he is one of the most wonderful men, not that we are best buddies or anything like that, but because we are in two different stratas at this point. He's a star, I'm a working actor. Total different group.

[05:14] Joel: I got yeah.

[05:18] Yvette: But put it this way, I know that if I walk across the street and he was crossing the street, he would say “Hi” and give me a hug. That's the kind of man.

[05:25] Joel: I don't doubt that for a second Yvette. I appreciate you sharing that with me as well. One of the things that I learned about you Yvette, is that during your time at ER, about midway through, you got a doctor's report. If I remember correctly and that doctor's report put you at risk…

[05:43] Yvette: For everything.

[05:47] Joel: For everything! Okay, I thought it was at risk for diabetes, but at risk…

[05:59] Yvette: Everything. My blood pressure was up, diabetes, everything. I was just a mess. I weighed almost 300lbs, and I had to get it together. I went to UCLA and I did their program, Risk Factor Obesity program, and it was hard. I lost 100 and some odd pounds.

[06:10] Joel: Wow.

[06:11] Yvette: And… But I learned a lot and…

[06:18] Joel: Okay, so let's back up a little bit…

[06:18] Yvette: I'm still learning.

[06:19] Joel: ‘Cause I wanna unpack this story a little bit because I think this is gonna be a big value-adder to a lot of people here. So did the weight creep up as you were working in the ER? Is it…

[06:35] Yvette: No. No, I was always fat. [chuckle]

[06:37] Joel: Okay.

[06:37] Yvette: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

[06:38] Joel: Okay.

[06:39] Yvette: I was always a large woman. Even as a child, I was overweight…

[06:43] Joel: Okay.

[06:43] Yvette: Constantly overweight. In fact, it helped my career.

[06:46] Joel: Okay.

06:47 Yvette: Large women seem to work a lot… Large black women seem to work a lot in this business, and so I had no problem. My first major job was “Ain't Misbehavin'” and they wanted two heavy women and one skinny woman. I followed… God, I forgot her name already. Anyway, I did “Ain't Misbehavin',” the first national, and then went to Broadway, and my weight helped me get that job.

[07:10] Joel: Okay.

[07:11] Yvette: So, no. I was always… I would eat to… Hey, you don't get a part. What do you do? My favorite thing is cookies. When I went… Oh, college! College is when I really gained the weight. I mean, I ate cookies, chocolate chip cookies and coffee. Okay? That was it.

[07:30] Joel: I gotcha.

[07:31] Yvette: That was my life.

[07:32] Joel: So when did it happen… Did it happen… Was it between season eight and nine, or is that… When you involved your program.

[07:39] Yvette: Then I got up to 300 pounds. And then that's… When you hit that kinda weight, that's called heart attack in any minute. And the program did help. I knew that after all the doctor's reports, and I was having problems with my feet 'cause I was running around on the show, and luckily I was young and having this weight on. I'm not as old as I am now, and I had to get it off. And the program helped. I lost it, then I regained, then I lost again, and right now I'm like 25 pounds overweight.

[08:25] Joel: Okay.

[08:26] Yvette: And it goes up and down. But I now know how to manage it.

[08:31] Joel: Okay.

[08:32] Yvette: And I understand the principle of it. [chuckle] Just staying away from the carbs…

[08:39] Joel: Okay. Okay.

[08:40] Yvette: Bottom line. And exercise.

[08:42] Joel: What are the… I've read a story about, in your weight loss, when you showed up at the kick-off premiere party for…

[08:50] Pei: Yeah, you told me that story this morning.

[08:52] Joel: The new season. Yeah, yeah. Talk a little bit about that. And then you were fired from the opening episode of that upcoming season?

[08:59] Yvette: Yeah. Yeah.

[09:01] Joel: So yeah, kinda unpack that a little bit. I thought that was an amazing story.

[09:06] Yvette: Well, within the summertime from the last shot, we finished in May. And I was losing weight all year long, but from May until we started back up in August, end of July, August, I had lost like another 20, 25 pounds, which really made me look gaunt. But the show that we shot in May was a continuation for August, and you had to look the same. Well, I didn't look the same.

