‘Back to the Future’ star Claudia Wells on how faith helped her cope with tragedy: It's ‘the reason I’m alive’
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Claudia Wells skyrocketed to fame after playing the role of Marty McFly’s girlfriend Jennifer Parker in 1985’s “Back to the Future” – but then she seemingly disappeared from Hollywood.
The beloved classic, which starred Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd and Lea Thompson, among others, told the tale of a high school student who is sent into the past with a time-traveling DeLorean invented by an eccentric scientist.
The film’s success resulted in a trilogy, but Wells reluctantly turned down the offer to reprise her role. Elisabeth Shue went on to replace her in “Back to the Future II” (1989) and “Back to the Future III” (1990).
At the time, Wells’ manager mother was dying of breast cancer, People magazine reported.
Claudia Wells and Michael J. Fox. on the set of ‘Back to the Future’.
(Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
“I know she wanted me to continue doing the part and didn’t agree with my decision,” the now-55-year-old told Fox News. “But I was just not in a place emotionally where I could handle any more than what I was already handling. I wanted my mother to be supported and cared for. I left acting altogether, but I knew I would come back. I never felt it was over. I’m still waiting to come back. I still don’t feel like it’s over.”
Wells credited her Christian faith for helping her cope during a dark time in her life.
“It’s made all the difference in the world,” she explained. “I did a TV series starring Dean Jones when I was 15. And he used to talk to me about God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus being his savior all through the filming of the show. And then he and his wife took my mom and me to church every Sunday… I then went through so many different things in my life when my mom was dying of cancer. I believe God carried me through a lot of it.”
Wells admitted she was faced with her “own rebellion” in coping with her mother’s diagnosis. She said turning to her faith prevented her from going down a turbulent path in attempting to mask the pain she was feeling.
Claudia Wells put her Hollywood career on hold to care for her mother.
(Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
“I lived a lot of experiences I wouldn’t want people to go through but God brought me out of them all,” said the actress. “I feel like all of it was for a purpose so that one day, I can help others going through tough times.”
“But God is my everything,” she continued. “I can’t find happiness or peace without him. He is really, truly my only source of comfort and joy. Anytime I’ve turned my back to that, even during the darkest of times, I’ve lost that peace and joy. [My faith is] the reason I’m alive, without a shadow of a doubt. And because of God, I know that my mother is in heaven. She is her best self and she’s happy. She is out of pain and sadness.”
“My church family is my family,” she added.
According to Wells, the ailing matriarch passed away in October 1994. For nearly 30 years, Wells has run her men’s fine clothing store Armani Wells where she offers personal styling services. She said her role as shop owner has given her the opportunity to connect with others over the years as she healed.
Claudia Wells is the proud owner of Armani Wells, a men’s resale store where she also offers styling services.
(Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
“I tell all my customers and clients, ‘This is God’s store and I have the privilege of working here,’” she said. “The store has been completely fulfilling. I get to show men the dignity that they deserve. I want my customers to feel their very best and experience the quality of a fine suit that they can wear forever. I like dressing up people to show them how beautiful they are. I see beauty in all people. Sometimes people don’t realize their own beauty. So I get to show them just that through [clothes]. It gives me the same fulfillment as acting because it allows me to create a personal connection with someone. And I help them experience a sense of joy.”
But Wells hasn’t given up on acting for good. In fact, she would be open to starring in another “Back to the Future” film.
“I would not only consider it, but I’d raise my hand and say ‘Pretty please?’” she chuckled. “The answer is absolutely… I feel like I’m at a point in my life where I can play so many different roles that I didn’t have the firsthand knowledge to take on when I was 18, 19. I really do believe it’s still in my future.”
And Wells hasn’t forgotten the past.
Claudia Wells said she would be open to appearing in a new sequel.
(Photo by Hollywood To You/Star Max/GC Images)
Most recently, The Hollywood Museum went “Back to the Future” on Thursday when they re-opened to the public with their blockbuster exhibit honoring the film’s trilogy.
Founder and president Donelle Dadigan presented a $5,000 check to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Fox, who famously starred as McFly, launched the foundation in 2000 after publicly disclosing his 1991 diagnosis at age 29. A personal video from the 60-year-old was presented for the occasion.
Wells supported The Hollywood Museum and its new exhibition. She is also an ambassador for Kids in the Spotlight, a non-profit that teaches youth in foster care how to write, cast and star in their own short films.
“I’m so grateful for the life I have today,” said Wells. “My daddy is 96 years old. He and his wife have been married for 50 years. I’m my sister’s best friend. In fact, my sister’s name is Jennifer… And I’m eager for what the future holds.”
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