"Public attention was very important to my parents," Jamie Curtis Lee Curtis shares

By Johnny Dodd
Updated October 09, 2015 11:00 AM
Credit: Ruven Afanador

Jamie Lee Curtis insists that she learned plenty from her parents – Hollywood legends Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. And one of her most powerful lessons they inadvertently taught her was that she’s not a big fan of the limelight that comes with being an actor.

“Public attention was very important to my parents,” Curtis, who currently stars in Fox’s new dark comedy Scream Queens, says in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. “They required that attention all the way through the end of their lives. Given what their backgrounds were and how their rise to fame was so meteoric, that sort of thing was important to them.

Curtis, 56, the mother of two grown kids, realized she wanted to do things differently years ago. “When I’m out in the world I don’t walk around like my father used to,” she says. “He’d walk into a restaurant and preen and pose and say, ‘Hello, you fine people. I’m Tony.’ … That’s not me.”

While insisting she’s not a “recluse,” Curtis describes her life as “very private, quiet,” explaining that strangers often tell her that they’ve recognized her because of her “gray hair” and her distinctive voice.

“People are genuinely warm to me,” she says. “And that’s lovely, but I’ve always tried to make sure that I don’t require that.”

Nevertheless, she still sometimes gets a kick out of the attention. “The other day I was walking down the street and a guy walked past me and said, ‘All hail the queen!'” she says. “He made this gesture and bowed down in front of me. And I thought, ‘What was that all about?’ ”

And then it dawned on her. “The name of my show,” she laughs, “is Scream Queens.”

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To read more of Jamie Lee Curtis’ interview, pick up the current issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now