ANNABETH GISH DISHES ON "BROTHERHOOD" (November 2007)
There are a handful of actresses who just seem to get better and better as time goes along.
They are not – nor have they ever been – one-hit wonders. They didn’t get to where they are via four trips through rehab. They are smart. The consummate professional. Classy. Articulate. Know their craft.
And they really are just genuinely gosh darn nice.
Annabeth Gish is one of these actresses.
Known (and loved) by so many as the adorable Kat from Mystic Pizza (yes, back when she top lined the then unknown Julia Roberts), in recent years she’s brought us Special Agent Monica Reyes (The X-Files) and Elizabeth Westin (The West Wing). This all is in addition to turns on the big screen opposite the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Joan Allen, Kevin Costner, Ashley Judd, Tommy Lee Jones, and of course Jon Voight (when she was only 15-years-old). Her illustrious career is now well into its third decade, and she currently stars as the troubled Eileen Caffee on Showtime’s critically acclaimed original series Brotherhood.
BHood (as I like to call it) is an honorable mention fave here at PTR, and particularly, Annabeth’s portrayal of the amazingly complex, dark, seriously conflicted and let-it-all-hang-out-there Eileen. Although Eileen is showing somewhat of a quieter, more restrained side during this second season, the actress who portrays her remains as stellar as ever.
Annabeth recently took time out of her very busy schedule to talk with PTR about all-things Eileen:
PTR: When we first got introduced to Eileen Caffee in Season 1, she was the good political wife and mother with a seriously dark side. By the end, she had to fess up to her adulterous and drug/alcohol-induced addictions, and that has carried over into Season 2 as she deals with the aftermath/fallout of those indiscretions within her family. How much do you think Eileen has changed between the first and second seasons – is she stronger, weaker, perhaps a combination of both?
Annabeth: Well, good question. There was so much that was left unsaid on the air, including Eileen's confession and call to reform the relationship of marriage between herself and [her husband] Tommy, that I just had to assume/hope the audience would track it in good faith without the payoff of seeing it characterized. While I am not a fan of useless exposition from a writing standpoint, it was a continuous discussion between the writers and myself. I wanted more overt vocalization of Eileen's plight – especially since we as women tend to over-speak anyway when we talk through our problems! Alas, [executive producers] Blake [Masters] and Henry [Bromell], excellent writers and bosses that they are, over-rode my opinion. And it works I guess, when going for the expression of Eileen's silent turmoil. From my perspective as an actress, I had to somehow relate the internal struggle of a valiant attempt at strength, and honesty, even while being completely shamed (weakened) in the public arena of her marriage via Tommy's affair and at home with his not so discreet but silent punishment in front of [our young] girls and the Caffee family. Tommy [has been] hell bent on making Eileen pay this season!!! But I do think it was very courageous of Eileen to come forward and tell the truth about her sins.
PTR: When you first took on the role of Eileen, it was one of the darker and more edgier roles of your career (Kat in Mystic Pizza this was not). How challenging and/or exhilarating was that for you, and what has it been like getting back into this kind of character for a second go around with the series?
Annabeth: Playing Eileen has been such a creative gift for me - the first season was entirely liberating, sexy, free and wild. The second season [has been] reigned in, more restrained, but riding on top of all of the previous deviance. There has never been any one note melody to Eileen - thank God. I have loved playing her because she is complicated, real, flawed, imperfect, needy, desperate and stuck. Amazing that all of those things should be such a pleasure, but it's certainly been my experience with Brotherhood. I hope we have another season because I'm excited to meet up with her infallible self again!
PTR: If you could pick three of Eileen’s best qualities, what would they be? And her worst?
Annabeth: Best qualities are her loyalty (mishandled as it may be), her love for her children (again, flawed and misguided at times), and her willingness/desire to expand outside of her small, contained self. I think her worst qualities are the reversals of these three best ... the dark side of the light. In most of us, every quality - if it is fiercely felt but cannot always be responsibly directed - can backfire. This is what has happened to Eileen, why she is where she is in her life, her marriage. Stuck because of her own passions and yearnings have no outlet. Her loyalty has imprisoned her.
PTR: What has been the best part of being on Brotherhood for you?