[09:33] Joel: Okay.

[09:33] Yvette: So they said, “Yvette, you're not gonna be in this show 'cause you don't look the same.” And so they wrote me out of the show and they told me, “We're gonna use you.” Then they wrote me in the next show and then they just stated that I had lost… They said it was in the show that I had lost weight. And then I had to come out and say that I had lost weight in People magazine because people thought I was sick.

[09:57] Joel: I see.

[09:58] Yvette: And they thought I had AIDS and all this kind of stuff. So my press agent, Silvie, had to let people know that I'm in this program, it works, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and that's how the world found out because I wasn't telling anybody, I was just doing the program.

[10:14] Joel: Right, right.

[10:16] Yvette: And I wouldn't do the program again. Don't say I'm… I don't have the strength to do that program again. It took a lot, and now I'm just trying to manage.

[10:26] Joel: Let me ask you this, Yvette, and I really appreciate you sharing that part of your Relaunch story. You said that you learned a lot of things about yourself. I think when we go through a relaunch, there's a lot of learning and also relearning that takes place, learning and relearning about our possibilities, our potential, and even our value and worthiness. So I'm curious, what were some of the things that you learned or relearned during that process?

[10:59] Yvette: Well, first off, overeating is like alcoholism, like any kind of addiction. You eat to soothe yourself or to blind yourself to what's going on in life, or you have all kinds of different reasons. And once you learn about your reasons, you can redirect your emotions in another way. So when you're like me, I don't know… Some people just normally are just overweight, but I was an eater whenever anything went wrong or right, okay? I would celebrate and have champagne and truffles and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah when something great happened. And when something bad happened, like you didn't get a part or something, I would eat cookies or I did this. And I still do these things, but now I'm knowledgeable enough to catch myself.

[12:00] Yvette: And also, when a woman starts to, excuse me, menopause, you start gaining weight, your life starts changing. And that's where I was also during that time, was starting to get into that mode in my life, which was a surprise. And so that takes more exercise or it takes less food, it's a balance. And that's what I learned, balance.

[12:25] Joel: So, were these things a surprise to you? Were there some things that caught you off guard that…

[12:31] Yvette: When you're young, you don't pay any attention to anything.

[12:34] Joel: Of course.

[12:35] Yvette: You don't look at your life, you don't find religion until you get older usually, so you learn these things. I had to, because I was going to have either a heart attack or diabetes, which my whole family has. Okay, my whole family, it's in my family, I was on the road, I still do not have diabetes. So, and I know that I'm now 25 pounds over, I better get these 25 pounds off my body.

[13:07] Joel: Sure, sure.

[13:08] Pei: Wow, so earlier you actually mentioned, it's really simple if anybody wants to lose weight, the principle, the logic is simple, just less carbs. But in reality, we have lots of people, we actually had other experts come in on the show too, 'cause sometimes food is our friend, we celebrate with it, we cry with it. So, what have you learned that worked for you to, of course, the awareness is one thing, but when it comes to, “Hey, this is the same old friend that is always there that can help me”?

[13:52] Yvette: It's called “Life or death”. That's what it took for me.

[13:56] Joel: Say it again.

[13:58] Yvette: Life or death, you have a choice.

[13:59] Joel: Life or death, okay. So, it was actually at that point, or got to that point?

[14:04] Yvette: Yeah, yeah. I got a choice, I have a choice, “If you want this, you can go this way, or you want that.” And I'm still fighting the battle, the battle is not over.

[14:14] Joel: Right.

[14:14] Yvette: Okay, I'm not saying… I've learned, and I've relaunched, and now I have to do another relaunch. There's more to it, and I wish that the doctors could come up with a real pill that would stop all of this, but they don't have it yet.

[14:33] Joel: I see.

[14:33] Yvette: Okay, they don't have it. And they don't have an answer to it, that's why obesity is a plague in this country. And then we have so much food, and now it's Christmas time and you're talking about dieting? Oh my God, my… Christmas, I look forward to baking, and cooking, and having family over. And lucky me though, after I cook a great big meal, I don't wanna eat it, because I've already tasted everything, so I just sit and look at the plate. So, ask most of the cooks, most cooks do that. But everybody else, I'm feeding them the wrong foods. [chuckle] But they're eating them down.

