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In The Mix
July 20, 2018

Attention, Please

Meredith Eaton will get your attention - on her own terms.

Dinah Eng
  • Brian Gordon

Meredith Eaton may be short in stature, but her strong personality is what makes playing Matilda "Matty" Webber, the feisty head of the Phoenix Foundation on CBS's MacGyver, such a natural fit.

Eaton is used to getting attention for being just over four feet tall. In 2001, she became the first female little person cast as a series regular in primetime, playing Emily Resnick on CBS's Family Law. But it wasn't her first experience with being noticed due to her height.

"I grew up in a small town where everyone looks the same, so I was always looked at," Eaton says. "I've faced bullying and prejudice, but I learned to fight back. I embrace my difference. When I'm acting, I'm choosing to get your attention." She credits her mother, a psychotherapist, and her father, a retired administrative law judge, with teaching her how to defy stereotypes.

Eaton was completing a master's degree in clinical psychology when she heard about an open casting call for a short-stature actress who would play a lead in the 2002 feature Unconditional Love, opposite Kathy Bates. On a whim, she decided to audition, and she got the role.

Her work caught the attention of Family Law co-creator Paul Haggis, who hired Eaton for the show. Later, David E. Kelley created the recurring role of Bethany Horowitz for her on ABC's Boston Legal.

Between the two shows, guest roles were scarce. So Eaton worked as a psychotherapist with patients in a locked unit for the criminally insane at a Los Angeles hospital.

As she began booking recurring roles on other CBS shows (NCIS , NCIS: New Orleans), Eaton caught the eye of writer-producer Peter Lenkov. He offered her the part of Matty Webber, a former CIA agent who runs the team on MacGyver, which has been renewed for season three. Playing a tough yet maternal leader is a challenge Eaton relishes — almost as much as her real-life roles of wife and mother.

"Having to fight for every opportunity as a little person and as a short-stature actress is very real," she says. "I'm proud that every role I've played is not height-focused. I love changing people's perceptions."

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 6, 2018

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