Putting the Fun into Dysfunctional, Melinda Clarke Reflects on 5 of Her Most Memorable Characters

Having made a career out of creating characters fans love to hate, actress Melinda Clarke knows a thing or to about playing the villain. Just don’t tell her that. In fact, Clarke, whose memorable roles includes stints on THE OC, CSI, and more recently NIKITA, prefers to see her small screen alter egos as “misunderstood” in reaction to different challenges in life that may-or-may-not motivate them to be mean or a drama queen! Still not buying it? Take a look at what Clarke has to say about some of her most infamous roles for yourself, after the jump.

Lady Heather (CSI)
Melinda Clarke: On CSI it was very interesting because people always ask if I did any research to play Lady Heather and I say no because it was written by Jerry Stahl. Jerry Stahl was a TV writer who then wrote a book about himself. He was a writer on the show ALF, was a heroine addict, got sober, did Oprah and was eventually the subject of a movie, Permanent Midnight with Ben Stiller. Anyways, he was the one that wrote that very first CSI episode and anything I needed was right on the page and that’s very rare in television. It was so layered and it absolutely fit like a glove. When I got that role you get the material at 7PM at night and then you’re auditioning by 10AM the next morning and it was all there, the writing was just amazing.

Julie Cooper (THE OC)
Melinda Clarke: I think THE OC was an incredible lesson because it was a small role with a couple of lines in the pilot. With a role like Julie Cooper, I always like to do the opposite of what’s written on the page. So if she has a bitchy line, it’s done with a smile. What I realized on that show is that for the first time what I was bringing to work everyday was inspiring for the writers. In television the writers are everything and if they don’t write for you, you’re off the show. I don’t even know if my character was supposed to be around but all of a sudden they started writing for Julie Cooper and it got more and more humorous. [Creator] Josh Schwartz was just good at getting to know the actors and what would work for them.

Melinda Clarke: I was brought on as a dysfunctional mother but she had her reasons for being dysfunctional. What they didn’t end up exploring [with the character] was that she was as succubus. They decided a few episodes in — as I was killing men left and right, the ultimate black widow — [Executive Producers] Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec called me in halfway through and said they weren’t going to continue the story. Not so much that it wasn’t working out, but they just felt like to explore the storyline they would want more episodes and since it was just the first season and my character was only going to be around for a few episodes, they didn’t see how they could resolve it. Television really is about the writers and how they’re inspired to write and if they see a storyline but don’t see how they can resolve it they end it or yank it very quickly.

“Melinda Clarke” (ENTOURAGE)
Melinda Clarke: I play a fictitious version of Melinda Clarke. In that show she drives a Ferrari and I drive a Prius and I think it’s confusing to people who think I’m married to Malcolm McDowell and going through hundreds of millions of dollars after a divorce, it’s not real! But I have such a good time doing it because it felt like the complete antithesis of say NIKITA which is like a comic book with heroes and villains. On ENTOURAGE you get to be funny, raunchy, relaxed and I’m sad to see it go. I told [creator] Doug Ellin that if he ever does another show like this he has to let me do it because it’s dramedy, which is one of my favorite things to do and I credit THE OC with teaching me that.

Amanda (NIKITA)
Melinda Clarke: At the beginning of the show [Executive Producer] Craig Silverstein said I want Amanda to be mysterious an enigmatic because once I go there I have to go there so they’ve purposely kept me in the dark. It’s clear that Percy is after money and power, where as it’s not so clear with Amanda. She might be a little bit more idealistic than any of us think. Ultimately she’s one of the smartest people in the room and a master manipulator but at the same time she’s still a human being. Last season everyone kept talking about how mean she was to Alex and villainous, but I saw her more as the ultimate tiger mom. It’s so funny, they tell us nothing and Maggie loves to tease me by telling me I’ve got some cool stuff coming up, and I’m like as long as it’s not outside in the middle of a cold winters night in Toronto! It’s very much an ongoing learning experience with the character.

Melinda Clarke can currently be found on NIKITA every Friday at 8PM on the CW (CTV Two in Canada) Catch up on past episodes you may have missed for free online at clicktowatch.tv

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