By: Amrie Cunningham (My Take on TV)
If there’s one thing that you plan to do at 10PM on July 24th, please promise me that it involves watching the Pilot episode of FX’s captivating new drama Damages. Glenn Close is fascinating as hard nosed lawyer Patty Hewes. She will do anything to get her way. In the courtroom, in her daily life. It begs repeating that she will do anything to get her way. There are times when watching this force (she’s not just a character, she’s a force to be reckoned with) that you stop and think “she is such a sweet woman; she truly loves her husband and son, how can she be such a cutthroat litigator” but then she does something reprehensible and you’re left wondering “why didn’t I see that coming?” This is the kind of show that FX thrives on. Twisted, and daring, and dangerous; heartfelt, romantic, intense. It covers the gamut, and brings to mind the originality of The Shield, and Rescue Me and what makes them amazing shows to watch.
We open on various beautifully shot scenes of NYC. To the sound of an elevator as it goes down floor by floor, we’re finally graced with the harsh shots of Aussie import Rose Byrne’s flawless Ellen Parsons covered head to toe in someone else’s blood, wearing only a green jacket over her underwear. From there, the direction takes us seamlessly back and forth between present time and 6 months to show us how it all began. How this classic beauty went from an ambitious young first year to a cynical, hardnosed Patty Hewes clone in an incredibly short time. It’s heart wrenching, it’s gut turning, it’s flawless, and it’s hard. There are twists around every corner. Without giving too much away, Patty will shock you. Ellen and Tom, and Katie, and Arthur will shock you. The death and the turmoil will blow you away. The end will leave you gasping for breath, and will keep you thinking about the show for days. It’s exactly the kind of ending that an good TV show should have, one that keeps you thinking until the next (equally as intense) episode.
As the pilot goes on, each new character adds another great dimension. Ted Danson is fabulous as smarmy business man Arthur Frobisher, the man that Patty and her gang are suing for millions of dollars for cheating his employees (over 5000 of them) out of their life savings. Zeljko Ivanek is just wonderfully underhanded as Frobisher’s lawyer Ray Fiske. He’s the kind of criminal mastermind that every great show needs! Tate Donovan is at his Jimmy Cooper best, playing Tom, a loyal associate with something decidedly troubling going on. Anastasia Griffith is great as a confused, fractured, scared restaurant owner at the center of something she never expected, who is just trying to make a name for herself. (Interesting tidbit? She’s Jamie Bamber’s sister. Apollo and Katie Connor are brother and sister!) Playing David Connor, Katie’s brother, and fiancé to Ellen Parsons, is the charming and genuine Noah Bean. Relatively unknown to the TV world, he is destined to be something. I had the great opportunity to discuss Damages with Noah and I wanted to share with you a little bit about him!
Amrie: What about Damages drew you in? The other cast members, the writing, the network?
Noah: Before I even went in to audition for Damages I heard that Glenn Close was cast in the lead. So, of course, I was immediately interested in the project. I knew she had just spent a really great year at FX on The Shield and it must be a good sign if she was going back to the network for a show of her own. It wasn’t until I finally went home with the script and read it that I really got excited. The pilot episode was one of the best television scripts I’ve ever read. Then I found out more and more about the project and it just kept getting better – the rest of the cast, the producers, the director and it shot in New York. I still can’t believe I got the part.
What does a viewer need to know about your character, David, before watching the show?
A lot of people who read the script or even watched the pilot didn’t realize that David was going to be around for more than just the first episode. Even people on the crew came up to me while we were shooting the pilot and would say what a bummer it was that I wouldn’t be around for the season. It’s because the structure of the show moves around a lot in time. So when you see what happens in the first episode, don’t count me out. I’ll be around. Thank God.
How far into shooting the first season are you? What is the feeling like on set? Is it a great working environment?
