By: Amrie Cunningham [My Take on TV]
In the third in our series of interviews with the cast and creative team of BURN NOTICE, theTVaddict.com proudly presents a Q&A with the radiant Gabrielle Anwar — who was kind enough to spend time with theTVaddict.com Senior Editor Amrie Cunningham [as well as numerous other media outlets] on a recent visit to the set.
Panel: Do you enjoy working in Miami?
Gabrielle: I actually love it. I would much rather be too hot than too cold. I’m perfectly happy melting all day long. Jeffrey has to wear full on suits and ties, poor thing, and Bruce too. Although he gets to wear Hawaiian shirts a lot too. He’s Mr. Tommy Bahama.
How do you handle doing the martial arts and hand to hand combat that Fiona does?
Smoke and mirrors. Jeffrey’s actually incredibly advanced in martial arts. He’s like triple billion black belt or whatever, he’s pretty high up there. Although I don’t know who actually judges that stuff. But I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s basically just choreography. I did dance, so that comes in handy. But as far as hitting the right artery or chopping the right part of the body, I have no idea what I’m doing.
Do you know any martial arts?
No, I don’t.
You look like you do?
Well, thank you, but I can tell. When I’m working and I’m looking at the dailies, I go, ‘Oh, God, I hope they cut around that one.’
You work with guns on the show a lot…
Yes, I’ve actually been fortunate enough to go out to this huge warehouse full of props out in Los Angeles. It’s very exciting. Next time I go I’m going to take a shopping cart and fill it with all the fun stuff. There’s a shooting room there. It’s literally a metal storage room with thousands of bullet holes in the wall. So I went in there and shot just about every weapon that is used from the second World War on. Because I’m a bit of a lightweight, I got blown back more than a few times by automatic shotguns and machine guns. It’s very empowering experience to be wielding a weapon and I am by nature very much a pacifist. So if I can get turned on by it, I’m a little terrified what really happens in the military.
What did they tell you about Fiona’s back story – is she a terrorist?
I was pretty much told nothing. But I have a very rampant and vivid imagination, so you can imagine what I came up with. I think that her intentions are all in the right place. Those organizations are almost always formed with the best of attentions and then they often go awry. Think of Scientology. Not that I’m comparing terrorism to Scientology. I think Fiona is a seeker of justice, but she seeks it in perverse and extremist ways, which I find rather refreshing.
Does she have a background in special ops like Michael?
Either that or she’s bloody intelligent. I think she’s had some serious training to keep up with Michael. Yes, I think she’s been around the block a few times.
How does knowing or not knowing her background affect your performance?
I don’t know. I certainly have never been one of those actors who researches everything from my character’s astrological sign or whether I was raised by one parent or two. I have three kids and I just don’t have time for it. I have to put my priorities somewhere. Perhaps if I didn’t have three kids, I’d be an impressive actress.
Are you hoping they might show some of Fiona’s life in flashbacks? Or Michael and Fiona, there have been little comments about their history…
I don’t think much of flashbacks. I always get terribly confused with flashbacks. I like when there’s a card that says, ‘This is what happened once upon a time.’ I get really confused so if there was a flashback in an episode, it wouldn’t take much to confuse me.
Has Fiona encountered the new character being played by Tricia Helfer yet?
I have not, but I have plenty of ideas of how I would react. I did meet her briefly. She seems quite lovely actually, which sucks because I really wanted to hate her. Oh well.
At the end of last season, Michael took off leaving Fiona behind. What can you tell us about her reaction this season to what he did assuming he does come back?
Yeah, he does come back. I think Fiona is a little peeved that he made the choice to take off. Being a woman and having some sincere feelings for him, she wishes the choice he made would have included her, but it didn’t. So I think she’s dealing with a little anger for wont of a better word. There are not many other emotions that she deals with. Yes, I think she’s a little pissed. I know she’s a little pissed because we already shot it.
Did you choose to do this series because you wanted to spend more time with your family?
No, not at all. It’s kind of the contrary because I haven’t really seen much of them since they’re finishing up school. They’ll be here for the summer. No, my choice was purely because I thought the material was worthy of taking me away from my children, who have a life of their own now. It was time for me to get back on track with me as a woman, not just a mom, or a wife or a…
You didn’t care that it was TV?
No. This is such a cliché and I can’t believe it’s coming out of my mouth, but there are so few great women’s roles, so I could care what genre it is. If it’s brilliantly written, I’m in if they’ll have me. I’m really enjoying myself on many levels, particularly professionally which is such a coup for me.
Talk about the time you’ve had when Fiona’s worked with Sam at the end of last season while Michael was going off doing his thing.
It is an obscene amount of fun. I mean, it’s illegal the amount of fun we have. He is just such a fabulous man and an incredibly fun actor to be around. There’s no tension, there’s no ego, so it opens the creative channels like nothing else. It’s impossible to keep up with him.
Any pranks among the cast?
I think that only happens on the “Ocean’s 11” set. The Clooney factor. There’s a lot of good humor. It’s a really fantastic crew. Everybody’s really, really good at what they do. It’s a lot of fun.
Do you stay close the script or is their adlibbing?
Bruce is the king of the adlib. He has adlib diarrhea. I think because it’s television and there are so many cooks in the kitchen, that they’re pretty gung ho about sticking to what’s on the page. I honestly don’t blame them. There are so many writers involved and it has to pass through so many channels to be approved. As an actor, I don’t know if I’m qualified to improve upon their words. Improvisation is something I have had a hard time viewing.
