It’s hard to pin down Kim Raver’s most memorable role. To some, she’ll forever be Audrey Raines from 24. To others, she’s known for having played the delightful Dr. Teddy Altman on Grey’s Anatomy since 2009. And lest we forget, there were also her turns as Nico Reilly on Lipstick Jungle and Kim Zambrano on Third Watch. With these and other beloved performances, Raver has cemented her place as one of primetime television’s most prolific actors.
And this summer, she makes her directorial debut with Tempting Fate, the first in a trio of Lifetime original movies based on British author Jane Green’s best-selling novels. The film, which stars Alyssa Milano, was co-directed by Manu Boyer, Raver’s real-life husband and dad to the couple’s two sons. (Raver and Boyer also co-produced the second and third films in the series, To Have & To Hold and Family Pictures.) Tempting Fate delivers on absolutely everything you’d want from a Lifetime original: There’s a strong but flawed female lead, a passionate affair, a family tested, drama galore and… murder. Oh, wait, there is no murder. But there is loads of the other stuff.
We recently had the chance to sit down with Raver in our New York City studio to talk about directing, Grey’s Anatomy, working motherhood and which of her iconic characters she wishes she could play forever. Keep reading for the full interview, and catch Tempting Fate on Lifetime now.
SheKnows: What drew you to this particular project for your directorial debut?
Kim Raver: My partners brought the book to me and when I read it — the first Jane Green book, Tempting Fate — I just felt like it was a story about women. I loved the fact that the character wasn’t this perfect Hollywood woman, and I felt like that was really relatable. I think so often as women we have all of this sort of media of perfection, and I think we’re so much more complicated than that. And I love that [Alyssa Milano’s character] makes a really shitty decision. There’s also the fallout of it. I also thought it was really a coming of age story. I feel like we talk about the coming of age of women and girls at the age of 13 or 14, but I really think we also evolve as far as who we are or what our voice is as women as we get older. And I thought this was amazing. You know, she made a crappy decision and then she has to deal with the consequences. And it’s not this sort of happily ever after, but it’s this amazing journey of this woman taking control of her life. And, to me, that was really accessible, and I wanted to expand on those stories we see, and make a movie like that. It really reminded me of Diane Lane in Unfaithful.
SK: I love that movie. She’s not a hero, but you empathize with her.
KR: Yes! I love it too. You relate to her. And that’s what really drew me to this project. And I loved developing it. We had talked about me acting in it, but I really wanted to have the experience of directing it, and I think by being on a Shonda Rhimes show, I saw that it was a possibility.
SK: You co-directed Tempting Fate with your husband, Manu Boyer. Was this the first time you two had worked together?
SK: And what was that dynamic like? Was there a learning curve?
KR: No, not at all. Because we’ve literally been together for 20 years and have two kids, and the juggling and managing of, like, daily household schedule — kids, sports, work, life — it was a very smooth transition. I respect him so much as a director, and just in life, and I think he respects my knowledge as an actor, so we really kind of leaned on each other to our strengths, and then also to the areas that we’re developing. I think that that’s a good partnership, right? You honor the person in the areas they’re really good at, and you support them in the areas they’re getting better at. You really have to take your ego out of it and just focus on the story.
SK: Being a working mom — no matter what you do or what your life looks like — can be a challenge. Do you think work-life balance really exists? Is it something that you think women should even be trying to aspire to?
KR: I just heard someone the other day say that work-life balance is bullshit. And I think that that’s interesting. I think it’s the ‘do it all’ thing that’s bullshit. I think the balance is trying to find sanity and health within it. And also, being present. Because I don’t want to look back and feel like I missed out on my children and raising my children. But I am also a career woman. I love my career. And I think the balance is that you dip in and out of them both. And yeah, there’s probably a time or two that I’ve missed something at school, but then I’m there making homemade costumes on set so that I feel that I am a part of their lives. And then I’m sure there are also some things in my career that I didn’t get to do because I chose to be present with my kids. So, I think that pressure to have it all — that’s where the bullshit is. And the balance is figuring out, how do I stay as present and healthy and raise a healthy family within the insane schedule that we’re all juggling?
SK: As an actor, have you found that being directed by a woman is a different experience?
KR: Yeah, it’s interesting. For me this whole movement is not about bashing men, it’s just about now all of a sudden, for the first time really, women are having an opportunity to have a voice creatively, and so many female directors never got that, ever. They weren’t even allowed to direct. So, I think for me the experience is that there’s an intimacy that I enjoy as an actor having a female director that I might not necessarily have with a male director. I think women have a different view than men, so I like finally having that experience of being able to share that female gaze and experience from a female perspective of a woman directing me.
SK: You’ve played so many memorable characters, and you’ve also reprised many of those roles years later, which makes them feel especially iconic. If you could only play one of those characters for the rest of your life, who would it be?
KR: Oh, that’s really interesting. Nico [from Lipstick Jungle] I loved because of her whole fashion, and I loved that she was really an empowered woman. You know, she was with a younger guy, and her husband left her. Audrey on 24, I also love her. She was super smart and badass. And I loved working with Kiefer [Sutherland], and I loved our characters’ relationship. But I have to say I think it would be Teddy [from Grey’s Anatomy], because I love the combination. I love that I get to do comedy and humor and yet she also has this sort of gravitas and intensity. And she’s such a giver. I also like that she’s learning to maybe stand up for herself a little bit. She’s always taking care of everyone else and I feel like that moment in Germany where she kicked Owen out was also a defining moment for her. I feel like she’s kind of on the upswing of finding out who she is. I just like the combination of being able to have comedy and drama at the same time, so I would say Teddy.
SK: What are some shows that you’re watching on TV right now?
KR: Dead To Me. I think the performances are fantastic. And Killing Eve, and I love it because the writer and creator [Phoebe Waller-Bridge] also has her own show, which she’s starring in! Is that even possible? I just think that’s incredible. And Big Little Lies — with Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, who found the book and then made it. That’s also for me this incredible example of, ‘see one do one, see one be one,’ as Geena Davis says.
SK: It does seem like more women are beginning to write, produce and develop their own projects, though we’re far from gender parity in directing.
KR: The numbers are still really scary. Lifetime has hired amazing numbers of female directors in the last year — 78 percent. And out in the world, it’s only 17 percent. So, Lifetime is doing it right, and the rest of the industry has to catch up.
Tempting Fate, To Have & To Hold and Family Pictures are all streaming now on Lifetime.