Exclusive Interview: MEN IN TREES Star Sarah Strange

sarah strange
Sarah Strange personal – Mitchell Parsons Photography

By: Amrie Cunningham

You know how every once in a while, I geek out over the fact that I can quote Men in Trees verbatim, and I love the crazy cast of characters so very much? Imagine the geeking out I did when I got the chance to spend some quality phone time with my favorite in Elmo – Sarah Strange, the one and only Theresa. We spent some time chatting about her show, why indirectly it helps change the world, and how Bateman makes everything better.

Amrie: I’m really excited to get to talk to you.

Sarah laughs…What do you want to talk about?

I don’t know, I was thinking we’d talk about a little show.

You wanna talk about a show, great, I know about that!

I’m always saying I love Theresa.

Aw, thank you very much. That’s nice.

Theresa and Ben, you guys are one of my favorite couples, I wanted to say that outright.

Aw rad, thank you very much, I appreciate that.

Going along those lines of this awesome character, what made you want to play Theresa?

I really and it’s still an interesting aspect of the character even half way through the second season, I really like how outside she is. I always kind of described her as this mysterious black cat who wonders the periphery of Elmo, and people keep feeding her so she stays around. But you’re not entirely sure of her motives. She’s such an oddball. And I like her rock and roll history, I like that she’s got a bit of toughness, that she’s got some secrets. She’s dark. It’s always kind of fun to play people who are in touch with their dark side, or who are hiding their dark side, you know what I mean?

Right, and that means, that down the line, we can hear a little more about the dark side, something that will shock us, and I like that aspect to it.

That’s right and there’s little seeds that get planted that don’t turn into anything until much later. She’s fun, and she’s still mysterious to me, which is fun.

sarah strange
MEN IN TREES – Copyright Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.

Now, the cast chemistry, and you can ask anyone, this is something I talk about all the time – you guys really seem like a small town that all comes together and just gets on camera.

Oh my god, dude, we are so disgustingly in love with this cast. We work together for 16 hours, five days a week, and then hang out together on the weekends. We are genuinely tight. We are very good friends. It’s almost like a theatre company, rather than a television cast. It’s a group of very dedicated players, very serious actors, committed actors, and so we’ve got a lot of professional respect for each other that way, and we get along. We seem to have this kind of like sense of humor, which makes for very fun dinners.

I like hearing about that. I don’t like hearing stories where someone doesn’t want to work together. It’s nice that you’re friends, and then you have to act together. So, you have a lot of episodes this season, because of whatever shuffling around, or not showing, or not airing that ABC did. That is a good thing for you guys for the strike.

The strike is such a big scary beast and it’s all just wild speculation and people are just dooming and glooming all over the place, you know. They fear for their jobs, understandably. I think in a strange way, for whatever reason, our little show has been quite well protected. Having the 5 episodes in our back pocket, enabled us to you know, keep making product throughout the strike. This is my hope – that it will go to helping us find and secure an audience, and help our numbers grow, does that make sense?

Oh yeah it makes perfect sense, ya know, not to sound like “oh they’ll find you because nothing else is on”, but they will and that’s good.

As long as you’re watching, I don’t care why you watch it, just watch it!

It sounds like I’m just saying this because I’m on the phone with you, but the minute I watched Men in Trees, it became one of my top 5 shows. There was nothing about the show that made me want to turn it off.

Isn’t that lovely? What’s great, there was some sort environmental rally in Vancouver and a bunch of our cast went, we were invited. The woman who organized it is an advocate to all kinds of environmental causes, she’s a tireless worker and she went up to one of the cast members, I think it was Suleka (Mathew, she plays Sara), and thanked her, because her job is so depressing, what we’re doing to the world, and she watches Men in Trees to cheer up. We’re maybe not changing the world, but we’re cheering up the people who are.

That’s a good little tag line for your show

Not so bad. And it’s really true.

The conversation takes a small break to allow for us ladies to chat about our weather and why we want to visit each other’s towns….

sarah strange
Sarah Strange personal – Mitchell Parsons Photography

Vancouver seems like a little LA of the north, and more people are heading that way, because a lot of people are finding jobs out there.

It’s a world class city. We’ve got everything. I’m a local girl, I was born and raised here, and I love it here, and I am really happy to be able to do my job and stay here, because it’s beautiful. I don’t want too many people to know about it. There are a lot of people coming to live in Vancouver.

I know, it feels like it’s a big mass exodus heading up there.

They’re just jumping ship. All the Toronto people are sick of it, they’re coming out to breathe our fresh air.

What’s coming up for you guys on the show?

Um, I’m wondering what it is I’m allowed to talk about. What’s happening? For Ben and Theresa, there’s a lot around the hockey team. The hockey team has become a third party in the relationship, which is wobbly to begin with, let’s face it. They’re not really sure how to make their marriage work, having this whole new thing that he’s spending all his time doing.

You can see in the last episode that aired, the first part of the two-parter [the interview took place before last Friday’s episode], you can just tell by how she says to him “You ruined their wedding” that things aren’t great.

I thought that was a bit heavy. I think she could probably lighten up a bit. I think that Theresa and Ben are an interesting couple, because you see them struggling. It’s hard to see them calm. You’re never going to see them happy and loved. They’re kind of always trying to work it out. So that’s happening. There’s lots of fun guest stars, we’ve got some fun people showing up. Mario Cantone shows up, he has some stuff. He’s awesome. Cash and Jack and Marin are all steamy out there in the woods. Same but different. People breaking up and finding other people and getting back together. A little bit of love in Alaska.

