The Facts of Life star makes her return to TV in Netflix's The Upshaws

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kim fields
Credit: Nathalie Gordon

Kim Fields has been in the spotlight for 40 years — and has no plans to slow down.

In this week's issue of PEOPLE, the actress and director opens up about navigating child stardom and her big return to the small screen.

From playing Dorothy "Tootie" Ramsey on the NBC sitcom The Facts of Life (1979-1988) to sharing the screen with Queen Latifah on Fox's Living Single (1993-1998), Fields grew up onscreen.

"You don't realize, 'This show is groundbreaking,'" she says of working on the trailblazing shows. "You're just grateful to show up to a job. I certainly didn't think that it was as monumental as it would go on to become."

"It was a different type of coming-of-age," she adds. "And to do that in that environment was just really spectacular."

living single
Credit: Everett

After a stint on Bravo's Real Housewives of Atlanta in 2015, Fields — mom to sons Sebastian, 14, and Quincy, 7, with husband Christopher Morgan, 45 — has returned to her TV comedy roots in Netflix's The Upshaws alongside Wanda Sykes and Mike Epps.

"It's really exciting to be able to find something new," Fields says. "There's this wonderful sense of adventure that I'm realizing was always there."

the upshaws
Credit: Lara Solanki/Netflix

Next, Fields will direct and executive produce the dramedy Vicious for UrbanflixTV with a producing team of all Black women.

"It's all about going into uncharted waters right now. I don't want to go through life coasting," she says. "I'm always looking to be challenged and stimulated — life is a trip. Embrace those imperfections that we all have, and find ways to laugh."

"This year, I am showing up present, eyes wide open, to take every moment in," she continues. "It's an exciting, adventurous time. And I'm here for all of it."

The Upshaws is streaming on Netflix.