[15:17] Joel: Sure.

[15:18] Yvette: Thanksgiving, I had 14 people here, I fed them good. And I love to cook, to express my artistic, but I love doing that. And all these cooking shows on TV, oh how could they… It's so hard to win now, but for someone who's got a problem with weight, do they have any cooking shows on the air in which they teach you how manage your food, and how to make nice food, tasty food with less calories? No, they don't have any shows like that, no.

[15:51] Pei: That won't be popular.

[15:53] Yvette: No. And Paula Deen, I'm sorry they took her off, I love Paula Deen. That woman put butter in everything, oh my God.

[16:02] Pei: It's southern comfort food, yeah.

[16:05] Yvette: Oh my goodness, I loved her. So, anyway.

[16:09] Joel: Okay, so let me ask you this. A few minutes ago you said you don't find anything 'till later in life.

[16:16] Yvette: Right, it's learned.

[16:17] Joel: Okay, so what are some of the things that you found within yourself that maybe took you by surprise?

[16:25] Yvette: That my career was not the most important thing in my life.

[16:28] Joel: Okay, explain that please.

[16:30] Pei: Exactly.

[16:31] Yvette: Well, when you start out, that's all you do. You take classes, you study, you go to these auditions, your whole life is… I went to college for it. That's all you want to do, is to make it, to get a job on TV. I just met this poor child who was working as a sales girl during the holiday season at Nordstrom's of all places, and I've done that. I did it in New York City during the holidays, just to survive, so I could be an actress. Well, guess what? There's more to life than surviving to be an actress. There's your family, don't miss having kids if you really want kids. Don't miss getting married, if you really fall in love and that person isn't in the business, or doesn't quite fit your whatever.

[17:28] Yvette: Don't miss life for the golden apple, because that golden apple may not come, 'cause a lot of my friends have never really made it. And they've given up so much, and then they look up at age, excuse me, 50 and… Well, you can look up my age online anyway. And you look up and you go, “What did I do all this for? Why did I focus all this and I missed all this over here? The real things.” It's called “balance.” You balance your career, any career, any career. Nothing is… You also live your life. You get dogs and cats and you go on trips, and you spend time with your family, you have baby, you live and plus do the career.

[18:21] Joel: Indeed, the tag line for the show is “Relaunch into the life and business that you love,” one that feeds you, not just putting food on the table but feeds your soul.

[18:37] Yvette: Right, it's gotta feed your soul.

[18:39] Joel: Absolutely. Okay, before we started the show, Yvette, we were talking about all kinds of relaunches that you have currently going on right now in your life. And, I was excited to hear about these things. So yeah, just kinda catch us up to speed. You talked about going back to school, you talked about some other things. So, catch us up.

[19:00] Yvette: Well, like I said, as an older actress, I know what's out there. I'm very blessed to be still working. I will never be a superstar. I know this. I'm working an actress? Oh yeah, I do work. The Progresso ad is fabulous for me and it's been making a wonderful Christmas, thank you very much. But, there's more to that. I have partially retired. Therefore, I'm not out hunting for jobs. I still have agents and if there's something that comes up, I don't run out and go and do it, and go and audition for it. I look at it and I'm going, “Does this fit my life?” Like Orange is the New Black. It was shot in New York. Last year, I flew back and forth to New York. And I miss my life at home, in Chatsworth. I love it here. I love California. I'm sorry everybody, California's wonderful, hello!

[20:01] Yvette: And, I didn't wanna do that anymore. Anyway, so you'll see me on the second season and th beginning of the third season. And that's it, I'm done. I don't want to fly back and forth to New York to work on TV, especially when I moved from New York to California to be on TV. And now, the work is in New York. I don't know the world, the world is changing. But now, I'm also going back to school. I'm finishing up my master. I'm in Southern New Hampshire University online program. And, I'm getting a master in creative writing or in English, rather English. I'm almost finished. And, I want to teach college. So, I will continue and go get an MSA too. Which is residency, I gotta go spend some resident time on campus. And I wanna teach. I've learned a lot and I still study. And I think these young people could… But, I wanna teach college level. I don't wanna teach high school.

