Interview with Marcia Gay Harden

Marcia Gay Harden is an Academy Award winner from her amazing performance in “Pollock” with Ed Harris. She also stole the show with her performance in Clint Eastwood’s “Mystic River”. She is currently co-starring in TNT’s Saturday Mystery Night’s movie called “Scott Turow’s Innocent” airing on November 29th. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Marcia Gay Harden about her role as well as what she has planned next.

Mike Gencarelli: I was wondering, were you familiar or had you read any of Scott Turow’s books beforehand?
Marcia Gay Harden: I had read “Innocent” previously and another one.  I always try to read the literature first before I see the piece, so I have my own ideas. I get really excited by his writing and also by the rhythm of his writing and mystery. The more information you have…it deals like pick-up sticks where you try to carefully extract one stick without unbalancing the others. That’s what the characters seem to be doing, but the audience is involved in the ascension. So to pick up with this one in part two, it was very exciting to see where they had come because now each pick up stick is bent and twisted and full of the file they’ve lived for 20 years and another crime is committed.

MG: How do you connect with the character?  Is there something about her that you felt a familiarity to or something that really touched on you with this character?
MGH: Well, I felt that his writing. Scott Turow’s writing allowed for a great exploration into the mental illness that she suffered and the repression that she lived through and also Rusty, her husband, lived through.  He had repressed her crime from “Innocent”, part one for now 20 years and her behavior doesn’t become erratic again until she’s revisited by the same event. Once he commits another infidelity and then the lack of a distorted reality is created by his lies and cheating. She responds with the typical behaviors of her bipolar mess which was really interesting study for me that was. I found that a fascinating journey of discovery to understand what effect that has on people, on women, on people who live with betrayal. Whether it’s in a business or in a home, to expect sanity is a very tall order I think.  It doesn’t forgive it, but it’s an odd expectation to expect someone to behave in a certain way when they’re actually experiencing some of the most devastating moments of their life.

MG: There’s kind of a lot of mystery surrounding your character.  She seems kind of unpredictable.  How did you kind of prepare for the role?
MGH: I studied.  I did research.  She’s unpredictable in that she has a mental illness and there’s a lot written about borderline and bipolar and post-traumatic stress and all of those so she’s unpredictable in that way.  In fact, with her medication, she’s very predictable.  No judgment on whether the life or the marriage is what it should be, but she seems to be contained and this event throws her off balance. I think in the telling of the story, you jump back and forth in flashbacks and Mike has put the anger of the night of the death at the very beginning.  So I hope that people were able to understand that that is what she had come to, but that the other behaviors, having dinner parties, making lunches, sending her kid off on the bicycle, hovering yes, overbearing possibly, but not crazy.

MG: You said that you were familiar with the novel prior to working on the film, how do you feel that Mike Robe’s screenplay kind of works off the novel?
MGH: I feel like he did it very well given that there are certain ways of telling the story that can’t mimic the book.  You get Rusty’s perspective much more than where the book gives you the mistress’ perspective and Callard, the son’s perspective.  I thought it was super interesting that you don’t get Barbara’s perspective because if you think that Barbara killed herself, the only way you would know for sure is if you get her perspective. So in the book, I thought that’s interesting Scott Turow didn’t give you the one. She’s the only one who can tell you if she did it or not.  So I thought that was interesting and at the end of the day, I was not necessarily convinced and I didn’t need to be convinced that the story ended as both Scott and the director tell you it did because you don’t know unless she tells you that it did.

MG: Bonnie Bedelia played the same character in the movie “Presumed Innocent”, did you avoid it so as not to influence your take on it?
MGH: I had seen it years and years ago when it first came out. So I didn’t feel the need to revisit that beautiful performance, but what I did was revisit the book and revisit the character’s behavior. That way I could remind myself of 20 years ago, what were her desires, what were her needs, what was her jealousy and her rage.  What did that look like?

MG: When you get a script like this or any other script, is writing the only thing that you look for when you decide whether you’re going to accept it or not?
MGH: I think it’s as random as what clothing do I put on in the morning.  Really it is.  It’s based on what my needs are for the week, for the month, for the year, what I’m feeling like on the day.  What is the story trying to say?  What does the character say?  What does it pay?  Where does it shoot?  Can I still make the kids’ Christmas play if I do this and how can I work it out?  It is very random.

MG: What do you have planned next?
MGH: I just did a week on Body of Proof with Dana Delaney. I also just shot on a beautiful little independent film called “The Summer of Wine and Roses”, playing an acting teacher.  It was so much fun.  I believe there’s a film called “If I Were You” that’s coming out that I did and another one, there’s just a couple of films coming out, but it’s been a period of some change.  We’ve moved out to California and there’s some family needs I’m taking care of so it’s, I can’t give you laundry list of big films, but soon enough.