09/24/2013 AT 11:30 AM EDT
After a hiatus that lasted a decade, Kelly McGillis
has returned to acting. And if her trajectory this time isn't as stratospheric as her Top Gun
days, that's just fine with her.
"It's like starting over because I've aged. I've changed," the actress, 56, tells Smashing Interviews
magazine. "I have to reintroduce myself to people, so to speak. I don't want to try to recreate what kind of career I had before."
She adds: "I don't want to do plastic surgery. I don't want to try to look younger than what I am. I really want to do character roles."
She has found several of those thanks to director Jim Mickle, who cast her in 2010's Stake Land
as well as the current horror-drama hybrid We Are What We Are
It's been a fruitful partnership, especially since McGillis – who came out as a lesbian
in 2009 and entered into a civil union with partner Melanie Leis
in 2010 – no longer wants to live near New York or Los Angeles, where she could get more acting work.
"I'm really happy where I live," says McGillis, who has settled in Asheville, N.C. "I really feel spiritually fed by living in the country. I tried to move closer to Philadelphia so I could get to New York easier. I lived in the suburbs, and I just did not like it, not one bit."
She adds: "I'm exceedingly happy. I have a very quiet, little normal life, and I love it."
It's quite the change from the 1980s, when roles in Witness
and Top Gun
made her famous. "I certainly had no anonymity left whatsoever," she says. "If I walked into a restaurant, everybody knew who I was. That was really overwhelming … I never wanted that kind of recognition. I just wanted to be able to act. That was really difficult for me. It was very scary."
"I wasn't prepared for that psychologically. I don't know how one would
prepare for that. I had a tough time dealing with being a household name."