By Gina Roberts-Grey

As the her final season on the ABC hit series “Private Practice” gets underway this month, Kate Walsh, who turns 45 in October, is taking life in stride. And why shouldn’t she? Walsh has had the enviable role of playing opposite the likes of Patrick Dempsey, Taye Diggs, Tim Daly and Eric Dane, some of the hottest men on the small screen, starring as Dr. Addison Montgomery-Shepherd (and then just Montgomery when her character divorced) since 2005.   Born a California girl, Walsh lived in Arizona, where she got her start in regional theater, moved to Chicago to work with the famed Piven Theatre Workshop and the Chicago Shakespeare Repertory and then burst onto off-Broadway after she moved to New York City in her early 20s.

Her recurring role on “The Drew Carey Show” as Niki Fifer, Drew’s girlfriend who struggled with weight issues, was followed up by dozens of supporting and bit parts on TV and as a voice actor. Then in 2005, the powers-that-be on ABC’s mega-hit “Grey’s Anatomy” offered her the role of Addison Montgomery Shepherd. And Walsh’s life playing a straight-shooting neonatal surgeon was born.   Audiences instantly fell in love with Walsh’s character, so much so that in 2007, series creator and executive producer, Shonda Rhimes, created “Private Practice,” a Grey’s spin-off based around the fiery doctor’s storyline.   This month the series returns for season six, which industry insiders speculate may be the show’s last. And even if the beloved medical drama does return in 2013, it will be without Dr. Montgomery; Walsh has decided to leave the show at the end of the season. “It’s been an amazing journey,” she says.

Walsh, is completely unaffected by her character’s popularity. In fact, she’s downright humble and surprised by attention. “I’m honored and thrilled to be on BELLA’s cover,” was her reply when we sat down with her to talk about life as a TV doctor, what’s it’s like to play opposite all those hot men and what fall trends she’s most excited about.

Here’s a look inside the world of one of television’s most popular actresses…

Can you share your definition of beauty with our readers?

I think of beauty as a holistic thing. It’s feeling happy, healthy and energized. Sleep is an important factor in beauty, too. When I’m well rested it shows and I feel better physically.

What’s the best beauty advice you’ve ever received?

It’s to get plenty of rest. Sleep is so important to stay healthy and feel good. Another great tip I was given is that less can be more. Sometimes in an attempt to feel beautiful you feel like you have to do all these things like work out to have the best body, work to have the right hair, clothes, make-up, etc. A lot of looking and feeling great comes from within … that kind of peace, confidence and beauty that flows down. So sometimes if you do a little less, you can actually take better care of yourself and look better, too.  I’ve found I don’t have to do dozens of things to feel great or good about my appearance. The more I slow down, the better I feel.

Do you have a beauty indulgence?

I just love facials and I’m obsessed with Kate Somerville products. I also love getting a pedicure; in fact, I’m in desperate need of one right now! I was trying to think of a way that we could talk and get pedicures but I figured that would be too hard to manage (laughs).

Like millions of women, you’re an allergy sufferer and since hay fever and fall allergies can cause havoc to beauty routines, do you have any beauty tips for women dealing with fall allergies?

One of the biggest things I have found helps is drinking tons of water. Other than popping a pill to combat the feeling of a dry, stuffy nose or dry, itchy eyes, water is great. It’s funny because a lot of women don’t want to drink water because they think they will be bloated, but it’s really the opposite. I’ve found the more I drink, the less bloated I feel. I put some fresh lemon in my water to help flush out my system.   I love bold colors for lips and nails, so when eyes or nose are red, watery or itchy, it’s great to use bold lip or nail color to bring the focus to a different part of your face. It’s natural to want to cake on make-up to try to cover up the signs of allergies, but using less is the better way to go. Keep the area clean and wear something simple like just mascara and eyeliner so you don’t draw attention to your allergy eyes.

Do you have a specific beauty trend or go-to item you’re looking forward to for the fall and winter months?

