Taking a page out of the successful television playbook, NECESSARY ROUGHNESS introduces viewers to an exclusive world where the rich and powerful play and where they can stumble into some thorny predicaments if they do not keep their game face on and cannot keep their head in the game – whether the game is competitive sports, politics, the news room, on a race track or in a boardroom. To help keep these power players in the game, they seek the aid of Dr. Dani Santino, a psychotherapist, deftly portrayed by Callie Thorne. During a recent press call, Callie shared what makes Dr. Dani the best player in the game.
What was it about the premise of the show and your character that made you want to do it?
Callie: I think initially the fact that it was a true story and that it was based on a real woman, a real extraordinary woman, is you know why. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the script and read it in the first place. Because, to me, that automatically means that a story’s going to be that much more rich and that much more layered — especially in the writing room. It just means that everything’s going to be that much more true, that much more grounded — and I was right. I read the script, I flew through it, and it felt so honest and based out of a real kind of truth, that even when I got to meet her, it all sort of fell into place so perfectly. Because there’s a spirit about her that fills up the entire page. Which then makes it that much easier to go ahead and get in front of the camera and try to tell her story.
Are you a football fan and is there a team that you live and die with?
Callie: I do not know a lot about football. I will say that I’m a Patriots fan because I’m from Boston and I love watching the games. I just don’t know much about them. That, in fact, did me very well because Dr. Dani on the show doesn’t know anything about football either — she’s sort of thrust into this life. So I am getting to know a lot more about football and I find it fascinating. I’m liking the game-watching a hell of a lot more, that’s for sure.
What advice or insight has Dr. Donna given you that you’ve taken in to your character?
Callie: I was busy acting when I landed the role before we shot the pilot. Then she and I got to meet in New York City and I was very nervous about it. But she has such an amazing energy. The minute we hugged, it was one of those things. We both put our hands out to shake each other’s hands, but just went, ‘Oh never mind!’ and we gave each other a big hug. From that moment on, even through that first meal together and then through the course of the pilot, because she was with us in Atlanta every day that we were shooting, I was so grateful just to hang out with her. It wasn’t so much about research and researching her actual history. We did a lot of talking about that and the sort of steps she took through her career. But what was important to me was I just wanted to soak up her spirit — because I think that’s partly what makes her so extraordinary and her story so extraordinary. So though she was always around to answer any questions I had about cognitive behavioral therapy or hypnotherapy and she had given me a great list of books to read up on, it was more important to me that she just be around because I was concerned that she was happy and that she felt good about what we were shooting every day. Plus, she makes you feel very safe. Everybody was just so happy when she was around. Everything was just a little bit more heightened when she was around. And that helped me in terms of my own storytelling. Though the show isn’t a documentary, it’s a show that is inspired by her. It’s still very important to me that I represent her in the right way.
What do you find most challenging about the role?
Callie: I think that in any role, whether it’s on TV or film, it can be hard to do comedy and drama, particularly within one story. I think I thought that’s what was going to be hard. But because it’s a true story and so many of these things that happen in the episodes are all things that really happened to her, for the most part, it doesn’t feel like a pendulum swinging from a really funny scene and then here we go to a touching scene. It all sort of is a very smooth journey through each episode. I think that’s what I thought was going to be so hard and it wasn’t. It’s actually one of the easier things. I think what’s hard for me is she’s a therapist, but because she’s a different kind. She’s not as formal. She’ll go to the football field. She’ll go to the bar, where the football player is partying instead of showing up to practice. Sometimes it’s hard for me, as Callie, not to play her even more maternal, in terms of the comfort level. It’s hard for me remember that there still is a boundary between the therapist and the client. So I do have to sort of check myself that way. But that’s what’s great about her. Dr. Donna’s always available for me to call her and say, ‘Isn’t it hard for you sometimes not to want to hug your client? If they’re crying, don’t you just want to hug them?’ And she’s like, ‘I absolutely do. I have a heart, you know.’ But I think that’s an interesting challenge in the show, for me.
Going from a show like RESCUE ME where you are one of many cast members and now you are the lead, how has that been for you as an actor?