How much of the stunts do you do?
I do a fair bit because it’s very hard to find stuntwoman who looks like a pre-pubescent child, so there a bit of problem finding matches for me. I actually do like to do it. I like to get in my body. Sometimes I get so caught up in my head with my American accent. You know, did I say that with my British accent or is that actor looking at me thinking my American accent sucks? To get out of that continual mental banter and do stunts is fun and hopefully I don’t break a leg.
Do you need to do an American accent for Fiona?
I was quite happy to go in to this with an Irish dialect because it was a little easier to get my mind around that then playing an American on a show indefinitely. It’s much more work for me, particularly because the audience is American. Part of my problem is that I grew up in a household where my mother corrected every other word I say because she was an English teacher. I’m so aware of every word coming out of my mouth because of my mother. She appears in my mind from somewhere telling me that I’m doing it all wrong. So now I’m changing the way I’m speaking. I find it very distracting in a scene to be thinking of how I sound rather than how I am just being. It’s tricky. Now my mother says I sound like an American.
Did you want to do an accent?
When I read it and she was Irish, I was thrilled. I had just spent the summer in Dublin shooting a film.
Do you look at the script and get excited about what Fiona is going to be that week?
That’s my favorite part. It makes me feel like I’m Jennifer Garner sans Ben Affleck. I love it. I have a great job as it is, but I get to mix it up a little bit. Matt Nix, the genius creator of the show, is so open to my crazy ideas. Instead of doing American club girl, I said can we do Kate Moss.
Do the directors micromanage or do they let you interpret the role as you wish?
I think that Matt has created such a great combo of genres in this show that we have a little bit of artistic license because it doesn’t take itself too seriously which allows for me to play a Kate Moss club girl for instance. They’re all pretty lenient about where we want to take it. We can pull it back if it gets too silly. That’s when the director approaches and says quietly, ‘Let’s do it again.’
How many directors?
Last season we had a different director for every episode. I love television, but that was a little bit confusing for me. I guess the theory is that it keeps it fresh and they can also determine which of those directors really has a unique vision for the show. We’ve had two directors this season so far who have done piggy-back shows, and now we’re back to Ron Hardy who did one episode last year. And I guess there’ll be some directors who are not invited back.
Is there anything you’ve gotten to be this season?
Kate Moss. I can’t remember. I have an odd way of deleting what I’ve just done. I keep deleting my previous files in my mind.
Do you have a favorite storyline?
This last episode, when I read it, I said this is my favorite. It involves these tattooed Russian types which I find rather appealing. It’s that gun-wielding characteristic I possess. I can’t remember any more – how lame is that? But it was really cool.
What’s been the most difficult thing you’ve done?
To be truthful, the American accent really throws me for a loop. It really does. It’s odd because any other accent I feel fine… Here’s the thing, I used to have a dialect coach on the set and she had the most extraordinary ear. We would have this shorthand between us and she would go slightly to the left with her hand which meant I had to roll my hard ‘r’ harder. There was a sense of relief in not having to really focus on it and have it monopolize my concentration. And not having that luxury for back on I get a little bit more anxious and a little bit more anal about it. There’s nothing worse than a Brit doing a bad U.S. dialect. And vice versa.
Have you ever suggested to Matt that she get a bump on the head and now she’s British?
Believe me, I have tried every trick in the book. One of the reasons I want to do Kate Moss is to get my British cockney in there.
You’re a pacifist but you like to play a character with guns?
I’m a mass of contradictions and a hypocrite at the same time. What a mess!
What reaction do you get from fans of the show? How is Fiona accepted?
Most of the male reaction is pretty obvious. Men are so predictable are they not? And what would we do without them. It’s another dichotomy like my totality. It’s either that she’s such a slutty piece of crap, which is what most of the blogs that my daughter reads and she calls me crying, ‘Your leathery skin…’ which is kind of horrific. There are other women who approach me are like, ‘Yes! You kick ass!’ It’s really been eye-opening to understand how many angry women there are out there who would love to shoot their husband’s in the head with a sawed off shotgun.
Have you worked with Sharon Gless?
Yes, we had a really fabulous scene where we’re both talking about Michael and she reflects on her relationship with him, and we really get to see the similarity between Madeline and Fiona mostly through Michael’s eyes. She’s wonderful. What a wonderful woman! What a strong, extraordinary life she has had. Yeah, I really admire her.
Would you enjoy it if it turned out that Fiona was in on whoever burned Michael?
Of course. But that would be when I get the boot and be unemployed.
Would it be fun if you or one of the other characters took over the narration for an episode?
That would be interesting. I love narration, particularly on a TV show where there is so little time to tell a story unless you turn it into caricature of the characters. There’s really not enough time to really indulge everybody’s little idiosyncrasies. With narration, you can really get through a lot than you normally be allowed without it. Because you can explain so much with a few lines. When it comes to the technical stuff, it’s fantastic. I don’t know if I can pronounce all the words in the narration. I’m glad that Jeffrey is in charge of that.
Do you think Fiona is like a Bond girl – like Pussy Galore?
Yes, there’s a little Pussy in Fiona. It’s interesting because the toughness in women has always been so unattractive, but I guess it works in some women. I think there’s incredible strength in every woman if you can maintain your femininity and still indulge that power.