Justine Bateman on What It's Like to Be Hugely Famous: 'It's a Crazy Emotional Experience'

The actress opens up in a new book on what it's like to have—and lose—fame

Tribeca Film Festival Artists Dinner hosted by Chanel, Arrivals, New York, USA - 23 Apr 2018
Photo: Gregory Pace/REX/Shutterstock

When Justine Bateman landed a starring role on Family Ties, the hit NBC sitcom that ran for seven seasons in the ’80s, she had no clue what was in store. Only 16 years old when the show took off, Bateman was thrust into the glare of Hollywood’s spotlight — and it wasn’t always easy.

“We were at the level of fame where you just can’t go anywhere,” the actress, 52, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “You just try to keep your head above water… [and] stay alive.”

While she has warm memories of Family Ties and considered the cast, including Michael J. Fox, to be her “tribe,” she calls the baggage that came with fame “mentally exhausting.”

“[For one], I found it frustrating having no control over what people thought of you,” says Bateman, who was raised in Los Angeles with her actor brother, Jason. “I’m not saying I’m ungrateful for fame at all. I’m just saying it’s a crazy emotional experience.”

Celebrity was not without an upside. “Listen, there are parts about it that are super fun, especially if you’re in your 20s,” she says. “You get into any club you want, you have backstage passes for any concert you can think of, anywhere. You have access to everything, in the same way a toddler does. Everybody’s like, ‘Oh come on in!'”

  • For more of the exclusive interview with Bateman, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.

In a new book, Fame: The Highjacking of Reality, the two-time Emmy nominee takes a raw look at the culture of celebrity, reflecting on her stardom at its dizzying peak — and the “disconcerting” feeling as it began to fade.

“You watch award shows and not only are you not nominated, but you’re not a presenter and haven’t been invited to any of the parties,” she says.

RELATED VIDEO: Jason Bateman Ruined the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus for His Daughter — All in One Conversation

Still, Bateman, who has two kids, Duke, 16, and Gianetta, 14, with commercial real estate financier Mark Fluent, has worked steadily, in theater, TV, and indie films [a short she directed, Five Minutes, is now on Amazon Prime], and even earned a Computer Science and Digital Media Management degree from UCLA in 2016.

In other words, she spends little time pining for what was. “I don’t live in the past,” she says. “I find it far more interesting to look at where I’m heading.”

Related Articles