From Getting McDonald's with Brad Pitt to Fox News Commentator: How Child Actor Kelly Hyman Entered Politics
Hyman's book, Build Back Better: The First 100 Days of the Biden Administration, and Beyond, is on sale now
When lawyer and lifelong Democrat Kelly Hyman makes appearances on conservative TV, she relies on her past experience as a child actor to get through the stressful on-camera moments.
Recently Hyman — who had stints on shows like Young and the Restless and a range of commercials in the 1970s and '80s — appeared on Fox News @ Night. She was asked to discuss the legalities surrounding U.S. sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson's suspension for marijuana use, which derailed her Olympic plans. The show's other guest commentator brought up some of the talking points that Hyman had prepared.
"I'm sitting there thinking to myself, 'What am I going to say? What am I going to say?' " Hyman, now 51, tells PEOPLE.
She "started to panic. And so I said to myself, 'From my acting training, take a breath, breathe ... Listen to what [anchor] Shannon [Bream] says and asks you and just go off that."
As intense as Hyman's work as a television commentator can be — she's gotten unpleasant comments on social media and received "not-so-nice messages" from people calling into the shows — she feels it's her way to give back.
She was inspired to appear on outlets like Fox News and Newsmax, a far-right cable news outlet, after hearing an impassioned speech from Bill Maher on his HBO show Real Time.
"My recollection is he talked about he would have someone like Ann Coulter come on his show ... He said, 'But the Democrats do themselves a disservice that they don't go on these kinds of shows and speak to people with the election coming up,' " recalls Hyman, who was 30 when she decided to leave acting to go to become a lawyer. (She also volunteered during former President Barack Obama's two election campaigns and served as a poll watcher during the past presidential election.)
"I also remember hearing that 5 percent of the people that voted for Hillary Clinton, their main source of news was Fox News," Hyman continues. "I thought if I could change 5 percent and make a difference, that I should."
Hyman believes "Biden is not just the president for people who voted for him. He's the president for all Americans." She says that Biden's biggest success so far has been the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that he signed into law in March. She wants readers "to look at his policies and to look at how they can help you and make a difference in your life."
Hyman says she's been interested in politics from the time she was a young girl. Her mother, a tennis pro, emigrated from Australia and raised Hyman on her own in Florida and then California. Hyman's foray into acting began with the help of Charlton Heston who, as it happens, was taking tennis lessons from Hyman's mother.
"I was a cute young kid and [my mom] brought me on the court. He was a very tall, nice man," Hyman, who was 5 years old at the time. She says now. "I remember him patting me on the head and saying, 'I will help her.' "
With Heston's assistance, Hyman got an agent and went on to land roles in the show Getting There and commercial spots. From early on, she remembers hoping she'd continue to land gigs to help her mother out financially.
"I'll never forget looking at the stars saying, 'Please, God. Get me another commercial,' " she says. "Because I wanted to make sure that we had money coming in."
Hyman's childhood was defined by her job as an actor, with frequent auditions after school. "I grew up in the business," she says.
Not only did acting help Hyman learn to be more "outgoing," she also has fun memories of meeting other actors, including a before-he-was-famous Brad Pitt.
"I met Shalane McCall who was on Dallas and, ironically enough, Brad Pitt was her TV boyfriend before he was Brad Pitt," says Hyman. "He was a sweet guy."
She remembers going to McDonald's with McCall and Pitt after an event in Studio City.
"Shalane's mom, Sherry, took photos of us there," says Hyman, who adds, "I remember him telling me he was from small place in Missouri and there was a local newspaper doing a story about him. And I was like, 'That's great.' "
Now, Hyman is having policy discussions instead of chatting with stars. But it brings her just as much fulfillment.
She says she is optimistic about the future, despite the political discord fueled in part by former President Donald Trump rhetoric.
"I've been called Pollyanna sometimes on different shows," says Hyman, who is an avid supporter of voting rights, which have come under scrutiny in the wake of Trump's baseless claims of election fraud.
"We should make sure that people have access to the polls and not limit their access to the polls," Hyman says. "This shouldn't be a political issue — a lot of things shouldn't be a political issue."
"People have the power to change things," she says. "I strongly believe in that."
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Hyman says she received confirmation she's able to bridge the political divide after an appearance on Fox News. Her driver, a former member of the military and self-described lifelong Republican, had asked if he could watch the show.
"They give him headphones and we're live and I'm doing my statements. And then, by the end, he's like, 'Oh, my God. That was so amazing,' " says Hyman, who thanked him in response. As they were leaving the studio, the man gave her more feedback.
"He said, 'I was listening to you and everything you said, I was just nodding my head,' " Hyman remembers. "'That other guy, he didn't know what he was talking about.' "
Build Back Better: The First 100 Days of the Biden Administration, and Beyond is on sale now.