It has been 20 years since the 1987 debut of thirtysomething, and yet as the hit show’s four female stars—Polly Draper, 51, Mel Harris, 50, Melanie Mayron, 54, and Patricia Wettig, 55—cozy up on a too-small-for-four sofa for a catch-up session, it seems as if little time has passed. Arms and legs intertwined at times, the close-knit group giggle over memories of the show, rub each other’s backs in support, and even relent when Wettig insists they all spit out their gum. “Just like Mom,” says Draper. Reunited as ambassadors for a new arthritis-prevention campaign called Keep Moving, the women sat down with PEOPLE’s Pamela Warrick to talk about their lives as fiftysomethings. Wettig, who’s been married to thirtysomething costar Ken Olin for 25 years, stars on Brothers & Sisters, which Olin executive produces; their son Cliff, 24, is one of the show’s writers while daughter Roxy, 21, has a small recurring role as Michelle. Mayron is a single mom to Miles and Olivia, 8, and is getting set to launch a diaper cream later this year. Draper, who lives in New York City (the other women live in the L.A. area), has been married to musician Michael Wolff since 1992, and has two sons, Nat, 12, and Alex, 9, whom she directs in Nickelodeon’s The Naked Brothers Band. Harris, meanwhile, remains a TV regular, appearing on shows like Criminal Minds, and says, “I believe in love,” despite being in the midst of a fifth divorce. (She has two children, Byron, 23, and Madeline, 17.) All in all, Harris points out, “we’re a very unusual, blessed group.”
You’ve had the phrase “star of thirtysomething” attached to your names for 20 years. What’s that like?
Harris: Well, they know our age!
Mayron: Why did we have to be on a show with our age in the title?
Any anxieties about your looks back then?
Draper: Melanie and I, we each know that this side [patting her left cheek] is our good side. So we’d stand next to each other with both our good sides facing the camera and say, “Can we have a scene where we both stare out the window?”
Wettig: But who was always checking their hair out in the camera? Peter [Horton] and Ken [Olin]!
Draper: Oh yeah, they were truly more vain. The men were definitely more vain than we were.
Are you ever tempted to maybe let yourself go a little bit?
Mayron: I’ve still got my pregnancy weight from years ago, the final 20 lbs. I haven’t lost!
Harris: I can certainly, honestly say, I do visit my dermatologist. Regularly!
Mayron: I had my breasts reduced and lifted last year. After the babies, they just … needed it.
Wettig: We happen to be in a vain business. If I was a farmer, I’d have a long gray ponytail. But I wouldn’t show up today with gray roots. If everybody is having surgery and you haven’t, you look old. So I get all conflicted—if someone is 60 and she hasn’t had any work and she’s standing next to someone who’s 60 who’s had a lot of work, it’s like, “Wow, she looks old.” And you go, “No, actually she looks 60.” I don’t like the pressure of that and I don’t know what to do about it. I’m not saying I don’t participate in this, I do.
And you’re the only one wearing glasses today, Melanie!
Draper: No, but we all wear them.
Wettig: We’ve all got them back in our purses.
Harris: Yeah, just ask us to read something!
How do you stay in shape?
Mayron: Polly lives in New York, so she walks everywhere. I chase two 8 1/2-year-olds around the house.
Draper: I do that too, with a 9- and a 12-year-old. And I run three miles a day, wherever I am. I also do weights and I jump rope. Twenty years ago, I started jump roping because you can take a jump rope anywhere.
Wettig: That’s the reason we all jumped to do the Keep Moving campaign—because that’s what we believe in, keeping moving, keeping active, eating right.
What about your relationships—how hard is it to have a love life in Hollywood?
Harris: I am becoming the poster child for marriage until I get it right. I believe in romance and love and relationships. I may not pick the best people to be with, but I don’t regret any of it. I have two amazing children. I could be here saying, “No, no way, I’ll never do this again. I’m not gonna do that.” But no, I’m not bitter about it. I’m really not.
Patricia, you’ve been married to Ken Olin for 25 years. What’s the secret?
Wettig: We’re not bored with each other. We used to fight like cats and dogs for the first 15 years; just ask anybody around the set.
Draper: I don’t remember that!
Wettig: And we used to be competitive with each other. I can’t tell you how and why that changed. It’s much more of a partnership now. Something in the last five, six years, we’re so much calmer. It’s so odd. But I don’t have any secrets. There are a few times I thought it would dissolve. Don’t be fooled.
Draper: And both of you really wanted to work on it.
Wettig: That’s a big deal. I gave a toast at our anniversary that just popped in my head… This [poet friend] said you make that commitment on a daily basis and if you find something that is more worthwhile to commit yourself to, then you should. I never found anyone I wanted to commit myself to more than Ken.
Harris: Forever. What does that mean? You don’t know what forever is. It means you believe in the possibility and are willing to take that journey.
Draper: I think the best thing you can have in a relationship is bring out the best in each other. The person I was with before, I really loved him, but this person [present husband Michael Wolff] supports the best in me and doesn’t support the worst in me and eventually the worst things kind of fade away.
Would any of you go back to being thirtysomething?
Wettig: [Looking back] I felt like for 30 years I was governed by my female hormones. They just overwhelmed me. And recently I realize that I’m smarter and I’m not as controlled. For me, there is a freedom now to engage my more rational mind.
Harris: It’s like having an evener keel. I have a canoe in my living room, so I often think about that. I’m steadier. Still paddling like hell, though.
Does that mean we might see a TV reunion?
Draper: Melanie wants to do a talk show.
Wettig: Yeah, all four of us like to talk. A lot.