Michelle Forbes Talk To Me

Posted on 20. Apr, 2009 by Administrator in Profiles

Michelle Forbes

Michelle Forbes speaks highly of her recent colleagues for their fascination with the human condition; ultimately for their ability to “get in there and be intimate with people, uncovering their deepest, darkest secrets.” She too has delved into some deep and dark characters over the years in theatre, television, and movies including Swimming with SharksKalifornia,The DistrictPrison Break24Battlestar GalacticaHomicide: Life On The Street, and Star Trek: The Next Generation and has enjoyed a diverse acting career where she explores the human psyche and spirit through intriguing characters and storylines.

With Forbe’s latest two series (both on HBO), In Treatment and True Blood, she brings us two more compelling characters: She joined True Blood late last season as Maryann, a wealthy “social worker” with an unrevealed secret power adding another layer of mystery to the town of Bon Temps, and Kate Weston from In Treatment. Kate is the repressed wife to psychotherapist Dr. Paul Weston (Gabriel Byrne); they bring their 25 year marriage under the therapy microscope with Paul’s therapist, Gina, brilliantly portrayed by Dianne Wiest.  The series is gripping, and like therapy itself, you have no idea where it’s going to lead you. Gabriel Byrne’s Paul Weston is fascinating as he uncovers his patients’ struggles with piercing intuition and honest compassion as he himself hovers on the brink of an emotional crisis. Michelle Forbes tackles the role of repressed housewife with depth and grace alongside her own emotional cave-in.

As Forbes and I chat on a sunny Monday morning, we both agree that it’s pretty tough to afford therapy right now, so watching HBO is a cunning way to get some treatment: From Tell Me You Love Me to Tony Soprano’s insightful therapy sessions, there’s something to going inside the therapist’s room for our viewing pleasure. You can certainly get your money’s worth with In Treatment - 99% unadulterated therapy! So together we settle in for our own therapeutic session, and the conversation and laughs come so easily, I feel like I’ve known her my whole life and we just forgot to actually meet. Her distinctive deep voice lights up when she talks about Seasons 2 of In Treatment (returning April 5) and True Blood (coming in June) as well as yet another intriguing and dark new series, Durham County, coming out later this summer.  }

h: In In Treatment, you really feel like these two characters (Kate and Paul Weston) have been together for 25 years, it’s so raw. Is it challenging as an actress to go through such a personal and intimate therapy experience?

MF: I would not say it’s challenging, it’s what we live for – it makes it easy when the material is so dense and so deep and so chalk full of history and hurt and pain, and layer upon layer, upon layer, and you know all the deceits you have with yourself and your partner. That’s what makes the work beautiful and filling, resonant and challenging, in a good way, not in a daunting way.

h: How about the format which is basically nonstop therapy; do you rehearse it?

MF: No, we don’t rehearse it. There’s a table read and then you jump into it and you film. I mean that was the daunting thing to do, ten minute takes on this One Act play, to commit to it, and then jump into the deep waters and just keep swimming. So yes I think the format was challenging, but once you get over that little bump, and you get used to the format, then it’s heaven. It’s just heaven to have that big juicy scene in your hands and to not be piddling about with silly moving the plot along, or moving the D plot along. It really is just this focused, concentrated story where we turn every single moment over and over until we understand it. It is an actor’s dream in that regard.

h: Therapy use to be a pretty taboo subject. Over the last several years, we’ve seen more and more shows about therapy pop up. Any thoughts as to why we’ve become so intrigued?

MF: I think in Western civilization, the world of self analysis and psychotropic drugs, well nobody is a stranger to it anymore. Therapy is not a four letter word – you don’t go only if you’re in trouble. Sometimes people just go because they want more self awareness so they don’t keep making the same mistakes. It’s not as taboo as it used to be number one, in fact it’s hard to think there was a time it was taboo. But if you think back to the origins of therapy, even back in Victorian Ages when the mentally ill were carted out in front of audiences, in front of the Bourgeoisie and used as entertainment, you can take it back to then. And I think we’re all fascinated by the human condition and where better to really understand that than in the therapist’s room? It’s quite curious to me because we’re never allowed into other people’s therapy rooms, we have no idea what goes on in there, and we can’t open that door, but we want to know what’s going on.

h: What’s it like to work with Gabriel and Dianne?

MF: Not only obviously are they extraordinary actors and at the top of their game, but they’re also just really special, extraordinary people, and it was just a joy to sit opposite them. We had some laughs and we had deep talks, it was good; I am utterly devoted to both of them.

h: Personally speaking if you had to choose between going to Gina (Dianne Wiest) or Paul (Gabriel Byrne) for therapy, which one would you choose?

MF: I don’t know why I think that question is so funny, that’s hilarious. I would probably go to Gina’s character, Paul’s a little unhinged occasionally!

h: Tell me about the new season. I know Paul moves to NY, do you stay put with the kids?

