and an oldish (August 25) interview!
Glenn Close and Rose Byrne sit down to lunch at Michael’s, the notorious media hangout on 55th Street. It’s a very New York spot to talk about a very New York show, Damages, the cat-and-mouse TV thriller about a tough Manhattan lawyer and her protégée, airing now on DirecTV’s Audience Network.
“I’d heard of DirecTV,” insists Glenn Close. “I have it at my house in Westchester.”
That we’re sitting down to lunch at all today is something of a Hollywood miracle. Because after three well-received but terminally low-rated seasons on FX, in which Close’s awesomely despicable Patty Hewes had a dog killed, among other ridiculous acts—Damages was left for dead. Never one to wallow, Close, 64, dove headfirst into a long-gestating passion project, Albert Nobbs, the fall release film adaptation of a short story, which also inspired the play she did Off Broadway in 1982. Byrne, meanwhile, RSVP’d for Bridesmaids, teasing her hair to high heaven for the gross-out lady comedy. Was there any hope for Damages? “We were canceled,” Byrne says. “We’d moved on.”
But then the phone rang. DirecTV, which had saved another critically admired show, NBC’s Friday Night Lights, from life support, was offering to step in, committing to produce two additional seasons of Damages—that is, provided the show’s leading ladies were still interested. “Immediately Glenn and I spoke,” says Byrne, 32. “Is this something we want to do? Are there more stories to tell?”
Although Close had won two Emmys for the show, and even referred to Hewes as one of the great roles of her life, she wasn’t immediately convinced. Her concern, and understandably so: the time commitment. “I promised my husband I would never complain about it again,” Close says of Damages, “because it’s a great job. But the schedule, it’s incredibly fluid. You need to be available. For five months, you can never say, ‘I’ll have dinner with you next Tuesday night.’ And that’s hard on your family.”
Ultimately, the decision came down to the taut, chilling writing of creators Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler and Daniel Zelman (collectively known as KZK). But also to the show’s unspoken other star: New York. If Damages shot in, say, Vancouver or Toronto, as so many Hollywood productions do, it’s unlikely we’d be having a lemon tart for dessert today at Michael’s.
Byrne, an Australian with a pitch-perfect American accent, came to Manhattan at age 19, enrolling in the Atlantic Theater Company’s threemonth course. She fell in love with David Mamet’s acting technique that summer, but perhaps more importantly, with the island. “My dream was to live and work in New York,” she says. “There’s something very romantic about this city of Woody Allen movies and Martin Scorsese.”
It was the same feeling Glenn Close had in 1974 when she moved to New York from college in Virginia to make her Broadway debut in Love for Love. Unlike Byrne, though, it took Close a minute to settle in. Among the first things she noticed about 1974 Manhattan was “that kind of blank New York face that people have when they are on the sidewalk.” And so one day she smiled at someone she passed on the street—and he came back at her, getting right up in Close’s face. What happened then? “I stopped smiling at people!” she says. And a New Yorker was born.
In quick succession, the actress—nominated for five Oscars—moved from Hell’s Kitchen to the Upper West Side to Chelsea and then down to the West Village. While she raised her daughter in Westchester, Close never gave up her place in Manhattan. “New York is like getting plugged into one of the greatest energizing batteries in the world,” she says. “You can walk around and nobody cares. You still can. This morning, I ran to the corner and was sitting at this little café. I put my two dogs outside, and they were barking at every single dog that walked by. I came out. Nobody said, ‘You’re Glenn Close!’ They said, ‘Why are your dogs barking?’”
And so, Damages, a twisty show told in flashbacks and flash-forwards and flash-sideways, which shoots on New York locations from Battery Park to Williamsburg bars—was something of a dream job for these two actresses, who know the value of a steady gig close to home. Especially when that home is fairly close to your costar’s.
If anything, the transition to DirecTV has been a creative boon. The network is in 19.6 million homes, and each episode of Damages now airs at a commercial-free 56 minutes. It’s as if the show’s been given space to breathe. In case you need a catch-up, we’re now three years in the future, a nifty time shift that allows Byrne’s Ellen Parsons to take the lead for the first time, in a wrongful-death suit against a private military contractor working in Afghanistan, a ripped-from-the-headlines story inspired by Blackwater. Close’s Patty Hewes, meanwhile, is raising her granddaughter, sipping brandy by the snifter-full and attending courtordered therapy sessions, with guest star Fisher Stevens as her doctor. Not that Close’s character is at all neutered. In this season’s first episode, she somehow manages to dismiss a rival lawyer by pointedly offering him a croissant.
If Close has one complaint about this season, it’s not the long hours, the where-on-the-dial-are-we network, or that she doesn’t have enough screen time with new series regular John Goodman. It’s that she doesn’t get a chance to shout. “I don’t have a big meltdown this season,” Close says. “I was looking forward to that meltdown!” Thankfully, there’s always season five.
there are photos at the source but I CANNOT figure out how to embed them without the code getting messed up so CLICK THE SOURCE LINK!
have a good weekend :-)
Gotham Magazine (pics/article)