Even though I live in L.A., I’m such a sweater girl. It must be from when I used to live in Chicago … you need sweaters for those winters (laughs).  I love to layer them. I’ve got this great Juicy sweater poncho, and I’m obsessed with just about anything Isabel Marant.  I also love the look of booties or short boots that you can wear with skinny jeans or wide leg jeans. You can even wear them with pants. Those are super comfy and give you a little bit of height, too. I’m a big fan of that look.

What is your philosophy on fitness?

Of course, the basics like exercising daily. That’s very important now because I’m in my 40s and I’m focused on taking care of myself. Sure, I want to look good and fit in clothes, but keeping my body moving, healthy and flexible is really the number one goal.

How do you keep in motion? What’s your favorite form of exercise?

My favorite form is constantly changing. Pilates is always a great staple but lately I’ve been moving into yoga because I feel like that’s what my body wants right now. I want to be strong, limber and opened up, and yoga helps me accomplish that.  Anything outdoors is also a favorite of mine – I love it! I’m not great in a gym. I’m on a sound stage when working 12 to 16 hours a day, so when I’m not working, I want to be outside as much as can. It’s great to live in LA, because fall is a beautiful time to take walks. Even when I lived in Chicago and it was cold outside, [I did it]. And boy did it get cold!  I love walking because it’s great mentally as well as physically. It’s low impact so I take hikes with my pets a lot. It’s a work out but I don’t have to run. An hour or half hour of walking is great for the body and mind.

What pets join you on your walks?

I have four total and they’re all rescue animals. I have two orange tabby cats names Billy and Pablo. They‘re really sweet and hang out with my two dogs, Lucy and Rosie. Both of the dogs are rescue mixes. Lucy is just about 14 and is a Basenji/Labrador mix. Rosie, who came from a New York animal haven, will be 5 in December and is part Rottweiler. They’re all just wonderful, I love them to death.  It’s absolutely great to turn the life around of an animal. I grew up that way; my mom was a big advocate of pet adoption and as a kid we had rescues.

Speaking of your mom, do you have any favorite traditions from your childhood that you’ve been able to incorporate in your adult life?

Yes. I think my mother, who was a divorced mom that went back to work, did a great job at preserving family dinner time. I was lucky that she cooked a lot and looking back I wonder how she had the time or energy to make any dinner; she must have been so tired.  Today I try to do a nice Sunday dinner, whether it’s for me and my nearest and dearest, or for a group of friends. I love Sunday dinners; it’s a great tradition. I used to make Italian food for a friend who moved out to LA from NY to eat while we watched “The Sopranos.” That was like having a huge, fun family dinner.

What has it been like to play one of the most recognizable female TV doctors?

I’m very appreciative of the loyal fans that followed Addison from “Grey’s Anatomy” to “Private Practice” and then kept track of the show when we changed nights. It’s been a lot of fun, but thank goodness no one asks for medical advice in real life (laughs). I’d be horrible at that!  I’m very grateful for the opportunity to play Addison. I wouldn’t be here or have had been on this journey without the terrific writing and Shonda’s (Rhimes, the series’ creator and executive producer) vision. Shonda writes all these great story lines, relationship, political and social issues. I’m lucky to get up there and portray what’s been written; I feel so fortunate.

What has it been like to work with the “Mc’s” Dreamy and Steamy?

It’s pretty amazing, actually! I mean, what a great way to make a living. What fun it’s been because Shonda and all the writers write a great fantasy for viewers and I’m very lucky that’s been part of my life for so many years.  Sometime I think I’m the luckiest woman in TV because it seems like my character is the only person on the planet for both for Benjamin Bratt and Taye Diggs’ characters. They are super talented actors and I really enjoy working with them. And not just because they’re handsome dudes – they’re truly great actors, too.

What projects of yours can we look forward to next?

I’m playing the mom and Dylan McDermott is the dad in the movie adaptation of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” due out this month (September 2012).

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