A Fine Romance is three love stories, one of Louis Malle, one of your daughter with him, Chloe, and one of your second husband, Marshall Rose. What moved you to write it?
I very much didn’t want to revisit my first husband’s illness and death, but I suppose it moved a lot of feelings on their way. Then I began thinking of writing a love letter to my daughter. And then it became exhausting to put it off.
How did you and Louis meet?
At a picnic at Diane von Furstenberg’s, then a dinner in Los Angeles. We were both so intensely ill at ease that we never even looked at each other. When he called a few years later, I was flabbergasted. And we had lunch for four hours at the Russian Tea Room. It was a wonderful love story.
Marshall is a widower. How do you navigate the fact that each of you has a prior great love?
Well, it’s a marriage of four people. And you have to be grownup about it, which was not easy for me. We live in the apartment that he and his late wife lived in, the beach house they lived in. I think men are not as touchy about this as women are. You just have to be your most mature self.
The biggest role of your career, Murphy Brown, started when Chloe was 4. Do you have advice for working moms?
I think you can have a career and have kids. It’s very hard to have a marriage, a child and a career. I believe in putting the child first, quite frankly. That may be a politically incorrect thing to say, but that’s how I feel about it.
What do you think is the lasting impact of Murphy?
My daughter said that she was at an event in San Francisco several months ago, and Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, came up to her and said, “You know, without your mom and Murphy Brown, I would not be CEO.”
More kids live without dads now than when Dan Quayle objected to Murphy being a single mom. And those kids are more likely to be poor. Did he have a point?
We were aware that the choice we were making was very loaded, and we discussed it in great depth. But Murphy was very much a show for a slice of highly educated, aware people. So I don’t take responsibility for the rise in single motherhood among uneducated women.
You’ve hosted Saturday Night Live five times. What is the secret to getting out alive?
It was like I’d been shot out of a cannon the first time I did the show. It’s the purest, most exhilarating serum of terror. Lorne [Michaels] said that the expression in my eyes was like Patty Hearst when the Symbionese Liberation Army rang her doorbell. You just have to hang on for dear life. It’s brilliantly run, but it’s a miracle that the show could have ever existed, the demands are so insane.
Why do you write that “beauty is terrifying”?
Because it’s so vitally important to people, and they treat you very differently from other women. You have to work a little harder to find out who’s underneath your face. You have to make people comfortable with you. Of course, I’m grateful beyond words that I had it, but beauty’s very often the elephant in the room, and you’re the elephant handler.
Is there any cure?
Getting older helps.
Since you waited until you were 39 to have a kid and then loved it, do you apply grandmotherly pressure to Chloe at all?
No, I do not. Well, I did suggest that if she were to have a boy, she could name him Ichabod and then call him Icky for short. And she said, “You know, don’t hold your breath.”
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This appears in the April 13, 2015 issue of TIME.