Valerie Mahaffey discusses her upbeat ‘French Exit’ character who is ‘not ready to give up on life’

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Making “French Exit” was a magnifique experience for Valerie Mahaffey.

The Emmy-winning actress stars in the movie as a widow living in Paris who’s eager to befriend Michelle Pfeiffer’s character, an ostentatious heiress who moves to the City of Light once she loses her fortune.

“In such a wonderful way, as opposed to Michelle’s character Frances, she is a person who in spite of being a widow (is) not ready to give up on life,” Mahaffey told the Daily News. “She’s enthusiastic and grabbing at life with both hands, and I kind of loved that about her.”

The comedy-drama, out now in select theaters before a nationwide release April 2, introduces Pfeiffer’s Frances Price as a famous socialite who’s forced to move from New York City to a friend’s apartment in Paris after learning she’ll soon be out of money.

Mahaffey’s Madame Reynard is a longtime admirer of Frances, who is also a widow, and invites the celebrity and her son over to her house in hopes of getting to know them.

Although Pfeiffer’s character is initially standoffish and downbeat about her future, her true personality begins to come through over the course of the film.

“Most of us can’t relate to that kind of wealth, but you absolutely do see her humanity and can relate, ultimately,” Mahaffey said.

“Frances even softens toward people that she would’ve just run over in the past.”

Mahaffey, 67, moved to New York after attending the University of Texas and emerged as a Broadway actress during the 1970s. Her dream of becoming a performer started at a young age.

“My first 11 years, I spent in Indonesia, and we didn’t have anything there. We didn’t have radio. We didn’t have television,” said Mahaffey.

“My dad loved plays, and he would order plays from the States and help put them on,” she recalled. “I went just rabid for anything to do with dance, or ‘Can I be in the choir? Is there a child part in that play?’ On Saturdays, the oil company that my dad worked for would order movies from the States. They would play a movie on Saturday night for the grown-ups, but in the afternoon, us kids could go and see the movie. It was just like, ‘Oh my God, I want to do all of this.’ "

Mahaffey joined the long-running soap opera “The Doctors” in 1979 and starred on the show for several years. She then won the Emmy for best supporting actress in a drama for “Northern Exposure” in 1992.

In recent years, Mahaffey has appeared on the series “Dead to Me” and “Big Sky.”

Now, Mahaffey is earning awards-season buzz for her portrayal of the enthusiastic and earnest Madame Reynard in “French Exit,” and got a nomination for best supporting actress at April’s Independent Spirit Awards.

“I‘ve had some wonderful experiences as an actress, and I’ve been around a while,” Mahaffey said. “This one, this experience, was as close to perfect as it gets. ... The doing of it was perfect, and then now that people are reacting like this ... it’s so gratifying.”