We had the pleasure of speaking with Holly Hunter from Saving Grace about the ending of the show, what she has learned from playing Grace, and what she is looking forward to next.
What would you like people to remember about Saving Grace?
Holly Hunter: What they will. I mean, I think people can take away very different things from this woman. I really kind of felt like I wanted to conduct my own exploration of her and I guess the thing that I wanted to do was ask questions that were interesting. Ask questions of myself, ask questions of the audience. I didn’t really want to provide people with answers.
My next question was going to be are we ever going to get a final resolution on Earl? However if there’s no answers, how can we?
Holly Hunter: Are we ever going to get a final resolution? When I say answers, I think I mean not messages. I really was interested in the show always kind of being a question or – but never like this is a message that we want to send out to you about the meaning of anything. I really wanted to bring this portrait of a woman who’s a little deep inside herself, of a person who is slightly uncivilized who has a wildness that ultimately governs her.
And the wildness in her governs her love. And then as we’ve seen there – Grace has learned consequences of how she loves, and that’s been interesting for me to kind of explore how she loves Rhetta, how she loves Ham. But what one person wants another person may not want and then you have to deal with the consequences of that.
You and Laura San Giacomo have such a bond together because you play these life-long friends. Was it something that you guys had to spend time developing or was there an instant report, chemistry, between the two of you?
Holly Hunter: There was an instant report. I mean, that’s just real lucky. We got lucky that way because it’s true. As soon as we started shooting in the editing room we found that what could really work best with Laura with me was two shot. A shot that held both characters in the same frame because it’s like you just wanted them to be together in the same frame.
You physically wanted to see these two women being held by a single frame instead of going into close-ups and that was something that I think Laura and I just had the great good fortune of hav – we just had it.
I have to say you’ve made us fall in love with a woman, love her, hate her, want to be like her, everything. We love everything about Grace but why the decision to end it now? I mean, this is the kind of show that I could watch for ten seasons. I don’t know if you could do it for ten seasons but why the decision now?
Holly Hunter: Well, you would really – that was not a decision of mine that was a decision of other people. So, that was governed by money really and I didn’t have a lot to do with the money aspect of the show. Like nothing to do with the money aspect.
So having said that there’s a beauty to having a finite thing to Grace and I actually always felt that from the beginning. I wanted it to be a freight train that was running towards a destination that was coming quickly. We were hurdling towards this destiny through this woman Grace and I always talk about that sense of urgency and that sense that it was like runaway and we were on it.
And so when we got the news coming down the pike that Grace was being canceled there was a poetry about having an end because then the freight train could really go right towards that stopping place.
What is your fondest memory from this whole experience making Saving Grace?
Holly Hunter: You know I have so many. There have been so many moments that I’ve just adored, some filmed and some not. You know, some things that happened in between takes, some things that happened with the crew because we had a lot of the same crew like not from the very beginning but we did have some people that where there from the pilot on.
And it was – you know, when you spend this many hours a week working with the same people I mean television operates on really amazing hours and the gift of that is the trust that you feel and the intimacy that you feel with the people who you’re working with.
And so there’s so many moments that I treasure from Saving Grace that I can never line them up even under like my top ten list.
Are you finding now that at this stage in your life you’re drawn even more too strong characters like that and do you also see the similarity in your character Jane Craig (from Broadcast News) and Grace?
Holly Hunter: Well, there are similarities in Jane and Grace and I think they kind of – there’s an untamed aspect in Grace that even Jane Craig…She operated on a large landscape but I think that Jane – Grace is more evolved in a way than Jane. I mean, Jane fit into the world. She really did fit into the world and I feel that Grace is a loner who is in a position of confronting something that she doesn’t necessarily want to confront and doesn’t understand.
But I think that Grace is further along the line of being an uncivilized person than Jane Craig. But in terms of what I’m drawn towards now, I don’t know. This – Grace came…I came upon Grace, Grace came upon me unexpectedly. I was not looking for – I didn’t realize I was looking for this character but I could not say no to her. I thought she was just an absolutely irresistible person to me and wanted to play her right away.
And so, yeah, I don’t know what I’m looking for next but right now I’m looking for nothing. I’m looking for rest and to relax away from the workplace. So that’s definitely what’s next for me is just too kind of really ease out and take a real break from performing.
What did you learn from her unexpectedly as playing the character? Did you anything that you never thought you would learn?
