Written By Rick Ellis, Wednesday, June 11th, 2008
The star of the new hit USA Network drama "In Plain Sight"
talks to us about the show and what she likes best about the character
of Mary Shannon.
Q: What has been the most challenging part of your role?
A: Well, the role is such a nice fit for me. Honestly, I think
the most challenging part of this job was just how much Iím in it. Iíve
never really experienced that kind of workload before. You know itís
challenging and fulfilling, itís sort of you know one of those things,
be careful what you wish for. Itís such a great part and itís Ė you
know you see her at work and you see her at home.
The sort of challenge for me was I went to Albuquerque with an eight-week
old and was working sort of thirteen to nineteen-hour days and for me
that was the most challenging part was just staying afloat.
Q: How did you get the part? Was it something that you helped develop
or did you audition for it?
A: You know I was looking for a show to do and I was reading
just lots of scripts and I just picked it up and it was in a stack of
scripts and I read it. I remember just laughing out loud a bunch of
times, which I rarely do, even with really funny scripts Ė just because
I donít know when Iím reading you know you almost sort of clock a joke
in your head more than you laugh out loud. And this one, I just remember
actually sitting in my living room just laughing.
I just called my agent and said I really, really want to go in and
meet on this one and who are they after? And do I have a chance? And
you know just expressing a bunch of interest. And so then I went and
met with Paul and David and they didnít ask me to read actually. I was
willing to read, but they didnít ask me to read. We just sat and talked
for a long time. And then, yes, they offered it to me after that.
Q: From the pilot, I think you mentioned at one point that Mary
was from New Jersey. Do you know much about your character background;
how she ended up in New Mexico or was it basically thatís where the
job was at the time?
A: Yes, thatís what we talked about Ė David and I. The trick
of TV, of course, is that you can make a bunch of that stuff up and
you know it all might change one day when the writer decides to write
something else, you know because with television things get revealed
slowly. Thatís something a lot of actors hate about the medium, but
I kind of like it.
But you know we just discussed that, yes, with the Marshal Service
itís usually a matter of placement and that her relationship to Albuquerque
and sort of the southwest is that she went there under protest. And
so her energy is so different than the mellow, you know sort of relaxed
place sheís been put in.
Q: Youíve done a lot of work in theater, I was just wondering if
you could compare and contrast that experience Ė like the live experience
with doing a show like "In Plain Sight."
A: Well, you know the acting is the same. I mean acting is
always sort of the same Ė like you want to be - you know youíre pretending
and you want to make it as real as you can. Thatís the similarity. The
mediums other than that are completely different. I mean you know with
camera work youíre doing really small detailed work and you know if
you do anything too big youíve sort of failed. And with stage, especially
with the play Iím doing right now, Iím doing a farce, and itís so over
the top that you can't actually be too big.
So itís just completely different. And it was actually challenging
for me to do the play because Iíve spent the last Ė I donít think Iíve
done a play in seven or eight years. So for me to remind myself to be
enormous and to be brave enough to be big, it was actually a real challenge.
Q: Obviously the other women in the Shannon family have a much
looser concern about law and order than Mary. How do you think that
she got involved in law enforcement with a background like that? And
what are Lesley Ann and Nikki both like to work with?
A: Well, I love working with both of them. I mean I think itís
so interesting. I mean to me, you know I had a mother, my mother was
always, and I think I can say this without hurting her feelings, my
mother was always late and is often late, and Iím always 15 minutes
early to everything.
So I think weíve all experienced sort of becoming who we are as a
reaction to what we come from. And I think Mary Shannon sort of raised
herself and had to look after herself from day one and probably is really,
really - I think in my mind this is how I explained it Ė is really,
really frustrated and really, really angry about not having a mother
who was into the law and into structure and rules and all that. So she
went as far as you could go with that and keeps everybody in line, and
keeps a to-do-list on her you know dashboard. And all of that is sort
of a reaction to what she comes from, I think.
Q: We were talking to your co-star a couple weeks ago Ė Fred Weller
Ė and he was saying that the tech advisors got really weird when you
would ask them questions when you guys were training for the role. Did
you find that being the case Ė how they get a little shady?
A: No, we only had one guy, we were only allowed to have one
guy. The Marshals Service actually allowed us to have a technical advisor.
These Witness Protection Marshals take an oath, a lifetime oath to never
to talk about their service, ever. So even after they retire, until
their death theyíre not allowed to tell their wives, theyíre not allowed
to talk to anybody about any of it.
So itís impossible to get information, of course. But the Marshals
Service did allow us one retired Marshal. I think probably it was a
dual function. Iím not sure it was for us as much as it was for them
to sort of know what we were doing and to know if we were going to present
it properly. And I mean they actually were excited about the show and
read the script and liked it and all that.
But they gave us this man who is lovely, named Charles Almanza, who
was our technical advisor, and there were situations where he wanted
us to tell the story properly and he wanted us to sort of tell the story
the way the Marshals would do it. But once in a while if the details
got too specific, he couldn't get involved. Like weíd say, ďWhat about
Ė Charlie, in this situation where would I take this person? What would
be the name of the place I would take them?Ē Heís like I can't tell
you the name. Iím like okay, is it a house? And heís like, yes. And
Iím like, Charlie, is it like a basement of a school? What is it? Is
it like the back of a warehouse? And heís like maybe.
You know so sometimes it was a little bit of a guessing game, but
we were always happy to have him. I mean I was thrilled to have him
just so we donít look like idiot cops - you know just with all the gun
stuff and arrests. And there are so many people doing that badly on
television that it is nice to have someone around to say youíd never
push a guy in a car like that. Hereís how youíd do it - you know.