Interview with Marcia Gay Harden of "Scott Turow's Innocent" on TNT - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

Marcia Gay Harden

Interview with Marcia Gay Harden of "Scott Turow's Innocent" on TNT 11/11/11

Moderator: Maya Brooks
November 11, 2011
1:00 pm CT

Operator: Good day and welcome to the Turner Entertainment hosted Marcia Gay Harden for Scott Turowís Innocent conference call. Todayís conference is being recorded.

At this time, Iíd like to turn the conference over to Maya Brooks. Please go ahead.

Maya Brooks: Hi, thank you so much for joining this conference call. As a reminder, Scott Turowís Innocent will premiere on Tuesday, November 29th at 9 p.m. on TNT.

The conference is now open for questions. Please press star one. Thank you.

Operator: Weíll take our first question from the site of Jamie Steinberg. Please go ahead.

Jamie Steinberg: Hi, itís such a pleasure to speak with you.

Marcia Gay Harden: Thank you, Jamie.

Jamie Steinberg: I was wondering, were you familiar or had you read any of Scott Turowís books beforehand? One L is pretty popular.

Marcia Gay Harden: I had read Innocent previously and another one that Iím spacing on the name of, but I remember reading Innocent and then later seeing it. I always try to read the literature first before I see the piece, so I have my own ideas, and being really excited by his writing and by the rhythm of his writing and the rhythm of his mystery in a way that it just seems to crescendo or, like ((inaudible)), you could say it crescendos at this, the more information you have, but then as you're solving it, it deals like pick-up sticks where you try to carefully extract one stick without unbalancing the others.

Thatís what the characters seem to be doing, but the audience is involved in the ascension, different from the game that the characters are doing and so to pick up with this one in part two, it was very exciting to see where they had come because now each pick up stick is bent and twisted and full of the file theyíve lived for 20 years and another crime is committed.

Jamie Steinberg: How do you connect with the character? Is there something about her that you felt a familiarity to or something that really touched on you with this character?

Marcia Gay Harden: Well I felt that his writing, Scott Turowís writing allowed for a great exploration into the mental illness that she suffered and the repression that she lived through and also Rusty, her husband, lived through. He had repressed her crime from Innocent, part one for now 20 years and her behavior doesnít become erratic again until sheís revisited by the same event, by an infidelity and then lack of a distorted reality in the home as created by his lies and cheating and she responds with the typical behaviors of her bipolar mess which was really interesting study for me that was, you can look at I think when letís say Gene Harris or the astronaut whose name I canít remember, who traveled, this perfectly seemingly normal person who traveled in diapers.

Jamie Steinberg: Oh yes, that lady.

Marcia Gay Harden: Right, what was her name?

Jamie Steinberg: I canít remember her name, but I know exactly who you're talking about.

Marcia Gay Harden: Right, so there's this propensity it seems toward erraticness. There's a great brilliance in both Gene Harris, the astronaut, and Barbara. Scott has Barbara as a math expert, a statistician, computer expert and so sheís a person like many in society who suffer from mental illness, but at this point, sheís now on medication and yet, what are the behaviors that create again her erraticness and it seems that in all of these cases, when the reality that theyíve been living in, they discover is not a real reality.

I found that a fascinating journey of discovery to understand what effect that has on people, on women, on people who live with betrayal, whether itís in a business or in a home, to expect sanity is a very tall order I think. It doesnít forgive it, but itís an odd expectation to expect someone to behave in a certain way when they're actually experiencing some of the most devastating moments of their life.

Jamie Steinberg: Well thank you so much.

Marcia Gay Harden: Yes.

Operator: Weíll take our next question from the site of Mike Gencarelli. Please go ahead.

Mike Gencarelli: Hey Marcia, thank you so much for taking the time to talk.

Marcia Gay Harden: Sure, sure.

Mike Gencarelli: My first question is there's kind of a lot of mystery surrounding your character. She seems kind of unpredictable. How did you kind of prepare for the role?

Marcia Gay Harden: I studied. I did research. Sheís unpredictable in that she has a mental illness and there's a lot written about borderline and bipolar and posttraumatic stress and all of those so sheís unpredictable in that way. In fact, with her medication, sheís very predictable. No judgment on whether the life or the marriage is what it should be, but she seems to be contained and this event throws her off balance and I think in the telling of the story, you jump back and forth in flashbacks and Mike has put the anger of the night of the death at the very beginning. So I hope that people were able to understand that that is what she had come to, but that the other behaviors, having dinner parties, making lunches, sending her kid off on the bicycle, hovering yes, overbearing possibly, but not crazy.

Mike Gencarelli: Sure. I guess, you said that you were familiar with the novel prior to working on the film, how do you feel that Mike Robeís screenplay kind of works off the novel? Did I lose you?

Operator: Marcia? Maybe we lost her. You guys please, Marcia? You guys stay on the line. Iím going to disconnect. Iím going to try and get her right back for you.