We just finished shooting the sixth episode. We’ve been at it for about two months and everyone has really come together in that time. It feels like family, dysfunctional perhaps, but still family. I think we have all (cast and crew) been working really hard to give this show and the story everything we have. Our producers are working day and night on this and that has inspired all of us to give it our all. I think we’re all excited to start airing the episodes and share it with an audience. I’m really excited to see what people think of it.
What made you want to become an actor? Was there a person, a feeling, something you did that made you say “this is what I want to do”?
I think I may still be figuring that out. I was a very shy kid. An only child, living in the country with my parents, I didn’t have loads of kids around when I was small. I was always happy – just very shy. My teachers would always ask my parents if there was something wrong with me because I would never talk. My mother was the one that encouraged me to get involved in drama and I was lucky enough to begin studying under a wonderful woman, Lynn Britt. She, along with my high school drama teacher, Jane Martineau, really helped to open me up and get me to speak up. I found when I had a script in my hand I could speak. Discovering characters and on stage relationships helps me discover who I was and what my part in the world was. But like I said, I’m still trying to figure it all out.
You’ve done a lot of theatre work. How is it being on a TV show set, versus the stage? How often do you consider a return to the theatre?
It’s really fun working on television after doing so much theater. The biggest challenge was wrapping my head around the idea that I didn’t know where the story was going to go. We get a new script every week and find our characters behaving in all new circumstances. In the theater we have the whole script and know the beginning, middle and end of every story. We then figure out how we want to play each scene so there is a complete journey to our performance. In television it’s more like life, you just have to be brave and play each new scene for what it is. It’s difficult and can be frustrating but is still a lot of fun. I love the theater and would always go back to do a play if it was an exciting project. I’ve got a theater company in New York called Stage13, so that keeps me involved even when I’m busy doing this.
Who are you dying to work with? What actors and actresses are your favorites?
I’m actually dying to do a scene with Zeljko Ivanek. He plays Ray Fiske in Damages and has been one of my favorite actors since I moved to New York. I’ve watched him on stage for years and always loved his work. He has such an amazing career, going between stage and film and television all the time. I really think he’s great. Hopefully our characters will have a few run-in’s with each other soon.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? Whose career would you love to have?
It’s hard to say where I’d like to be in the future. I hope I’m working! I feel very blessed to be a part of this project right now and I’m proud of a lot of the work I’ve done up to this point. I hope I’m lucky enough to continue to get these kinds of opportunities. To work with great collaborators on challenging writing in television, film and on the stage is really what I would love to do for as long as I can.
What shows are you watching when you have downtime? During the regular season, and during the summer?
I have a very embarrassing admission to make. I don’t have cable! I know – it’s horrible. I can’t even watch my own show at home. I’ve just never gotten it hooked up. I get the basic cable channels and for some strange reason the Food Network (which I love) and Bravo come in. I’ve gotten hooked on Project Runway when that’s on and I love the nighttime cooking shows on Food Network. I’m going to get cable soon and then I’ll be much more versed in what’s out there.
Do you get back to your hometown to visit very often? I was in Mystic on a vacation last fall and it was fabulous.
That’s so cool you were in Mystic. Yeah, my mother still lives there and I get back there every couple months. It’s so beautiful there and she has a really wonderful house, so it’s a great escape from the grind of the city. I actually went back there with some friends for my Mother’s wedding just a couple weeks ago and we all had a great time.
Is there anything else you want readers to know about you? Do you have any quirks, or rituals you do before a day of shooting?
I don’t have any crazy quirks before a day of shooting. At least none that I’m aware of – you might ask my friends. I do always grab a New York Times and a cup of coffee around the corner. Then I just make sure I know my lines and show up on time. That’s about it. Pretty boring.
Thank you so much for you time!
You heard the man. Watch the pilot tonight on FX, but don’t count him out! He’s in it for a while! Tell us what you think about the show! And just a few things to look forward to in the coming weeks on the show – Fastlane hero and Mr. Jennie Garth, Peter Facinelli, shows up in a shocking way as someone from one of our character’s pasts. And pay attention to everything that happens in every scene. Everything happens for a reason on this show, and it’s all connected!
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