Back on July 11th, I and other online media outlets got a chance to ask questions of Holly Hunter about the upcoming second season of Saving Grace on TNT. I’ve been putting off transcribing the call, because it takes forever without the proper equipment. Two hours to turn a 21-minute phone recording into what you can now read below is not the way I would like to spend my time. But, it was Holly Hunter, so as with the Kyra Sedgwick interview, I took the time to do it, at least I got it done before the season was over. Also, transcripts are now being provided by TNT, so hopefully this will be the last transcribing I will have to do for a while.
I asked about what got her interested in doing a television show and about practical jokes and the fun they have on set.
Holly Hunter Interview – Saving Grace on TNT
Question: Do you feel like you character has changed at all since Earl has came into the picture and do you feel like his presence is effectively saving Grace?
Holly Hunter: I think you know, Earl’s presence is, I think he wants to give Grace peace. Uh, uh, I think you know that he feels some of the things she struggles with, he wishes she wouldn’t. I think, in the season Grace, Earl finds out a lot about her, you know. I think he, he’s a very close observer of her this season and kind of intimate with her really. Um, and that is, uh, revelatory to both him and her. I mean, they get to know each other better as human being and you know, um, entity, whatever Earl is. He says he’s an angel. Okay. Um, but I think they get to have more understanding about who the other is and I think uh, there are many things that he grows to admire about her, as this season progresses.
Question: I wanted to ask if, kind of going off that question. Will we see any changes in Grace now, between last season and this season?
Hunter: I think she changes all the time actually. I think that there’s give and take inside her. There’s always movement. She’s very kinetic and I think she’s also kinetic in a psychological way. Um, I mean, I would doubt, you know, I think that you know the way that she handles her nephew, for example, is something that changes very suddenly. You know, what she is honest with him about and what she withholds from him. Um, uh, but I think that there’s some distance that Grace covers towards, um, becoming closer with her family.
Question: What are some of your favorite things about playing this character?
Hunter: Uh, you know, I think, you know, probably the most thrilling thing about her, about how alive she is. You know, she’s truly, she’s truly alive in a way so many people are asleep, um, for long periods of time in their days and their lives. I think Grace spends an extraordinary amount of her time, really awake to possibilities and awake to a real true curiosity about why people do what they do. And, I think you know, she also is a real tester of what people are capable of and what she herself is capable of. This is one of the things that I believe attracts her about crime and attracts her about her job is she wants to understand why these people do what they do. And, she has (((inaudible))) and could imagine doing those things herself. You know, the things that the criminal mind is capable of thinking of. Uh, and that’s all so very interesting to her.
Question: I was wondering, uh, how much, uh, did the success of Kyra Sedgwick and The Closer have on you deciding to take on a television show yourself?
Hunter: Well, I think you know, what preceded that was the success of The Shield and Rescue Me and The Sopranos. Uh, I think really started the wild, wild west in cable. Uh, FX and HBO kind of started this new idea, which was real character driven drama. And, and, real drama that’s absolutely 100% fueled by character. And, a character who does uh, anti-heroic things, not a character who’s quirky, but a character who straddles um, you know, two worlds and one world being highly charged with questionable thoughts and behavior, such as Dennis Leary and Tony Soprano and Vic Mackey do. I mean, those characters live in a more similar vein to how Grace lives, except that Grace is a woman. And, I think that uh, you know that’s where cable has really kind of taken off. It’s given women opportunities to play, you know, highly controversial, uh, characters. Women who are doing things that maybe they wouldn’t have been able to do on television 10 years ago. Like, you know, uh, Weeds on Showtime or Glenn Close in Damages or Mini Driver in The Riches. Women who are doing, you know, who are living lives of real deep grayness
Question: I was just wondering with Grace, if you felt that she has, now that you’ve got a first season under your belt with her, taught you anything or that you learned something from her?
Hunter: I would love to be as alive as she is, you know. I mean, that’s a difficult thing to do. You know, like right now I’m definitely not as alive as Grace, cause I just spent a night working till six this morning being (inaudible), so it’s like Holly’s dragging. Oh man. Um, but, you know I, I think her generosity. I think so often Grace doesn’t think of herself. She so often doesn’t. She so often is thinking about how can I make this better, for this person in the way that she is capable of. In the way that she knows how and her skills are different from other people’s skills and her instincts for how to solve problems are different from other people. But, I think there’s something incredibly generous, incredibly pure about her intent. What her intentions are. I think are really beautiful.
Question: The difference in the workload of doing a feature film or TV film with the series, having done a year of the series. Are you easing into it a little more or is it just as hard? How do you compare the two?
Hunter: I think it’s really difficult and it’s really a high. You know, uh, you feel the wind blowing in your hair when you do a series, you know in the best of times. That’s how it feels, like wow we are taking a ride. Um, and other times, it’s just trying to catch up. But, I’ll tell you, you know, this work is really fulfilling. It’s very fulfilling and it’s really kind of, it’s great for me as an actor, you know, as an actress, to get to adapt and be flexible, you know, to be, you’re demanded to be very flexible and very adaptable and to be very much a problem solver on a set like this. And, you know, I kind of used the skills that I’ve developed over these years doing feature films, um, and it just kind of accelerated them, to, to, to make this series. Um, and like I said, you know it’s both exhilarating and somewhat frustrating.
Question: Did you talk to any friends that made the transition into TV before doing this character, playing Grace?