MF: Yes, I stay put with the kids, he goes off to NY, and we have a few meetings, so we do sort of see that relationship come to as much of a conclusion as it can come to after 25 years of marriage. I think everybody is going to be in for a really interesting second season with the addition of incredible actors like Hope Davis and John Mahoney, I think it’s going to be every bit as good as the first.

h: Well, I can’t wait. And then switching gears to True Blood, what’s that been like to be a part of?

MF: It’s been fantastic, it’s been a ton of fun for all of us, and it’s just really a great and creative fun show to work on.

h: Why do you think it has resonated with viewers?

MF: I think it’s for many different reasons…If I’m to step back and really look at it on a broader objective scale, I would say that it’s really fun… it’s sexy and saucy, but it’s also a total escape from this national depression that we’re all in with the economy, and people being out of work. I think there’s a lightness to it and a sauciness to it where for just a moment we can forget our problems and have a whopping good time in Louisiana. It’s a world that is completely unique and outside of what we’ve known before.

h: And how do you feel about the second season?

MF: It really blows open in the second season, it opens up quite a bit; the town sort of opens up…there are some very, very interesting storylines going on, and it’s very funny.

h: I remember Swimming with Sharks (1994) so vividly because I was experiencing it in certain ways myself. Do you think Hollywood has changed a lot since then?

MF: I think it’s changed on the surface. I think Hollywood is always going to be the animal that it is which is somewhat ruthless and focused on money and numbers, and that’s why it’s a business and that’s why it’s always a delicate balance to create unique things under the paradigm and banner of a corporate mentality. There are ruthless businessmen who run this entire industry, so I think in that sense it hasn’t changed. But the topography has changed perhaps because it’s not all about film anymore – TV is equal to film these days – and that sort of opened up the creativity and sense of power and what have you. I wouldn’t say the core of the animal has changed; I think Hollywood is still true to itself.

h: The movie really captured that time in the industry. When you took the role of the ambitious movie producer Dawn Lockard, were you surprised at how dark the film got?

MF: I was horrified. I remember saying to the producer and the director who had both worked as assistants, I said at one point, ‘Look you guys, it’s entertaining and it’s funny but come on, it’s sort of unbelievable, nobody suffered this kind of abuse.’ And they were like, ‘No, no, no, we toned it down for the script.’ When they told me the instances that had happened to them, my mouth hit the floor, my eyes were as wide as saucers. I thought what human being puts up with that in order to take a small step ahead, and I’m an actor, so I’m used to a lot of disrespect and rejection and what have you, and even I draw the line somewhere. But once I understood what people go through and how that distorts them and their souls and how they get locked in this vortex, it’s almost like a cycle of abuse.

h: I know I think I have some battle scars myself! What other projects are you working on?

MF: Mostly True Blood which we’re shooting now. And I just finished a Canadian series called Durham County in Montreal, it’s going to be broadcast over here on Ion. I had a brilliant time doing it. The first season did extremely well, and it’s very dark and twisted, an odd little tale, that is visually stunning. I’m really proud of it.

h: Dark and twisted, I love it. So this is the second season?

MF: Yes. The first season was six hours and the second season is six hours as well. There’s an extraordinary writer, Laurie [Finstad-Knizhnik] who I just had a shockingly good time working with. These really passionate, exciting, and thoughtful women put together this really interesting dark piece. I play Pen Verrity, and she is extremely complicated, so you never know which way she or any of the characters are going to go. There’s a really odd sense to it. I think Laurie’s really had a chance to really look at women in a way that most people don’t usually have the courage to do. Such as exploring the world of what happens if you’re not such a great mother or biologically predisposed to be the perfect mother: The strain and the mind meld that happens when you’re smack dab in the middle of motherhood, and how to love through trauma, and how to overcome trauma and transform trauma if you’re able to. And in the midst of this being this story about love and grief and loss, there’s also a taut thriller. I saw the first season and thought I’d spontaneously combust if I didn’t get to be a part of it!

h: It reminds me a bit of Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her.

MF: That’s Rodrigo [Garcia] from In Treatment! He has a fascination with the human condition, and getting in there and being intimate with people, and sort of uncovering their deepest, darkest secrets. That’s pretty much what Durham County is as well, people who aren’t afraid to get in there and poke around the darkness of the nooks and crannies of our psyche. We usually don’t want to look at that, but it exists in all of us, and the further along we get in our lives, the darker it becomes, so I think it bears some looking at.

h: Agreed! And your three upcoming series, I’m looking forward to all of them.

MF: Thank you. I do feel really fortunate to work on these very interesting and intriguing projects.

h: Last question…..so how did this interview make you feel?

MF: (laughs) Like I need more therapy!

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