Heather Locklear and Kristine Carlson
A self-help book with 12 million copies sold has a way of accumulating 12 million personal reader anecdotes.
One belongs to Meghan McCain, who first spotted Dr. Richard Carlson's Don't Sweat the Small Stuff ... And It's All Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life on a table in her parents' bedroom nook. She didn't think about it until 2018, when her dad, Senator John McCain, died of brain cancer. Seeking ways to sort through her feelings, McCain bought a copy and pored over every word. "It was so impactful," she says. "It was really good for the soul."
Cut to 2021, when McCain — ready to move on from her job as the outspoken Republican cohost on The View — was in talks with Lifetime to executive-produce new projects. Specifically, something involving themes of overcoming adversity in the aftermath of death.
Executives said they were mulling an adaptation of the bestselling phenom... would she be interested? "I jumped at it," she says. "It felt like the stars were aligning. It's also an important message and will make anyone feel positive during a particularly acrimonious time."
Indeed, the inspiring true story Don't Sweat the Small Stuff: The Kristine Carlson Story (premiering October 16) focuses on how Richard's wife, Kristine (Heather Locklear), had to persevere after he died of an embolism while on a flight from San Francisco to New York in 2006 at age 45. In a blink, she became sole parent to the couple's two girls and took over as the new voice of the Don't Sweat the Small Stuff brand.
The role marks Locklear's first onscreen appearance since 2018, and you'd better believe this TV veteran of four decades has her own it-was-meant-to-be backstory. Not only was she looking for a "good-but-not-cheesy" project during the pandemic and wept "every two seconds" upon rereading the book and was shocked to learn that Richard's first crush was her old college roommate at UCLA, she says she felt an immediate kinship with Kristine upon meeting her.
"She has such a special light and energy," Locklear raves, adding that Kristine gifted her with her own 2007 book, An Hour to Live, an Hour to Love: The True Story of the Best Gift Ever Given, which she based on a letter Richard had given her on their 18th wedding anniversary. "Some of us are higher beings, and she is one of those people. I thank God for putting this project in my lap and Richard for putting us together."
Those uplifting vibes carried through to the Nashville production. Locklear cops to some early jitters in memorizing lines and performing some of the more emotionally complex scenes, but "after being isolated for so long, I was grateful to be doing this and had so much fun."
McCain was blown away by what she saw on the set, noting, "Heather is such an icon and is just so sweet. I love that we're seeing her do a darker, more intense role. It's a different side of her acting."
Both women are taking away a powerful lesson about how to put challenges in perspective — and they hope audiences do the same. "This is a way to unite people beyond politics," McCain says.
"The message to not sweat the small stuff makes so much sense," Locklear adds. "It's a lot easier to just remember what's important and love people."
This article orignally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 11, 2021