‘Grace Under Fire’ Star Brett Butler Reveals She’s Completely Broke: ‘I’ve Been Ashamed’
Brett Butler, who starred in the leading role of Grace Kelly in ABC sitcom Grace Under Fire in the ‘90s, is opening up about her financial troubles. The actor recently shared her story with the Hollywood Reporter, after supernatural encounters blogger Len Strickler — a close friend of Butler’s — started a GoFundMe page on her behalf.
Butler admits that she was initially hesitant to accept crowdsourced help, so much so that by the time she finally said yes to Strickler’s offer of support, she feared it might be too late.
“I told him, ‘I might’ve waited too long to do this, but I am so screwed right now,’” she recounts. By that time, the former TV star, who once raked in $250,000 per episode on the set of Grace Under Fire, had fallen six months behind on her rent payments and was facing imminent eviction from her Los Angeles apartment.
”I’ve been ashamed. Almost ashamed to death,” she adds.
Now 63, Butler’s star first began to rise in the ‘80s, when she left the University of Georgia and found success as a comedian who drew inspiration from her upbringing in the Deep South. She even snagged a gig as a writer on Dolly Parton’s one-season-only ABC variety show. Grace Under Fire premiered in 1993 — one year after Butler moved out to L.A. — and she filmed 112 episodes of the series in total. As early as the pilot episode, she drew from her own life experiences to craft her character, including some darker aspects of her personal past: She’d already survived an abusive marriage and a bout with alcoholism.
“I’ll never forget when we were shooting the pilot in front of a live audience, and one of the jokes had to do with domestic violence,” Butler remembers. “I said, ‘My husband was cleaning his fist, and it went off.’ When they laughed at that, that answered the question of, ‘Would this fly?’”
But by the fourth season of Grace Under Fire, ratings were dropping, and Butler was in the throes of an increasingly debilitating addiction to the painkiller Vicodin, which she’d originally been prescribed to treat sciatica. The star’s increasingly unpredictable and erratic behavior — and a mounting habit of not showing up to tapings — led to tensions with her co-stars, many of whom quit out of frustration. ABC finally pulled the plug on the sitcom in the middle of its fifth season, when 14 episodes out of a planned 25 had been shot.
“At the bloody, bitter end, I really was difficult. I was out of my mind,” Butler admits. “Drugs will do that to you. The show should’ve been pulled sooner than it was.”
After multiple rehab stints, Butler got sober in 1998, a year that she says she “should not have lived” through. Her recovery was hard-won, and the pain and scars from that time persist over 20 years later — including her current financial worries. The singer says she made some inadvisable spending decisions in the wake of her success, which brought in a total of about $25 million.
“I was a little bit too trusting with some people that worked for me, and I had a lot of things stolen,” she notes. “That’s just stupid on my part, not to have insurance for those things. And to loan and give a lot of money away. I really just felt so guilty for having it — I almost couldn’t get rid of it fast enough.”
Since then, Butler has found some television roles, including guest spots on The Walking Dead and How to Get Away With Murder, though none of them have been anywhere near as lucrative as her role on Grace Under Fire. In the meantime, though, she was hit by a bout of depression which she says descended upon her when she was about 50 and felt like a “monster that moved into my house.” Then, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated her already debilitating agoraphobia, and her financial situation quickly escalated into a crisis.
With Strickler’s help, Butler set a goal of raising $15,000 on GoFundMe, enough to keep eviction proceedings at bay. Once that goal was met, Strickler raised it to $20,000. As of Tuesday (Aug. 24), they’ve brought in almost double that goal, with fans and supporters coming together to help the actor.
“Brett is one of the kindest, down-to-earth people that anyone will meet,” Strickler wrote in the description of his GoFundMe page. “She has helped me get through some rough times and I feel it’s time for me, and her friends, to help her get through this.”