It is a common assumption that “The Closer” and its success is what lured Academy Award-winner Holly Hunter to television. She tells SheKnows, the pull actually came from across the spectrum of TV’s new Golden Age.
Holly Hunter tells SheKnows that the programs that inspired her to tackle the small screen actually arrived prior to Kyra donning her famous black bag.
“What preceded that was the success of ‘The Shield,’ ‘Rescue Me’ and ‘The Sopranos.’ I think really started the Wild West in cable. FX and HBO kind of started this new idea which was real
character drama. Real drama that is 100 percent fueled by character, and character who does anti-heroic things. Not just a character who’s quirky, a character who straddles two worlds, one
world being highly charged with questionable thoughts and behavior like Dennis Leary and Tony Soprano. Those characters are more similar to how Grace lives. Grace is a woman and I think
that’s where cable has really taken off. It’s given women opportunities to play highly controversial characters. Women who are doing things that maybe they wouldn’t have been able
to do 10 years ago on television like ‘Weeds’ on Showtime or Glenn Close on “Damages’ or Minnie Driver on ‘The Riches,’ women living lives of deep grayness.”
You’ve got a friend
When it came to morphing from film to television actress, she turned to a friend who has also straddled both worlds. “I called Dylan McDermott who’d done ‘The Practice.’ I called Dylan
because he’s a buddy, but because I so respect him and also because he had done a David E. Kelley show,” Hunter said. “Those are work.”
“I was asking him what I’ve never asked an actor before: ‘How do you memorize all those lines?'” Suddenly that was a pertinent question for the first time in my career. What
gives? How do you do this every week? This has never been a concern of mine.”
McDermott told her that it a dramatic television series is a scary ride, but one she will survive and triumph. “You’re memory is going to become a well-used muscle very early on.
It’s not going to fail you like you’re afraid of. You know, he was right. He was right. It has fear inside you all the time. You only have two days to memorize a script and then
shooting is dicey.”
Hunter memorizes 25 pages a day and that keeps her on pace to secure the entire season’s dialogue and allow the necessary time all actors require for inflection and character building.
The lexicon of locale
Over the years, a presence that has been hard to miss in many of Hunter’s films is location. The manner in which the locale plays a character is a constant. Can you imagine “Raising
Arizona,” which introduced her to the world, without the title state? What about “The Piano” without the beach?
On “Saving Grace” the Oklahoma City bombing plays heavily, and thus too, does its Midwest locale.
“Location can be very important. But with television, you are shooting a vast amount in Los Angeles. We’re no exception. We try to make L.A. as Oklahoma-like, but the fact is
we’re in L.A. It’s a gigantic fantasy of ours to be able to shoot in Okalahoma City, it would change everything. At the same time, the brilliance of Los Angeles is the breadth of the
talent here. The talent pool in L.A. doesn’t stop, from set decorators to extras to day players. Everybody in Los Angeles knows how it goes. This is the privilege of being here is this is
what this town is built around and that is a pleasure.”
The differences in television versus film were immediate. For one, those millions of lines!
“It’s really difficult. It’s really a high. You feel the wind blowing in your hair when you do a series in the best of times. That’s how it feels,” Hunter said. “Other times,
it’s just trying to catch up. The work is really fulfilling. It’s great for me as an actress to get to adapt. You’re demanded to be very flexible and adaptable and very much a
problem solver on a set like this. I used the skills I’ve developed over these years doing feature films and kind of accelerated them to the make this series.”
Holly Hunter is at the point in her career where she could easily rest on her Oscar winning laurels and wait for the next, great project to come along. But Hunter’s work ethic mirrors a worker
bee. She has not let up. Hunter will always be turning in great performances. It is all part of the immense challenge that great actors are driven by: always chasing the
elusive perfect perfect performance.
Currently for Hunter, the challenge of finding Grace is a driving artistic force that keeps the actress sharp.
“I would love to be as alive as she is, that’s a difficult thing to do. Right now, I’m not as alive as Grace,” she said and laughed. “How Grace doesn’t think of
herself. She so often doesn’t. And her instincts for solving problems are different than other people’s instincts. I think there’s something incredibly generous and pure about her
intent. Her intentions are beautiful.”