Hunter: I called Dillon McDermott who’d done The Practice, you know, and I called Dillon because he’s a buddy and because I so respect him, uh, and also because he had done a David E. Kelley series. That’s very particular, because, you know, basically I was asking him something I’d never asked an actor before, which was, how do you memorize all those lines? You know, and suddenly that was a very pertinent question, for the first time in my career. Was, with David E. Kelley the actors never stop talking, I mean, it’s just incredibly sophisticated and fast paced dialogue. And, I just asked him, you know, what gives? How do you do this every week? Because that had never been a concern of mine, um, on a, you know, I’ll memorize the entire script before I start shooting a feature, um, it’s no big deal. Or, or a play. But, you know Dillon just said look, you know, it’s a scary ride when you first get on and you’re going to be able to do it and, you know, your memory is going to become a really well used muscle. Very early on and, you know, it’s not going to fail you the way that you’re afraid of. And, you know, he’s right, he was right. Uh, it is, it’s, it has fear inside it thought all the time. The idea of memorizing a script, you know, for two days, having only two days to memorize it and then just shoot it. It’s a, it’s dicey. That’s the technique I’ve ended up using. I just take two days and memorize half the script one day, half the script the next and then just start shooting.
Question: One of thing I noticed in many of your features is, uh, how much location can almost be a character. Whether it’s Arizona in Raising Arizona or the beach in Piano and how much Oklahoma City is really a part of this show. And what your thoughts are on the importance of a locale to enhance the story?
Hunter: Oh, just a great question. Such a great question, I mean, I just saw, you know, a movie called The Gunfighter the other night with Gregory Peck, um, and you know it was just amazing to see that movie, because the locations are so exotic. I mean, they shot that western in someplace where they normally don’t shoot westerns. Sometimes it looked like they were on the Sahara desert. I’m not sure if they were in the States. They probably were, but I was just reminded how potent location can be and how, you know unfortunately, with television, you know, you’re shooting the vast majority of television in Los Angeles and we are no exception. Um, we try to make LA as, as you know, Oklahoma like as we can, but the fact is that we are in LA. Um, and you know, money is always, money is always tight. It’s a gigantic fantasy of ours to be able to shoot in Oklahoma City. It would change everything. It would change everything. You know, but at the same time, you know the brilliance of Los Angeles is the depth of the talent here. I mean, the talent pool in LA just doesn’t stop, from, you know, set decorators to extras to day players to you know, everyone knows how it goes. The whole city knows. And, this is the privilege of being here, is this is what this town is built around and that’s a pleasure, uh, to be here for that. On the other hand, then you have the look and the feel and the look of the people and the behavior of the people in a completely different part of the country.
Question: I’m a fellow Georgia girl, so I wanted to ask you if you ever get back to Atlanta and if there’s any places you try and stop by when you’re in town?
Hunter: Wow, I mean the Fox Theater and The Pleasant Peasant right next door to the Fox, I always loved to go there. I mean, I try to hook up with a tour of the Fox, uh, not long ago and I’m just dying to do it. I didn’t get to it. I went to the aquarium instead, which was outrageous, just outrageous. Um, and I loved to go to, I loved to go to the Fox, which is just one of the great theaters in the world, I think. And, then go to The Peasant, uh, which is right next-door. And, I love Krispy Kreme doughnuts downtown, because that’s like, I don’t know, but I think it might be the second one in the United States and I just remember going to it as a tiny child. It’s a place that I feel I always have to go back to when I go, when I go home about twice a year.
Question: I was wondering, um, how much of a back story were you given for Grace when the series began and um, how much did you kind of create of her as you were going on?
Hunter: Well, you know the script came to me completely whole, I mean, the “Pilot” came to me fully written, we didn’t change a word of it. Nancy Miller, who is the creator of the show and the executive producer and is you know, the main fuel for the fire, you know, such a gifted writer. She, uh, provided me with a lot of back-story of the Oklahoma City bombing. She was raised in Oklahoma City. Uh, so you know, she is my main source of information and inspiration.
Question: What are some other shows you like to watch when you have downtime to watch TV?
Hunter: The Sopranos, The Shield, Weeds, uh you know, I think Rescue Me has just been kind of an amazing thing and uh, Mad Men. The Wire is kind of incredible. The Wire is amazing.
Question: I was wondering, the show deals with so many um, serious topics and stuff like that, I was wondering if you could sort of talk on the other side, if there are any funny stories or practical joking that goes on, on the set?
Hunter: Oh my god. Like, well the practical jokes really, really are extensive this year and they’re all on screen. So, I’m not going to bust any of them out. They’re pretty good and extremely elaborate. And, and there’s a lot of them.
Question: Holly, what you’re most looking forward to for this second season, overall on the show or maybe just for Grace?
Hunter: Well, you know it’s always interesting to see where the writers take me and then I just go. But, you know this season the scripts have been, you know, extraordinary, really extraordinary. We’re just getting ready to start shooting our eighth script and it’s wow, what a, what a great thing to have experienced each one of these stories. You know, this is a more complex, uh, ride that Grace takes. It’s a very, very sophisticated show in some ways and I think it kind of found itself over the first season. Because, it’s complex in character and in plot and in you know, how Grace connects with her personal world and how she connects with her professional world. Um, and so, I think we’ve struck that balance right away in this season and last season we found that balance, as the stories went on. So, that’s been really exciting to be part of that, uh, really being able to take the show to another level.
Saving Grace plays tonight on TNT after a new episode of The Closer.
Update 8.28.2008: Had to remove photos, cause there is some sort of problem with the WordPress gallery that was causing this interview not to display. The photos will be back as soon as I figure out a fix for the problem.