Interview with Melinda McGraw

Melinda McGraw played the wife of Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) in “The Dark Knight”. She is also co-starring in this Fall’s TV series “Men of a Certain Age” and has two new films coming out. Movie Mikes had a chance to talk with Melinda about her role on the new show and what is coming for the future.

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Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your new role in “Men of a Certain Age”?
Melinda McGraw: The show is about men facing and struggling through, or trying to avert, mid-life crises. Scott Bakula plays Terry, a womanizing, kind of Peter Pan grown-boy character. I am an old acquaintance, who reappears in his life, and unlike most of the women he’s been involved with, I was actually born in the same decade as he was. My character Erin is happy to be around someone so fun, and I’m not sure either of them is expecting much to develop. The whole relationship kind of takes them both by surprise.

MG: What is like working with such a great cast?
MM: Ray Romano, Andre Braugher, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Scott Bakula as well as the great recurring cast—everyone is terrific, hard working, and fun. Most of my stuff is with Scott who I love working with, who wouldn’t? I first met Scott on my first American television job, “Quantum Leap” in the 90s. I was right off the boat from years of theatre, mostly in England. I knew nothing about marks or set-ups or two-shots, ANYTHING! He basically taught me Camera Acting 101. Such a generous guy and so talented, extremely professional. So it’s so cool to be working with him, all these 19 or 20 years later. He still is teaching me stuff, he can’t help it.

MG: How did you get the role of Barbara Gordon in “The Dark Knight”?
MM: Wow, one of the weirdest auditions ever. No script or any material was sent out to me beforehand. I just arrived at the casting office and there were lots of very well known, talented actors in the waiting room, obviously all there for different roles. We all were given different sheets of paper with a few lines on them.  The casting director John Papsidera took me to the door of the room and said, “Okay, this might be the oddest audition you’ll ever have. No one will answer your questions so don’t ask. I cannot tell you anything about who you are playing. Just look at the scene, make some choices and do it.” so he took me into the room, met Christopher Nolan and read, maybe twice.  I left thinking—what the hell character was I reading for? Three months later I got a call from my agent, telling me that I was playing Barbara Gordon, Gary Oldman’s wife and I practically fell down.

MG: What was it like working one of the highest grossing films of all time?
MM: Well, it was surprising. A big hit is always a surprise. That scale of hit is kind of a once in a lifetime scale. But I’m in a supporting role. It didn’t change my life or anything. It’s not like being a lead in the Twilight movies. I happen to love the film, so it was incredibly gratifying to know so many people saw it. But when I went to go see it, I was entirely a spectator too, because most of us in the movie were not allowed to read the script, so it was riveting.

MG: You have worked a lot in TV, what has been your most challenging project?
MM: Well, there’s challenging in a good “wow, this is stretching me and I’m becoming a better actor” way, and there’s challenging in a bad “oh, just get me to the end of this job” way. In terms of the first, the more complex a character is, the more challenging. In terms of the bad way–I find the procedurals the least rewarding. I am much happier doing anything more character-driven.  Shows where there are “too many cooks in the kitchen” creatively can also be terribly challenging. The network has one vision, the producers another, the lead actors something else again. The challenge is getting past all that and still telling a story that is vital and rings true. But that’s the gig.

MG: Any other projects in the works?
MM: I shot a movie called “Skateland”, a drama with Shiloh Fernandez and Ashley Greene that premiered at Sundance 2010, and shot a movie called “Meeting Spencer”, a comedy with Jeffrey Tambor.  Though Warner Brothers and the producers of the “Batman” movies are very secretive, I should hear soon if Barbara Gordon appears in the next installment that shoots next year. Of course, I won’t be allowed to tell you…or even my mother.

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