Holly Hunter: Well, I think to actually be with Grace as she – gosh. I think – I mean, I learned so much about the process of being Grace in all the ways that I was involved. That was a very rich learning experience was how to be involved with brining Grace to audiences creatively. Not in any other way but the creative aspect through producing, being an executive producer that was very involving, very exciting and I learned tremendous amounts that I could never have learned in such a short period of time except for Grace.
But I found the character, the subversive edge of Grace was something that I had always felt drawn towards and I admire. For example, the scene where she is being – she allows herself to be beaten up in this woman’s room at a bar. She allows the shit to just get beaten out of her by this chick who’s really mad.
I thought the subversivness in that was so enticing to me, because I felt that in getting beat up Grace got liberated as well. I mean, it was like she got taken to the edge of mortality and in there she found the kind of freedom and that is truly subversive and flirty with things that most people don’t flirt with.
And that’s the definition of Grace that I most love was that she liked to go places where people only fantasize about going. You go see boxing a boxing match because there are two men in the ring putting their lives on the in literally and you pay to watch and they’re living in a place where you can flirt with living but you don’t live there and that’s what I loved about Grace.
The show tackled such provocative senses like faith and religion did being on the show influence your spiritual life?
Holly Hunter: Well, to a degree. I mean, I feel that I’m a spiritual person in that I feel like telling stories is a spiritual exercise and I think that it’s something that we need as a culture and as humans. We need for people to put stories up in front of us that we recognize as ourselves so that we can see – you need to be able to see something in a finite form in order to identify with it sometimes because your life sprawls before you in this kind of way that you can’t capture.
And so storytelling – you kind of put your nightmares up there, you put your dreams up there and people can see them better because they can stand outside of it and look at it and recognize themselves inside it. So I feel that that in and of itself is a spiritual thing.
And so I think Grace reinforced that for me because I had to answer why I was doing it often because it was very difficult. It’s been a very difficult thing to do in terms of hours and in terms of commitment, personal commitment. And I was very personally committed. So that, I think, grew in me as – so I think it reinforced me as a person with a certain kind of spirituality.
Was there anything about the character of Grace that you felt most strongly related to in playing this role now that you’re wrapping it up?
Holly Hunter: Gosh. Well, I think it would be hard to say. I mean, I bring all of myself to Grace but I bring all of myself to every character that I’ve ever played whether she was an arsonist or a Texas cheerleader murdering mom or a TV broadcast journal, news producer, or a mute Scottish bride.
So I don’t know, they all come from me or my imagination.
There is this scene I remember very vividly in the show where Grace, I believe she goes home first and puts on the uniform to go to a funeral. You made such a strong transformation when you put on that uniform even down to having the hair polished and everything, did you put a lot of effort personally into sort of prepping for that day? Or was it a natural sort of…
Holly Hunter: Well, actually, I’ve thought about that scene a lot, a whole lot, because I guess most importantly for me I wanted the music to be great under that scene. I mean, I wanted to be transported by the music and that was Anthony and the Johnsons. That was a song that I found.
Because doing Saving Grace it was another great outlet for me to choose music, so I got to choose a lot of the music for the show. Any outside composers that we brought in, outside artists, they were – not always, but they were often singers that I really responded to. And he was one of them and I thought that there was something so gorgeous about that song and so expressing the end of life that – and Grace thinks about the end of life a lot and that was what she was there to glorify, was a fellow police officer who lost his life in the line of duty.
And she wanted to bring glory to him and to her own line of work which is really a work of service that Grace feels she serves people through her job and that that is the greatest glory that a police officer can give to a community is to perform that service of offering protection.
So, I think I just wanted to bring something holy to the work that cops do. And one of the very many reasons why, or the reason why Grace Hanadarko chose to be a cop is for that singular reason.
Did you spend a lot of time with other police officers doing ride-arounds and things like that? And what kind of reaction have you gotten from actual police officers if any?
Holly Hunter: Well, I spent some time with the Oklahoma City Police Department on a number of occasions and they – from giving me moves just physically opportunistic moves, moves of offense, of defense, I took shooting lessons, went to driving lessons, road around with them and it was, of course, humbling. It’s a job that requires things that I only have in my imagination but that I don’t have.
And it inspires a good amount of awe to see what they encounter and what they confront and what they want to confront. These are people that want – they seek trouble out. They go – when everybody else is running away they’re running towards an that’s an interesting impulse for people to have and I thought that it totally embodied Grace because Grace is seeking out chaos and feels at home in it. It’s just that Grace feels that way in her personal life as well as her professional life, and I can’t say that for all cops.
Official Saving Grace Site: www.tnt.tv/series/savinggrace/