Annabeth: Well, obviously the creative challenges, the depth of emotion and struggle that must be accessed in playing Eileen. And the liberation that has come with playing her. I don't know if it's a function of just where I am at personally in my life, or where I am with my craft, or the character of Eileen, it's all been quite rewarding artistically and that [has been] the best part. But from a professional standpoint, it is so nice to be part of a show that is critically well received, rave reviews and building a kind of underground energy of its own. People who love the show, love it and recognition of that sort is the best [kind to] receive because it is sincere.
PTR: In the last couple of years, as reality television as inundated network television, we’ve continued to see a lot of strong, female lead roles find their way onto shows that are exclusive to cable. How do you feel about that? Do you think cable is the place to be these days – both from a creative standpoint and as an actor?
Annabeth: Yes, in general, cable television has served as a wonderful pool of strong female voices, characters, reflections. Network television has its limitations, which can sometimes tie the wings of really deep and authentic representations of women. However, I will say, there are often instances when cable tv misuses the breadth of their freedoms in ways that seem exploitative to me. The ratio of female nudity to male nudity is the obvious example.
PTR: The show is set in Providence, Rhode Island, and you film the show entirely on location in Providence. From what I understand, the community is extremely supportive of the cast, crew and show on the whole (very similar to the way the city of Philadelphia has a special kinship with Cold Case). What has that experience been like for you – knowing the community in which you’re working is such an essential aspect to the show, almost like another character?
Annabeth: Providence itself is a character in the show. It's colors, rhythms, idiosyncrasies infuse the entire production. I have loved living there while working on the show. I have made lasting friendships with many people who live in RI, and it is the warmth with which we have been welcomed and invited into the very flavorful and diverse community that has been so special.
PTR: Given the seriousness of the show, is the set equally as serious and focused, or is there room for lighter moments?
Annabeth: Of course there are jovial moments. All of the actors are genuinely a fabulous bunch. But it is a serious show, full of emotional and physical violence, which is not always so pretty. So I would say there is a certain intensity built into this cast/crew that separates it from other shows I have worked on. Of course I welcome it because I can be rather intense myself, although if there is someone who is busting up in a giggle fit at the end of a long day, it is usually me!
PTR: You became a first-time mom this past year. Now being a mom yourself, did that have any affect on how you portrayed the mother in Eileen for this second season ? Did being a real-time mom change your approach, offer new insight?
Annabeth: Without a doubt! Yes, being a mother in real life completely informs playing a role of mother. I never knew how much until I became one, and the nuances are there, hopefully this season. Nuances I just never even knew existed, couldn't know until I experienced motherhood firsthand. It's a very specific thing when your arms and hands have curved and bent to hold your child time and again - the heart expanding love weaves itself into every fiber of bone and breath, and it softens so many edges. To me, motherhood has been a crucible of experience, and I think I will now carry it as a defining tool forever. From the perspective of Eileen, it made me understand more carefully her love and willingness to endure with Tommy, despite all of their turmoil. Kids somehow forge an incredible bond.
PTR: If you could pick one thing that you think stands out – either for your character or the show on the whole – for this second season, what would that be?
Annabeth: Hmmm. It's much more male-centric this season. More men, more violence. I'm no prude, I understand violence, but I think it can be detrimental to a show about family when the female voice is diminished .... But that's just me and my womanly opinion.
PTR: What’s up next for you ? Any chance you’ll appear in the now-confirmed second X-Files film that will be released next year?
Annabeth: No, I am officially not going to be in the X-Files movie. I didn't expect to be, although I can't pretend I wasn't hoping for even just a cameo appearance with Robert [Patrick] so [the characters of] Doggett and Reyes could live again, but alas... I have always understood it was a Mulder/Scully show at all times. We hitch-hiked and got a great ride for two years, I met my husband [whilst on the show], and it was [just] a fantastic time in my life. So I am grateful for all that it was, but knew we would not likely be asked to carry anything forward. I will be excited to see the film as a fan of the mythology.
PTR would like to extend special thanks to Annabeth for taking time out to chat with us. We secretly hope she might pop up on one of our other PTR faves (you know, like Cold Case or The Closer) in between BHood seasons. You can catch up with Annabeth anytime at her Official Fan Site and Blog. New episodes of Brotherhood air Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime.