This time it really is personal. Or at least that was the distinct impression your very own TV Addict was left with following a one-on-one with PRIVATE PRACTICE star Caterina Scorsone who recently took the time to tease tonight’s very special episode of PRIVATE PRACTICE that has the gang from Oceanside Wellness confronting her character, Amelia Shepherd, about the drug addiction that is destroying her life. But why personal you ask? Well, as it turns out, the Canadian-born actress has a unique connection to the world of drug addiction and mental health thanks to her father who runs an organization (The Good Neighbour’s Club) that serves as a homeless shelter for retirement-aged people suffering from addiction and mental health issues. Add to that what Scorsone herself characterizes as an incredibly misunderstood disease and you have fodder for what will surely go down as one of the most emotionally-charged episodes of the series thus far. See for yourself what Scorsone had to say on the matter after the jump.
Did you have any idea after your initial guest spot on GREY’S ANATOMY that the character of Amelia, Derek Shepherd’s brother would turn into what it has?
Caterina Scorsone: I suspected when I did my first episode of GREY’S ANATOMY but let me get the chronology straight: I came on to PRIVATE PRACTICE as a recurring character for the final five episodes of season three and then it was the next season where I was told that I’d be a regular character and was going to cross back over the GREY’S ANATOMY. So that actually happened at the same time, but I didn’t know that I was going to get a chance to explore this huge juicy storyline and that’s been really exciting.
What was your reaction to learning that your character was going to get this huge storyline surrounding drug addiction akin to last season when KaDee Strickland found herself portraying a rape victim?
I didn’t know how far they were going to take this storyline and how big it was going to get. Shonda [PRIVATE PRACTICE creator Shonda Rhimes] wrote this episode of television herself in one sit down, she’s really got this incredible magic touch with scripts and I think she was passionate about the storyline and passionate about the subject matter just as she was last year with Charlotte’s sexual assault episode “Did You Hear What Happened to Charlotte King?” And I’m so grateful that I get to be apart of it because I think it’s so important and addiction is so misunderstood. As an actor it’s very exciting.
When it comes to a “Very Special Episode” like tonights, how much more time do you put in terms of preparation versus a regular episode of the show?
A lot more than usual because the whole episode breaks from the regular format of the show. Usually we have several storylines that are interconnected but independent going on at the same time so you come in, memorize your lines, do your work and go home. Where as in this episode every single cast member was in every single scene so we all clocked many more hours than usual. In terms of Amelia, she had a lot of emotional highs and lows, dialogue, it was a challenge but it was so satisfying creatively, it really felt like a workout. In terms of research I felt like it was such an important and delicate subject that hit home for so many people that I really wanted to be responsible to it so I did a ton of research, as I have been all season long. I knew from the beginning that Amelia was an addict and have always kept that in mind. An addict has a particular brain chemistry, particular proclivity, the way they function in the world. So all along I’ve tried to keep in mind that Amelia has the personality of someone who struggles with addiction for many years. I also consulted with people who are addiction counsellors and had been addicts in the past and I would go through every script and anytime I had some sort of a question about a specific manifestation, mannerism or psychological motivation I would really take the time to talk to people who had first hand experience with because it’s not something that you want to make a caricature of.
What can you tease about the second half of tonight’s two-parter?
Amelia will make a decision at the end of that first hour to go to rehab and ultimately I think that’s very important because they’re doing an intervention but ultimately only the addict can decide they’re ready to recover. The second hour isn’t like the first hour in the sense that there are more plots going on but Amelia is in rehab and we kind of go through that journey with her. And what’s nice about it is that it’s gradual. I think every act is another 10 days so we don’t speed through the rehab and suddenly, miraculously she’s fine. Recovering from addiction takes a long time and I think they were responsible in trying to write it in a way that we’re seeing that it doesn’t happen overnight.
Will Amelia’s recovery be something she will struggle with throughout the rest of the season?
It’s something that she’ll struggle with for the rest of her life. Addiction is a life long disease in the same manner in which diabetes is a disease. You constantly have to take care of yourself and she’s going to have to constantly make sure she’s in meetings and that she’s not isolating herself. She has an addictive personality and she has to be monitoring that at all times. It will be addressed for several episodes, but not having shot too much since tonight’s two-parter, i don’t even know where it’s going to go.
PRIVATE PRACTICE airs a special two-hour episode tonight at 9PM on ABC (CityTV in Canada). Catch up with past episodes you may have missed for free online at clicktowatch.tv