Callie: It was a really big transition. I’m not going to lie. I was very nervous about that because — starting in television in 1997 when I joined HOMICIDE, it was an ensemble cast — since then, I have been sort of thriving in that arena. So I was very nervous about being number one on the call-sheet for a change. In terms of RESCUE ME and seven seasons of watching Denis Leary be a master number one on the call-sheet, and it was kind of like a master class, I didn’t realize what I was soaking up from him. It is weird being the person that’s there from sunrise-to-sunset, while all the other actors sort of come in and do these scenes and then they leave and someone else comes in. I’m the constant. But it’s interesting because I don’t feel like I’m the lead because the scenes are so rich with these other characters and because the actors are all so good. I think it took a long time to cast this pilot and for good reason. I think because they took such great care in casting every character, it didn’t matter if someone was a lead or if they’re farther down on the call-sheet, so to speak. So it still feels like an ensemble to me because each moment with each character is equally important. Even if it’s 2/3 of a scene with my daughter, that scene is equally as important as a 4-page scene with Mehcad. I think the hardest thing for me to master — in terms of shifting jobs like that — is shooting one episode while learning the next episode. Because I’m used to getting the script, I’ll learn my couple scenes, I’ll go in two or three times a week, and I’m out of there. That is the exact opposite of what’s happening here. At first, I was scrambling a little bit because I wanted to be able to be overly prepared as I am in my other jobs and that’s an ass-kicker. You have to buckle down. But I found that I kind of thrive on it and I love shooting scenes of Episode 4, but at lunch I’m studying scenes for Episode 5. I’m very good at sort of compartmentalizing all of it. It’s new and could have been really scary, but I love it.
Dr. Dani is somebody who helps others with therapy, but who is her go-to person? Who does Dr. Dani go to when she needs some help? Who is that person for her?
Callie: I think her friends definitely. She has her best friend Jeanette (the genius Amanda Detmer). But I think, in the beginning, her relationship with Marc Blucas’s character Matt, he is not quite yet that person. Because they’re sort of walking that romance of ‘will they, won’t they?’ line — do they keep everything business wise? So he’s not quite somebody yet that she can turn to when she needs help. And her mother’s totally off her rocker, so I think that’s part of what pushes the story — in who does she turn to for help? Maybe Nico might turn out to be somebody surprisingly that she can turn to. But I think that she doesn’t have someone yet. I like that where we find her, in terms of she’s newly divorced and she’s a newly single mom and the job being shifted into new gears — I like that everything at home is still kind of being figured out and that the audience is figuring it out at the same time that she is figuring that out. I think that’s what makes it extra interesting.
Do you identify with your character Dani or with Dr. Donna who’s the inspiration for it?
Callie: I think the things I mostly connect with is the idea of not giving up. It’s something that Dr. Dani and, obviously because of Dr. Donna, that it really is one of the things that she works so well with her patients in therapy. The bottom-line really is to not give up on yourself and that’s an ongoing thing that I have in my own life. You have to trust your instincts and just keep trying. If you come up against a brickwall, you’ve just got to figure out which way you want to go — up or around. It’s all about the attempt and that’s what I connect with. Not only is she trying to teach people, but it’s a daily lesson and it’s a daily exercise for me.
Can you talk about your relationship with the rest of the cast?
Callie: In terms of Marc Blucas, playing the trainer, and Scott Cohen, playing the fixer or the enforcer - we still don’t know really what his job is, which I love — the connections that Dr. Dani has with all these people: with her kids, with her mom, with her best friend and then subsequently with each guest patient that we have each week, it’s kind of like what I was saying before: even if it’s just a short scene, the writers have done such an amazing job showing what these connections are with these men that she’s working with, with her children — they’re rebellious teenagers. They’re at that period of time where they want to buck the system and with their parents are getting divorced, they’re figuring out all those kind of manipulations of life. The ‘Dad would let us’ and dealing with all that stuff. In that way, because the connections are all so strong, everything feels like an “A” story rather than there being A, B, C, D stories during the course of one episode. I guess that’s what I mean — why I feel like it’s an ensemble,. Everything feels as important as the next – each character, each interaction feels as important as the next — and that’s really what ensemble means to me.
It seems like in Dani’s house that she is pretty clueless about how her family is falling apart.
Callie: Yes. I think that is part of what I love about the pilot so much is that we thought she had a perfect normal life — a stable, lovely suburban life. The fact that everything kind of blows up in her face and she is in a way scrambling to sort of keep it together, I think you see people’s true character in that kind of environment. What happens to people when they fail or feel like they’re about to fail? What is it that they do then? I think that’s where you can sort of see someone’s true heart. Because this is all coming out of a real life story, I think it’s something that audiences can really connect with. Whether they have been in this kind of situation — whether they have been divorced or whatever it is — I think that the stories are so well told that people will kind of appreciate watching her navigate her way through. Everything is just new. That’s why it’s so much fun to play and, hopefully, why it will be so much fun to watch.
In the pilot, it sets up the beginning of this relationship with Matt, but I was really intrigued by Dani’s dynamic with Nico. Are we going to see some sort of love triangle there?
