May 9, 2014 at 12:21 PM ET
More than 30 years ago, Linda Lavin's role as goodhearted diner waitress "Alice" earned her two Golden Globes and an Emmy nomination. And she doesn't mind a bit that fans still stop her to talk about the show.
"People loved that character," Lavin said during a visit to TODAY Friday to talk about "A Short History of Decay," her new film. "I love being recognized as Alice; she changed my life."
Lavin added that she recently donated her "Alice" uniform to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. "So Alice's uniform is on exhibit," Lavin laughed. (It's in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, in the American Stories exhibition running through June 30.) "I wouldn't be able to fit into it anymore, but yes."
Lavin's range as an actress is on exhibit in "Decay," a dramedy about a son whose father is recovering from a stroke while his mother, played by Lavin, grapples with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Portraying someone with the condition made Lavin ponder her own life. "The writer Michael Maren, who directed the movie, wrote this from a very personal experience," she said. "So he would help me understand the flare-ups and the moments of anger (typical of Alzheimer's). What I really wanted to bring to it was moments of sweetness, because I thought, 'God forbid, if this ever happens to me, I hope I go to my sweet place. I hope I'm not a vitriolic, angry, awful person if I lose my memory.'"
The film isn't depressing, she assured: "It was a sweet movie to make, and I think a lovely film."
"A Short History of Decay" opens in theaters May 16.