Our April guest is actress Catherine Dent, who is best known for playing a police officer on the television series The Shield. At 51, Dent has spent more than two decades working in Hollywood, and she has a thing or two to say about embracing your age in a city where youth is one of the more valuable commodities. She is an inspiration to us at The Fine Line. We hope she inspires you, too.
Catherine Dent was born and raised in the South — Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to be exact. She grew up eating crawfish and attending Mardi Gras parades. Her politician dad once ran for governor of the state.
Today, Dent lives in Los Angeles with her husband, attorney Peter Eliasberg, and their 11-year-old son, Oliver. Though she is not the household name that Brooke Shields or Diane Lane is (both were born the same year as Dent), she has had a steady career in television and film. It wasn’t always easy, however, and now that Dent is in her 50s, it’s even harder.
As a teenager, Dent first found refuge in the theater program at her school when her parents were going through a difficult divorce. Spending long hours among sets and props was when she discovered she wanted to be an actor. “To this day, the theater is a refuge for me,” she says.
After high school, determined to leave Louisiana and pursue her dream, Dent moved to New York City — not knowing anyone and with just $500 to her name. She worked as a nanny, paying her own way through college, eventually graduating from North Carolina School of the Arts, where she transferred after a couple of years in NYC. After years of waiting tables and spraying perfume at Bloomingdale’s, Dent began getting regular acting roles. “My last non-acting job was hanging coats at Time Cafe in New York City in the winter of ’93,” she says.
Dent’s big break came the year after she gave up coat check, when she made her film debut as Paul Newman’s daughter-in-law in Nobody’s Fool, alongside Jessica Tandy, Melanie Griffith, and Bruce Willis (as well as Philip Seymour Hoffman; it was also his first film). Since then, she’s had scores of roles, working on popular shows such as The Sopranos, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and The X-Files; as well as in movies, including Someone Like You, 21 Grams, and The Majestic.
The role of officer Danny Sofer in the TV series The Shield put Dent on the map. The show ran for seven seasons on FX and was the first primetime cable program to win an Emmy and the first to win a Golden Globe. “It was huge. It was a really big deal,” she says. “We paved the way for a lot of the shows that are on now.”
Dent’s character was “a single woman in a world that understands brutality more than beauty,” according to her IMDB profile, but in real life, Dent has a very firm grasp on beauty. Particularly as it relates to working in Hollywood, which she says has grown increasingly difficult as she’s grown older.
When she landed the role of Danny, Dent “was a little bit older than they thought I was,” she says, laughing. “The role was written for someone in her late 20s, early 30s. I was 35 or 36 when I did the pilot for The Shield.”
Even now, in her 50s, Dent does not look her age. Good genes and the kind of dedication to self-care required of most people who want a long career in entertainment have held at bay many of the physical signs of middle life. Nevertheless, she says, her age prevents her from being considered for roles she could easily play. “Even though I can pass for my 40s, because [IMDB] printed this number and people are so prejudiced against 50s and 60s, they don’t want to see me.”
That’s not to say that there’s not still work for Dent. When The Fine Line talked with Dent in March, she’d just shot the pilot for a television show called Halfway Home, with Blythe Danner and Matthew Lillard, and she begins shooting the sixth season of Netflix’s crime thriller Longmire this month. But the auditions don’t roll in like they used to, she says.
The experience of becoming invisible with age is not unique to female actors, however, which is why it is critical “for women to find ways to have their voice and intention and intellect and creativity be the beautiful sides of themselves past a certain age,” Dent says. “Because physical beauty does fade.”
CATHERINE DENT’S FAVORITE PODCASTS
Actress Catherine Dent is both beautiful and smart. She is committed to exercise and eats impeccably well. For motivation and inspiration, she listens to podcasts related to wellness and healthy living. Here’s what’s taking up storage on her phone.
The Primal Diet — Modern Health: For followers of the paleo trend, nutritionist Beverly Meyer’s podcast focuses on food and modern health care.
Not Your Mother’s Menopause: Dr. Fiona Lovely is “making hormones make sense” with expertise gleaned from a decade-plus of caring for women.
Optimal Living Daily: With the acronym OLD, the tips-and-tricks series covers personal development, minimalism, productivity, and more culled from other sources.
STEM-Talk: A non-profit researching ways to extend human capabilities produces “conversations with some of the most interesting people in the world of science and technology.”
Primal Blueprint: Powered by the wellness company of the same name, this podcast features experts in the areas of health, fitness, nutrition, and more.