[07/14/08 - 12:26 AM]
Interview: "Saving Grace" Star Holly Hunter
By Jim Halterman (TFC)

Holly Hunter jumped on the TV bandwagon last year with her TNT series "Saving Grace" and both critics and audience came in droves to see the Oscar winner shine as investigator Grace Hanadarko. A second season was inevitable and new episodes begin tonight after the season premiere of Kyra Sedgwick's "The Closer." Hunter took a quick break from shooting episode eight of the second season to answer a few questions about the new season.

After going off the deep end at the end of last season when she found out the priest who molested her when she was a child was alive, will Grace change? Hunter said, "I think she changes all the time, actually. I think there's give and take inside of her. There's always movement. She's kinetic in a psychological way." Indeed, in the season premiere when she faces her abuser head-on, Grace seeks closure for her childhood abuse in her typical no-apologies manner.

Hunter graciously gives a lot of credit for the character of Grace to the "Saving Grace" writers and often just shows up for the ride. "It's always interesting to see where the writers take me and then I just go. This season the scripts have been extraordinary. We're just getting ready to shoot our eighth script and � wow � what a great thing to experience each one of these stories. It's a more complex ride that Grace takes [in season two]."

Hunter also referenced how the cast and crew seem to have clicked together in a different way than they did with the first season. "It's a very, very sophisticated show in some ways and it kind of found itself in the first season. It's complex in character and plot and how Grace connects with her personal world and how she connects with her professional world so I think we've struck that balance right away with this [second] season. Last season, we found that balance as the stories went on. So, that's been really exciting to be part of that in taking the show to another level."

With Grace constantly crossing the line both personally and professionally, a necessary presence in Grace's life is Earl the Angel (Leon Rippy), who gave Grace her 'last chance' when the series began and tries to help Grace make her life better. Hunter revealed that their relationship is also going through it's own changes this year. "I think [Earl] wants to give Grace peace... [and] some of the things she struggles with he wishes she didn't. In the season premiere, Earl finds out a lot about Grace. They get to know each other as human being and entity." Hunter added that, "I think they get to have more understanding about who the other is... [and] there are many things that he grows to admire about her as the season progresses."

Since Hunter has always been known for taking challenging roles, she talked about her feelings about Grace. "I think probably the most thrilling thing about her is how alive she is. She's truly alive in a way that so many people are asleep for long periods of time in their days and their lives. I think Grace spends a great amount of her time awake to possibilities and with a curiosity of why people do what they do. She's also a real tester as to what people are capable of and what she's capable of. I think this is what attracts her to her job. She has access within herself to imagine doing those things herself as well as things the criminal mind is capable of."

In regards to the differences between working in film and television, Hunter sees them as both a plus and minus. "I think it's really difficult and it's really a high," Hunter explained. "You feel the wind blowing in your hair when you're doing a series. In the best of times that's how it feels. It's like 'Wow, we are taking a ride' and other times its just trying to catch up." Despite a long and hectic shooting schedule (Hunter admitted she worked until 6 a.m. the morning of the interview), it's obvious that Hunter is finding a sense of joy in doing "Saving Grace." "This work is really fulfilling and it's really great for me as an actress to get to adapt. I kind of use the skills that I've developed over these years doing features films and kind of accelerated them to make this series and, like I said, it's both exhilarating and somewhat frustrating."

Before jumping into "Saving Grace," Hunter didn't make the decision without asking another film actor who found success in television. "I called Dylan McDermott who had done 'The Practice.' I called Dylan because he's a buddy and I so respect him and also because he's done a David E. Kelley series and that's very particular. Basically, I asked something that I'd never asked an actor before which is how do you memorize all those lines." Mentioning that when she does a film she memorizes the entire script before shooting begins, she voiced concern about a new script to memorize every week. "In a David E. Kelley series, they never stop talking and I just asked [Dylan] 'How do you do this every week?' Dylan said it's a scary ride when you first get on and you'll be able to do it. Your memory is going to become a really well-used muscle very early on and it's not going to fail you the way you're afraid of and he was right. It has fear inside it all the time, though, the idea of memorizing a script for two days and then just shooting it. It's dicey."

Though its easy to jump to the conclusion that Hunter's decision to venture into series television was a direct result of the astounding success of Kyra Sedgwick's TNT series "The Closer," she pointed out that, "I think what proceeded ['The Closer'] was the success of 'The Shield,' 'Rescue Me,' and 'The Sopranos.' I think [those series] really started the wild, wild west in cable." Hunter added that, "FX and HBO kind of started this new idea which was real character drama and real drama that's absolutely, one hundred percent fueled by character with characters who do anti-heroic things."

Hunter realizes that the time was right for a character like Grace since the female anti-hero is becoming more and more prominent in cable series. She cites Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) on "Rescue Me" and Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) on "The Shield" as "characters who live in a similar vein than Grace except that Grace is a woman. Cable has really taken off by giving women highly controversial characters; women who are doing things that maybe they wouldn't be able to do on television ten years ago. Like 'Weeds' on Showtime or Glenn Close in 'Damages' � women who are living lives of real, deep grayness."

Since "Saving Grace" is set in Oklahoma City, where the infamous 1995 bombing are still fresh in the minds of the characters (Grace's sister was killed in the bombing), Hunter talked about making Los Angeles look like Oklahoma City. "We try to make L.A. as Oklahoma-like as we can but the fact is that we're in LA. Money is always tight. It's a gigantic fantasy of ours to be able to shoot in Oklahoma City; it would change everything." Ever the professional, though, Hunter sees advantages to filming in Los Angeles, as well. "The brilliance of L.A. is the depth of the talent here. The talent pool in L.A. just doesn't stop from set decorators to extras to day players. Everyone knows how [film and television production] goes in L.A. This is the privilege of being here."

Finally, despite the often-serious tone of the series, things aren't always going to be dark and serious, Hunter promises. "The practical jokes," she said, "are extensive this year and they're on screen so I'm not going to bust any of them out but they are extremely elaborate and there's a lot of them."

The second season of "Saving Grace" begins tonight at 10:00/9:00c on TNT.

  [july 2008]  


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