Callie: No, I think that it’s kind of a delightful accident that happened during the pilot. It was not necessarily that we weren’t meant to enjoy the relationship between Nico and Dr. Dani, but I think that after all was said and done and the show was put together it — because the relationship is so different between she and Matt – she and Nico kind of set it up for a delicious place for there to be a possible triangle. The way things have been going, there’s not anything like flirting going on between Dani and Nico, but that there is an energy between them. They find each other interesting. There’s an ongoing thing where my character is always trying to get him to smile, like cracking a joke or doing something dumb. We always play with that because it’s also very fun to watch Nico/Scott Cohen crack. I like that they’re letting us play with that a little bit because I think that, while there is the fascinating part of the Matt and Dani relationship, it takes it a little bit further than the standard formula to have the questions of Dani and Nico. Whether that that would become a romantic relationship or that he would become someone like a confidante to her –that’s what’s going to come into play.
Who would say has been your favorite client for Dani so far?
Callie: My favorite clients is always going to be TK. Because he’s the first. It’s always going to be Mehcad Brook’s character, even though in a new client patient come in. The stories have been so great and so out of the box in terms of one being with a professional poker player and another is a professional skateboarder. We also had a race car driver. There’s no end to the variety of these characters that are going to come to her for help. But I think TK’s always going to have this special spot in her heart because he will have been the first and he will always be a constant patient that the audience gets to see. They will get to see TK every week as well.
Can you talk about the guest stars on the show?
Callie: Each time the new cast comes in, I’m floored by the people that they’re getting. In terms of Matt Barr, who plays the race car driver, and Nick Bishop, who I love also from BODY OF PROOF with Dana Delany, and Amanda Detmer who plays one of my best friends. The energy on our set is sort of propelled by the fact that we’ve got people who are very experienced in all forms of acting. Even the people that may not have a theater background, they’re ready to play, they’re ready to explore in the same way that you can when you are doing theater. We’ve set up this wonderful environment on our show that, though it is a television show and it’s scripted and you have to know your line, a lot of times we’re allowed to play and improve — whether or not that makes it on screen you never know. But it definitely makes a difference and it just makes a difference in the energy, which then plays its way into the chemistry between all the actors.
You seem to be known for playing feisty characters. Do you think that your personality kind of makes you especially good for those kinds of roles?
Callie: I think so. I think that it has to be a mixture of trust, in terms of who you’re working with and who’s writing for you and who you’re acting for and who your bosses are, in terms of how much of your own personality you do bring to a role. I’ve been really blessed in that a lot of the jobs I’ve had — and most especially this one that they urge me to bring a lot of my own personality. In terms of what I was saying earlier on about the fact that NECESSARY ROUGHNESS isn’t a documentary about Dr. Donna, It is an inspiration, so they are open to me bringing my own energy. I also have a lot of my own quirks and my own strange physical behaviors, but I’m very lucky here in this environment that they do urge me to bring that along with me. So there’s times in the scripts where though I may not have been in a situation that Dr. Donna had been in and I can’t necessarily pull from it, what I can do is say to myself, ‘Do it as if I was in this particular situation — having this conversation that was going this way, and how would it make me feel?’ I can add that in. I’m very grateful for that because sometimes it makes things a little bit easier.
Patrick Johnson and Hannah Marks, who play Dani’s kids on the show, raved about working with you. How is your relationship with them?
Callie : I love them! Patrick and Hannah are two of the most extraordinary young people I’ve ever met in my life. They’re unbelievably excited to be on this show, which makes a difference in everything. They’re so happy to be where they are, but they also happen to be incredibly gifted and are way ahead of their years in terms of the wisdom. For whatever reason my scenes with them always flies by. We’re always like, ‘oh, we’re done? You got that already?’ The three of us seem to click very well and we have very much the same sense of humor. So when the three of us are together there is a little bit of a spark. Though I don’t know what it’s like to have children, there is something when I’m with them that I go into momma-mode and even when we’re between scenes and I get to sit with them and hang out which I love to – I love hanging out with them because they’re so funny — I definitely feel very motherly towards them. I’m constantly going, ‘Wait, what? What did you say? What happened? Who said that to you? Well, here’s what you should do.’ I’m always throwing advice at them that they’re not asking for, but it’s because I just adore them. When they were casting the roles of Dani’s kids, I didn’t have the opportunity to do any kind of chemistry-read with them, so I just trusted that they were going to cast a couple of great kids. But they went far beyond what they could have done by finding these two. I really think that both of them are going to have really long careers. And I’m very excited that they’re with me on this show.
To see how assuredly Callie Thorne brings Dr. Dani to life and all the amazing predicaments that she finds herself amongst – whether it is with her kids, her ex-husband, her new love life or just working with her patients, be sure to tune in for the 90-minute premiere of NECESSARY ROUGHNESS on Wednesday, June 29th at 10:00PM on USA Network.
Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to TheTVAddict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).