By the mid-1970s, Pearce had begun to work solely as a director on the TV productions, "The Gardener's Son" (a 1977 episode of PBS' "Visions") and the TV-movie "Siege" (CBS, 1978), about senior citizens terrorized by gangs. His feature directorial debut was "Heartland" (1980), an unromanticized story of Midwestern life in the 1910s, which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. This gem-like film also probed the themes of rural hardship and resilience which Pearce would again explore in "Country" (1984), with Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange. While No Mercy" (1986) suffered from a cliche-ridden script and lack of chemistry between stars Richard Gere and Kim Basinger, "The Long Walk Home" (1990) was an underrated look at the absurdity of racial divisions through the relationship of two women, a Southern matron (Sissy Spacek) and her maid (Whoopi Goldberg). Pearce revisited similar terrain as well as amplifying the notion of identity "A Family Thing" (1996). The Billy Bob Thornton-Tom Epperson script focused on a white man (Robert Duvall) who discovers his bloodlines also speak of the African diaspora.Pearce has also directed several TV-movies and episodics. "No Other Love" (CBS, 1979) focused on the plight of a mentally-challenged couple (played by Richard Thomas and Julie Kavner) who wished to marry, while "Dead Man Out" (HBO, 1989) was a taut thriller about a battle of wits between a psychiatrist and a death-row inmate. Pearce also scored with "The Final Days," a 1989 ABC adaptation of the best-selling book that focused on the Nixon presidency. More recently, he helmed episodes of "Homicide: Life on the Street" and several episodes (including the pilot) of the Fox drama "Party of Five."