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Why Mackenzie Phillips was fired from ‘One Day at a Time’

Mackenzie Phillips, Bonnie Franklin, and Valerie Bertinelli | CBS via Getty Images

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Why Mackenzie Phillips was fired from ‘One Day at a Time’

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Mackenzie Phillips’ life has been a roller coaster of great highs and lows. The troubled singer and actress, who rose to fame at the tender age of 12, has had a rocky path since then, with drug addiction putting her through the wringer.

Mackenzie Phillips’ life has been a roller coaster of great highs and lows. The troubled singer and actress, who rose to fame at the tender age of 12, has had a rocky path since then, with drug addiction putting her through the wringer.

Because her parents divorced when she was three years old, the actress grew up torn between two worlds.

Susan Adam, Phillips’ mother, tried to raise her daughter as a good girl, but Mackenzie’s time with her father, folk music superstar John Phillips, undermined Susan’s efforts.

John Phillips, the late lead vocalist of the singing group “The Mamas & the Papas” was a drug addict as well as a performer. For most of her adolescent and adult years, John’s impact on his daughter led to a painful battle with alcohol and drug misuse.

Phillips began using drugs when she was ten years old, and by the age of eighteen, she had gone too far down the path of self-destruction. Her largest claim to fame — her part as Julie Cooper on the comedy One Day at a Time – was lost due to her addiction.

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Mackenzie’s continuous usage of numerous narcotics ultimately took its toll on her physical appearance. Her extreme weight loss and unpredictable conduct disrupted the production of the program, and her co-stars Bonnie Franklin and Valerie Bertinelli eventually got distressed.

During an appearance on David Yontef’s podcast Behind the Velvet Rope, she discussed the topic.

“I was 16 and I was wearing black leather and sort of growling at people and late for work,” Phillips explains. “And you know what I mean, it was like a dysfunctional family that functions. Because all families that have an addict in them, you know, sort of, spin around the addicted person trying to change them, save them, fix them.”

During the program, Phillips was making around $50,000 every week, which is around $250,000 today.

“And certainly, none of that really works,” she continued. “As we know, through years of watching families, decompensate due to substance use disorders and undiagnosed mental health issues. So I was suspended from One Day at a Time, a couple of times. And then eventually I was fired and then I came back and then I got fired again.”

She joined Fair Oaks, a mental institution in Summit, New Jersey, for rehabilitation in December 1980 and was discharged with a clean bill of health. She returned to the series in the fall of 1981 after a successful recuperation.

John Phillips’ actions appear to be those of a neglectful and irresponsible parent, but Mackenzie alleged years later that he was much, much worse. She claimed in her biography that John had raped her when she blacked out the night before her wedding.

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