Today, Kathy Bates is reaching new audiences on the TV series American Horror Story and the Melissa McCarthy summer comedy Tammy. “Everything has snowballed into a really good place,” Bates says. “I feel very lucky.” However, that’s a big change from the summer of 2012, when Bates found herself going through the bleakest time of her life.
A decade after she had battled ovarian cancer, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the same time, she suffered a big professional blow—Harry’s Law, the NBC series in which she starred, was cancelled after two seasons.
Surprisingly, Bates credits a little bird with helping her begin to climb out of her depression. A few weeks after her double mastectomy, she was sitting in her den when a small bird flew into the sliding glass doors and fell on the ground.
“I felt like Roseanne Roseannadanna,” Bates says. “It’s always something.”
She went outside and found a little finch with a bright yellow breast lying on the ground, apparently dead. “I picked him up and his little head dropped off the ends of my fingers,” she says. “I held him and I prayed, and then I thought, ‘Oh, come on. You don’t have the power to do anything.’ He flipped over in my hand, and I thought, ‘I’m just prolonging this. The heat of my hand is keeping him alive and it’s no good.’”
Bates placed the bird on a planter and went inside. A few minutes later, she came outside again. “The bird was still there,” Bates says, “and suddenly he stretched his little wings and flew away.”
Linda, Bates’ niece and assistant, who was standing nearby said, “Are you getting the message yet?’” She was: “I said, yeah, I was dead and now I’m alive. I have my life ahead of me.”