[21:05] Joel: Right.

[21:07] Yvette: And I, or may start my own cook school. Or, I'm just gonna… I'm opening up. I'm relaunching this part of my life. I still sing. I have a second album out. And I work with my husband. We just did the Christmas show for my church. I'm more involved in church. Life has totally changed. Totally have moved to more, a more domesticated. Not, that I wanna clean my house. [chuckle] I don't. Please have someone else come over and clean my house. Anyway, I have two dogs and two cats. And I have a niece who lives with us, who's sort of like my child, but she's very grown. She's 25 going on 26. She's trying to get out and launch her life, which is something to watch.

[22:05] Joel: Sure.

[22:05] Yvette: And I have a wonderful husband.

[22:07] Joel: I really appreciate you sharing that with us. One of the… Relaunching is a healthy part of the growth process. And, one of the things that I've learned in doing this show, and we've done close to 200 episodes so far. Just in the short life that we've had so far, in Relaunch. One of the things that I've learned is people talk about how relaunch is an ongoing process and there are continual launches and relaunches as they grow and as interests form, develop and turn into something. And sometimes, interests that we once have are less important.

[22:53] Yvette: Yeah, you keep growing. Life is about growth. And when you get on the ride of growth, it opens your eyes and it makes it more exciting. You don't do the same thing everyday. Studying at my late age… It has opened my mind and there's so many things that I did not know that I thought I knew. And, I'm enjoying this. And, it's hard work but it's… It adds more… You know what? It adds youth to my age.

[23:32] Joel: What specifically, what adds youth to your age? That's a good point.

[23:36] Yvette: Studying, to learn, to grow, to go back for your master's, to work with younger people. It makes you look at things. It makes you see things different, to keep up with what's going on with the Internet. It keeps changing on me faster than anything. A lot of big words…

[23:57] Joel: You and everyone else, you and everyone else.

[23:59] Yvette: Ooh, my goodness, it goes fast, doesn't it?

[24:01] Joel: It does indeed.

[24:02] Yvette: Yep, and you have to have money to keep up with it, too. They keep changing these phones. [chuckle]

[24:08] Joel: So you heard it here first on Relaunch. They key to youth is growth. That's what I heard, too. Yvette, this has been a delight having you on. Pei, did you have your hand up? Were you?

[24:20] Pei: I'm good. I'm loving this conversation, so thank you.

[24:24] Joel: Yvette Freeman is our guest today. Nurse Adams from season one to season 15 on ER. Of course, we're gonna have links available so you can pick up all of the seasons on ER if you don't already have those in DVD or stored on the Cloud or somewhere. And Yvette, this has been such a treat to have you on. You're welcome back here on Relaunch any time. We'll have to invite your husband to come on as well and we're just so happy.

[24:58] Yvette: Great, and I have a web page too. Yvettefreeman.com.

[25:01] Joel: YvetteFreeman.com.

[25:02] Yvette: .com.

[25:03] Pei: We'll make sure to put a link on the show note page as well.

[25:07] Joel: Absolutely. We will do that.

[25:09] Yvette: Thank you. This is a wonderful program, to be doing this. Congratulations to you.

[25:15] Joel: Oh, thank you.

[25:16] Pei: Thank you.

[25:17] Joel: Thank you. We are just so excited about the things that are going on with Relaunch. So thank you for that. We've been just thrilled at the value that our guests like you are able to bring to the Relaunch nation every single day. Thank you.

[25:38] Yvette: Thank you.

[25:39] Joel: Have a wonderful day, Yvette. Bye-bye.

[25:41] Yvette: Bye-bye.

Follow Yvette on Twitter, Facebook, and and visit her site.

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Joel Boggess

Keynote Speaker | Corporate Trainer | Award-winning podcaster I help teams ignite their courage, take bolder steps, and get greater results. Together, we create possibilities that bring empowerment, meaning, and financial impact.

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