Mike Gencarelli: No problem.

Operator: OK. Marcia?

Weíre back on with Marcia. Can you repeat your question?

Mike Gencarelli: Absolutely sure. So Marcia, I was saying that you were obviously familiar with the novel prior to working on the films so how do you feel that Mike Robeís screenplay kind of works off the novel?

Marcia Gay Harden: Very well. I think you canít have, in the novel, they give you the perspective of is it two or three different people telling the story and you canít do that unless you sort of do a ((inaudible)) on it. So he really gave youÖ

Operator: Did we get disconnected again?

Mike Gencarelli: Yes, I think so.

Operator: OK, hold on, let me try one more time.

Mike Gencarelli: No problem.

Operator: Hi, weíre back on with Marcia.

Marcia Gay Harden: Sorry guys. Iím on a different phone line now that hopefully wonít have a problem.

Mike Gencarelli: No problem. Are we still on?

Marcia Gay Harden: Yes, you had said how did Mike Robe do it, how do I think he did it and I feel like he did it very well given that there are certain ways of telling the story that canít mimic the book. You get Rustyís perspective much more than where the book gives you the mistressí perspective and Callard, the sonís perspective. I thought it was super interesting that you donít get Barbaraís perspective because if you think that Barbara killed herself, the only way you would know for sure is if you get her perspective.

So in the book, I thought thatís interesting Scott Turow didnít give you the one, sheís the only one who can tell you if she did it or not. So I thought that was interesting and at the end of the day, I was not necessarily convinced and I didnít need to be convinced that the story ended as both Scott and the director tell you it did because you donít know unless she tells you that it did.

Mike Gencarelli: Thatís great, listen, it was an absolutely wonderful performance, thanks so much.

Marcia Gay Harden: Thank you.

Mike Gencarelli: Bye-bye.

Operator: Weíll take our next question from the site of Jay Jacobs. Please go ahead.

Jay Jacobs: Nice to talk to you Marcia.

Marcia Gay Harden: Thank you.

Jay Jacobs: Now you touched on what I was about to ask you, but I interviewed Scott Turow last year when the book came out and he said between the two books, he didnít really see Barbara so much as the villain but more as sort of a tragic character, almost noble in a strange way. How did you see her when you were preparing for her and some of the acts that she did?

Marcia Gay Harden: Itís interesting that you say between the two as well because when Scott came to set, he said that heís often thought about writing an in-between Barbara during the middle of this and this 20 years and if you accepted the first one has ended with her bludgeoning somebody, then in the middle of this life, you have 20 years of Rusty, her husband, covering it and her covering her own crime, violent crime and then you pick up with them again where sheís seemingly doing well. Sheís on medication, things are going along fine, if not a little bit coolly but the story begins to be told again because sheís revisited with the same incident that has created extraordinarily erratic behavior which is his infidelity.

So for me to have sympathy for her, or not even sympathy, but letís say empathy, I did a lot of research and a lot of reading, a lot of those books that talk about what is the devastation, what are the biochemical propensities of being borderline. What would be expected, what is it like to experience, to have your reality robbed from you and what can that do? Why is that called crazy making behavior, literally cheating is called crazy making behavior at home because itís not truthful. Truth balances people. Your reality is what you think it is and untruth disbalances you.

So I was certainly able to look at her and understand her behaviors enough to not judge her, letís say, because thatís always the death of an actor is when you start judging, well they shouldnít have done this and they shouldnít have done that, they shouldíve handled it this way. You have to just go what are the circumstances? What are the realities?

What is the research and so thatís what I did and when I was playing her, I just felt like she was such an incredible vessel in a way of pain. She had a lot of pain and certainly guilt, but I didnít feel like, I certainly didnít feel like she was a villain. I felt like what her biochemical makeup is in conjunction with what her environment is which was an untruthful, cheating and environment of infidelity created erratic behavior.

Jay Jacobs: Yes, now itís also interesting because there is another very acclaimed performance of the same character in the past. Did you watch what Bonnie Bedelia did in the same character in the original movie or was that something you wanted to avoid so as not to influence your take on it?

Marcia Gay Harden: I had seen it years and years ago when it first came out and so I didnít feel the need to revisit that beautiful performance, but what I did was revisit the book and revisit the characterís behavior so I could remind myself of 20 years ago, what were her desires, what were her needs, what was her jealousy and her rage. What did that look like?

Jay Jacobs: OK well thank you very much.

Marcia Gay Harden: Yes, thank you.

Operator: Weíll take our next question from the site of Suzanne Lanoue. Please go ahead.

Suzanne Lanoue: Hi, I was wondering when you get a script like this or any other script, is writing the only thing that you look for when you decide whether you're going to accept it or not?

Marcia Gay Harden: Suzanne, I think itís as random as what clothing do I put on in the morning. Really it is. Itís based on what my needs are for the week, for the month, for the year, what Iím feeling like on the day. What is the story trying to say? What does the character say? What does it pay? Where does it shoot? Can I still make the kidsí Christmas play if I do this and how can I work it out? It is very random.

