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Remember news stories last month that Brett Butler, the comedian who starred in the successful sitcom Grace Under Fire in the '90s, was the subject of a GoFundMe fundraiser?
That was a tough moment for Butler, who had finally relented to her friend's pleas that she let him help with her financial situation, after falling six months behind in her rent. That situation was that she had depleted the $25 million fortune that she earned on the ABC show, which ran for five seasons between 1993 and 1998, even though, at one point, she earned as much as $250,000 an episode.
"I told him," Butler told the Hollywood Reporter in an interview published Thursday, "'I might've waited too long to do this, but I am so screwed right now. I've been ashamed. Almost ashamed to death.'"
Butler struggled with drug addiction before and even while her show — which, at its peak, ranked fourth in the ratings — was still on the air. Already recovering from alcoholism, she then became hooked on Vicodin, which she had been prescribed for sciatica. In fact, Butler said she only remembers about 80 of the 112 episodes that she made of the single-mom sitcom. But the co-stars who left the show because of her behavior remember, and ABC, which abruptly canceled Grace after she went to rehab and relapsed, surely do.
"At the bloody bitter end, I really was difficult," Butler said. "I was out of my mind. Drugs will do that to you. The show should have been pulled sooner than it was."
The comedian and actress said she's been clean — off drugs and alcohol — since July 1998.
Still, her money troubles were just beginning back then.
"I was a little bit too trusting with some people that worked for me, and I had a lot of things stolen," Butler explained. "That's just stupid on my part, not to have insurance for those things. And to loan and give a lot of money away. I really just felt so guilty for having it — I almost couldn't get rid of it fast enough."
After the show, the Alabama native moved to Georgia, where she bought a farm. She couldn't keep up with payments. However, she shot down a 2011 report from Entertainment Tonight that said she had lived in a homeless shelter.
Then, once Butler was ready to return to acting, she couldn't get a job. It was Charlie Sheen of all people — who had also both sparred with Grace Under Fire creator Chuck Lorre and publicly struggled with addiction — who offered a lifeline. He helped Butler get hired for a recurring role on his former FX show Anger Management, and she's since made appearances on series including How to Get Away With Murder, The Walking Dead and The Morning Show.
"If it wasn't for Charlie, there's no way I would have been on that show," Butler said. "It literally saved me."
Of course, she earns much less than she once did, and the COVID-19 pandemic has left her with a dearth of acting roles. She's also dealing with depression, which she likened to a "monster that moved into my house."
Home is currently a $2,500-per-month, one-bedroom apartment in L.A. Butler noted that she spends money, too, taking care of a horse that remains in Georgia.
"I'm not the only one in this boat," she said. "Most people that are in it never had the opportunities I did. It doesn't really lessen my self-loathing or fear about it, but I do realize that."