Michael Gross is maintaining his ties to his former TV wife Meredith Baxter, more than 20 years after their shared series run ended.
As Baxter makes the talk-show rounds now — including a recent appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” — to promote “Untied,” her memoir, “Family Ties” co-star Gross is lending his support. That included his flight from Los Angeles to Chicago, his hometown, to surprise Baxter on “Oprah” as she discussed such matters as her coming out and her allegations of abuse by ex-husband David Birney.
“We stay in constant touch,” Gross tells Zap2it of his enduring relationship with Baxter. “We’re still very close, and a few months ago, we did a production of ‘Love Letters’ together. I know someone who runs the arts department at a college and they were looking to do a fundraiser, and I said, ‘Let me give my friend Meredith a call.’ We like that play, but it’s also an excuse to see each other and hang out for a weekend.”
Gross says Winfrey’s staff called him to contribute to the program on Baxter. “They said, ‘You figure pretty prominently in this book as being a great help to Meredith in her time of crisis. Corroborate some of these things. What do you remember?’ I started to tell them, and they finally said, ‘You know, we’re just going to fly you out as a surprise guest.’ My father still lives there, so I got to see Dad as well as dear Meredith.
“Her book is not a ‘get-even,’ by any means,” Gross maintains. “It’s really Meredith saying, ‘This is what I did to myself. Why did I not know who I was?’ I inadvertently made her cry [on ‘Oprah’] at one point and had to hold her, and that got me crying. While we were in the workplace together, I probably saw her for more hours each day than David did. She’s a very private person, but as time went on, I learned more and more when things were so excruciatingly painful for her.”
By his account, during the 1982-89 NBC run of “Family Ties”, Gross didn’t know of Baxter’s marital concerns for quite some time: “I tend to assume everybody is doing just fine unless I see otherwise. Unless people choose to share with me, I don’t pry, so I don’t know.”
Seen lately as Ted’s father on CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother,” Gross also has filmed an upcoming episode of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” as Larry David‘s dermatologist. He’s looking forward to reuniting with Baxter and the rest of his “Family Ties” family — including Michael J. Fox — to receive the Fan Favorite Award at the ninth annual TV Land Awards, which that channel televises Sunday, April 17.
Baxter and Gross actually are working together again, as spouses again, on The Hub’s animated series “Dan Vs.” They voice the parents of the character Elise … no small irony, since on “Family Ties,” Baxter was named Elyse.
She and Gross often do their recording sessions together, since he reports, “We’re frequently in the same scenes, and they like the chemistry. We still have the best time.”