Suzanne Lanoue: OK well thatís a lot more than I thought there would be. I would think, thatís interesting. So, what other projects do you have coming up?

Marcia Gay Harden: I just did a week on Body of Proof with Dana Delaney.

Suzanne Lanoue: Oh I love that show.

Marcia Gay Harden: Yesterday, I shot on a beautiful little independent film called The Summer of Wine and Roses playing an acting teacher. It was so much fun. I believe there's a film called If I Were You thatís coming out that I did and another one, there's just a couple of films coming out, but itís been a period of some change. Weíve moved out to California and there's some family needs Iím taking care of so itís, I canít give you laundry list of big films, but soon enough.

Suzanne Lanoue: Sounds like you're keeping really busy. Is it ever difficult?

Marcia Gay Harden: I am. Is it difficult?

Suzanne Lanoue: To balance everything.

Marcia Gay Harden: Yes, the balls drop. Like with everybody, the balls drop all the time. you're juggling, juggling, somebody throws you a new one, and you throw it in and dang it, another one dropped and if it werenít for the good friendship of many other moms that I know, I would say that the balls would be scattered all over but as Hillary said, it takes a village and Iím so grateful for the village that I have, the friends that are there that pick up a ball and juggle it themselves and throw it back in and itís just a really, women and friendships and moms are really strong community. Itís a strong chain and Iím lucky for that.

Suzanne Lanoue: Well thank you and I look forward to seeing the movie.

Marcia Gay Harden: Thank you so much.

Operator: As a reminder, its star one to ask a question. Weíll take our next question from the site of Allison Ebner. Please go ahead.

Allison Ebner: Hey Marcia, how are you today?

Marcia Gay Harden: Iím good Allison, how are you?

Allison Ebner: Good, thank you. So between the mental illness and the state of the marriage, Barbara seems like quite a demanding character to portray. What would you say was most challenging for you about the role and working on this project in particular?

Marcia Gay Harden: I think to be subtle with the repression and the things that were occurring in the life, the barbs that donít seem like barbs that sheís receiving and the barbs that may not seem like barbs that sheís giving, and to let that create a history of disconnect for her and her husband, that leads to her really erratic behavior surrounding her jealousy and her rage and sheís right to feel so. Sheís justifiably enraged and it was her particular behavior is, I suppose considered erratic, but I donít know what sanity around those discoveries would look like either.

I suppose to not judge her would be the short answer.

Allison Ebner: Can you tell us a bit about the atmosphere on set? Itís a pretty serious movie, but the cast is amazing.

Marcia Gay Harden: It was, to be almost mundane is the word, it was so much fun. Alfred Molina just is full of banter and wit and humor and keeps you laughing and Bill Pullman is just a charming, gorgeous gentleman and Richard Schiff, all straight down the line, the young actors, everybody, there was just a great camaraderie and itís always lovely as an actor when you jump into that environment.

Everyoneís there, in and out, in and out, you may not have scenes together, but when you're on set together, its instant familiarity, some spurred by years of knowing each otherís work or having worked together, but the actor jumps in with both feet on action and you cross all kinds of boundaries and borders on action. That allows for, on cut, bonding and it was really lovely.

Allison Ebner: Great, thank you so much.

Operator: Weíll take a follow-up question from the site of Jay Jacobs. Please go ahead.

Jay Jacobs: I just wanted to ask you, you had mentioned some of the things you had coming up, obviously a couple of years ago, you won a Tony for God of Carnage and you said that youíve been doing a lot of moving around, but are you going to be doing any other theatre in the future hopefully or, also have you heard anything about the new Carnage movie or seen it or anything like that?

Marcia Gay Harden: The new Carnage movie came out already so itís out there for anyone to see. Itís a different cast than ours was. Itís a different, Polanski directing. So I think itís probably a very different experience than the play and I have not seen it yet, but I would like to.

There was some talk about taking Carnage to yet one more wonderful location, but thatís not been confirmed yet so weíll see. If it happens, Iím with it. I love it. It was so much fun to do that play and there's always the possibility of other things on Broadway, but doing theatre is really, do you have kids?

Jay Jacobs: No I donít.

Marcia Gay Harden: Itís so hard with children. You're free when they're in school and you're working and they're out of school and on the weekends and I have three kids, I have twins that are seven and a 13 year old daughter and I just found it to be almost ((inaudible)) with the homework demands and the school demands and the needs of the child and so I did it for quite a while and I would do it briefly again, but I think another long run like that, Iím going to have to wait a little bit to really examine that.

Jay Jacobs: OK.

Operator: There appears to be no further questions at this time.

Maya Brooks: Thank you all so much for joining the conference call and Marcia, thank you so much for being available. Innocent, once again, premieres on Tuesday, November 29th at 9 p.m. on TNT. A transcript of this call will be available within 24 hours. Thank you all.

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