Now, your parents – did they have a big deal to do with you getting into acting, were they encouraging to you?

My parents are both screenwriters and together they created The Beachcombers, which is the longest running show in Canadian television, so I was born into it. They were supportive of my decision, certainly because of what they did. If I had gone on to be a biologist or something, I think it really would have surprised them. We’re artistic people, and we’re all cut from the same cloth. It was pretty natural. They gave me some good advice. I can’t remember it now. I should go back and ask them, I could use some good advice right now.

Do you prefer doing TV or movies? Is there a difference to you?

There is a difference. TV has been so good to me, and it’s how I’ve made my living for a long time, so I really appreciate it. The interesting thing about a feature is how much farther you can go. There’s a lot of limits on television so it’s a little bit freer. I like telling a story from beginning to end, that’s really cool. I haven’t done enough features yet to answer that completely. When we talk again, and I’ve got a few more movies under my belt, then I’ll tell ya!

The whole “Jewel shows up and there’s a little part to Theresa’s back story that she’s a musician”…

I know, it’s awesome.

Would you be interested in pursuing music?

What’s weird is…I’ve never done it outside of acting. I’ve played musicians before, but I’ve never had any ambitions that way for myself really. A fall back position of a rock star if this whole acting thing doesn’t work out, that’s great, sure I’ll take it. But I’m not a musician but I play one on TV. And it’s really good fun and they make you look good, you know. There’s nothing like going on tour in a grungy bus.

Taking it back to Men in Trees again – a lot of shows do guest stars and bring in someone that plays themselves, and it doesn’t feel authentic. But Jewel comes in, and Jewel is Jewel and the storyline totally went with what the shows. Can you speak to how it’s authentic?

I think that it’s almost like Elmo is like a magic place. It’s not necessarily authentic. You buy it because weird stuff happens there. And Jewel’s a good Alaska girl, so you can kind of see that that could possibly happen. It’s more like a Twilight Zone thing.

Elmo is the Twilight Zone of Alaska haha!

Yeah, but nicer. It’s not as mean spirited as the Twilight Zone.

In the future, who would you love to get a chance to work with?

Who would I love to get a chance to work with? Oh that’s delicious. Let me see. Holy cow. Everybody, all of them. There’s so many. You know what, I knew this too. I knew the answer and I’m blanking, can you believe it? Of course ha. You put me on the spot.

This question puts a lot of people on the spot.

No there’s so many! I don’t know. All of them, everybody, everybody good.

What other shows do you find yourself watching when you have downtime?

Of like my shows, that I like? I’m pretty wired to The Food Channel. I love a cooking a show, a good cooking show. That whole genre of shows has been really sexed up in the last few years, don’t you think, there’s definitely a lot of hot cooking shows, I enjoy that. Brotherhood is a very good show. Weeds I really enjoy. Because my schedule is so funny, I can never find things to watch them consistently, and I end up just going to get the DVD box set eventually. Arrested Development, one of the greatest shows ever ever ever on television. Love it love it love it. Spaced. Have you ever seen Spaced?

I’ve definitely heard of it.

The guys who did Shaun of the Dead?

Oh my god I love them. I haven’t seen Spaced, now I’m going to have to check it out.

They only did 2 series, probably like 14 episodes – probably my favorite show I’ve ever seen.

Arrested Development was mine. I like that you said that.

Oh Jason Bateman makes everything better. I’d like to work with Jason Bateman. There’s one, I’d like to work with him. Let’s go back to the earlier question!

What do you guys do for fun out there?

As a cast, there’s so many of us. Sometimes we get together, and there was a baseball game at one point. Sort of group activities, that wholesome outdoor fun, where you go inside and have a wonderful dinner. Just go inside and talk. For myself, I have a really splendid little dog, who I’m walking right now, which is why I sound like I’m outside walking a dog. I like to box. I took up boxing about 4 years ago. I’m terrible at it, but I really like to do it. I like cooking shows, I said that already. I love shoe shopping.

And the conversation takes another little break as we discuss the ridiculous amounts of shoes we both own and those few pairs that we bought on sale for no other reason than they were $10.

One last question, to sum up everything. What would you say to someone who hasn’t watched Men in Trees before? Why should they watch it?

It’s part of why I think working on the show is such a pleasure. It’s soft, it’s light hearted, and romantic and tender. I think we are constantly bombarded with really frightening information from every direction and Elmo is a really nice place to go for an hour. You can watch people fall in love a little bit, have a giggle and then get back to the world’s problems. Like I said, not changing the world, cheering up the people who are.

How much do you guys love her now? As if I needed another reason to tune into this show on Fridays at 8, now I have a truly genuine person who makes it that much more important to watch. Make sure you watch it – keep me posted on what you think of the new episode this Friday night!

US readers – Happy Turkey Day on Thursday.
Everyone else – Happy Thursday on Thursday.

  • TVFanatic

    I love Men In Trees. Great Interview. Sarah seems so cool

  • MiT is one of my favorite shows. I am constantly looking forward to Friday nights to get my fill. Thanks for a great interview! She’s so much fun to watch onscreen, I’m sure it was a blast on the phone as well. 🙂

  • CC

    Well I hope one silver lining of the writers strike can be more tv viewers added to this fanbase, because it really is a fantastic show. Like you said the chemistry is just there. I love the writing and the characters. I can’t wait till this friday!