by Emma Loggins
In Plain Sight follows the story of a Federal Marshall with the Witness Protection program who must hide her high-risk, high-impact job from her family. To those that know her, Mary Shannon is a glorified meter maid, but her real job is much more dangerous. She must oversee federal witnesses who have been relocated through the Witness Protection program and make sure that they stay safe.
We had the honor of sitting down with one of the stars from the series, Lesley Ann Warren. Here’s what he had to say:
Did you find anything in particularly challenging about your role?
L. Warren: It’s interesting because I don’t know how much of it you see in advance or whatever, but if you’re just seeing the first two episodes, she is so much more complex a character than is apparent initially, and I knew that going in because I had talked with the creator, David Maples. But what you will get to see is, what is revealed along the way, is her broken dreams and her sort of heartbreak and what motivates her to behave in the ways that she does initially, which seems like she’s just this great party animal. But she adores her daughters, but has no clue as to how to raise them and gave up her own dreams in order to try to do this mothering.
How much of that history with your character did you know going into the role and how much did you have to fill in a little bit to hone your performance?
L. Warren: I did know a sort of general trajectory of the character because I had talked about it with David, but it was pretty general at the time that we discussed it because he hadn’t written the scripts yet. But I had a sort of sense of where she was going and then with each new script I work with a coach, I always do, and we would fill out some of the pieces of her history that maybe weren’t apparent in each episode so that I could come into it with a knowledge of her background. And so some of it is fabricated by me and some of it is supplied by David. The interesting thing about doing a series for me, which I’ve never done really, is that each episode reveals some other facet of your character to you, which is kind of exciting.
How is the character of Jinx different than other characters you’ve played and is that something that drew you to the character or how did that come to be?
L. Warren: It is something that drew me to the character because when I first read the pilot, my character had a really small role in it, but I loved the writing of the show. I thought the show was really smart and sophisticated and edgy and very sort of cool and a unique tone for television, or anywhere actually.
And so I went in and met with David Maples, the creator, and it was his revealing to me where this character goes and the journey that she takes and the sort of heartbreak that’s at her core and that’s what really drew me to her. So, I don’t feel like, in fact, I have ever played a character like her before and as an actress, that’s what is ultimately the most challenging to me.
What has been your favorite scene to film so far on In Plain Sight?
L. Warren: That’s interesting. I mean I think it was the scene where I get to audition for Sweet Charity, which is a community theatre production of Sweet Charity that’s being done in the area. So I got to sing, which is something I love to do, and then my daughter, Mary, walks in on me and I don’t even know that she knows that I’ve gone to audition, and I feel humiliated and disgraced, and all the pain of the past comes bubbling up inside of Jinx and she lets it all out. And I think it was very revealing and very difficult, but very revealing and sort of heartbreaking thing to shot, and that, in combination with the singing, I think, was my favorite moment.
Can you talk a little bit about the cast dynamic. Everyone has such great chemistry on screen, and I was wondering if off screen if this is a cast that hangs out or likes to play jokes on each other?
L. Warren: It’s so rare that you walk into a cast of people that you all get along. It’s really rare, trust me, and in this case, we all totally got along. It was crazy, I mean Mary and I it was love at first sight. We went to the table read before the pilot and I had never met her and she looked at me and said, “You can’t play my mother, you look young enough to play my sister.” And I was like okay you’re in. We totally get along. There’s like a deep respect for each other’s work and camaraderie, and I would say that unfortunately when you’re shooting a new show, there isn’t very much time for jokes and pranks off camera, but it’s definitely a company that loves to work together and collaborate.
Your character, Jinx, on In Plain Sight definitely has a very distinctive personality. What do you like most about her and what do you like least about her?
L. Warren: Well, I guess what I like most about her is her child-like sort of sense of wonder and enthusiasm and adventure. My own mom has that and she’s 91, and she still has that, and I think that’s something to be admired. What I think I like least about her is her inability sometimes to see the difference between what is real and what isn’t, and how that’s led her into some really painful and difficult situations.
Where do you draw from for your portrayal of Jinx?
L. Warren: You know, always I draw from myself in certain ways. I look for the identifying feelings and then I look to my own life to help me to create those, but then I also create from my imagination or from people I’ve observed, a character’s qualities and bring them all together to help recreate a new and unique character.
What’s been the hardest thing about working on the show so far?
L. Warren: I guess going back and forth to Albuquerque. I opted to not relocate to Albuquerque because I have a family and animal and mother and son and husband and I didn’t want to relocate. It was hard jumping on a plane almost every week. That was the most difficult part of it and I guess sometimes when you don’t relocate, you don’t really make temporary roots so every time I went there, I had to reacquaint myself with where to go to eat and what and I felt a little lonely sometimes, but that was the only difficult part of it. The rest of it was an absolute wonderful experience and I actually like Albuquerque. I found great places to go and they have a collage town there so that they have some really great restaurants and movies and whole food type places. So it was great.
You have great comic timing. Is it something that comes natural to you or have you always worked to hone it?
L. Warren: Thank you, first of all. I don’t think, and this is just my opinion, but I don’t think you can learn comic timing. I think you are either blessed with the sense of what’s funny or not. I think you can learn how to do gags and pratfalls and that whole thing, but I honestly think it’s like having musical ability, you either have it or you don’t. I just feel like I’ve been just lucky to have been blessed with that, but I also think that a part of it has to do with a certain kind of willingness to jump off into the void.
You have to be willing to take what you think is funny and go with it and hope that other people are going to think it’s funny, too. And then the other part of it is that I really try to invest my characters with the truth, even when they’re comic characters. I really try to invest them with what is truthful to them in the situation and the combination can work well.
Of all the male energy that’s in the show, who are you routing for to capture Mary’s heart?
L. Warren: That’s an interesting question because both Frederick Weller and Cristian de la Fuente have different qualities that would be and are really good for Mary, as a woman and a person. None of us know where this is going to go, by the way. None of us have the answer to this question, so I would have to say that as her mother, I want her to be happy and fulfilled. Who that person may or may not be is up for grabs at this point. I think each man in the show brings her different gifts.
Why do you think people should take their time to tune in and watch In Plain Sight?
L. Warren: Honestly, for the same reason that I chose to do it; I think it’s a really smart, very funny, very unique tone for television in general. I think the writing is sophisticated, clever, heartwarming, moving and as the show goes on, these characters become more and more complex and richer in their relationships to themselves and to each other. And there’s a new reverence about it that makes it kind of very modern, very edgy, very sort of cool and I think that all of those reasons are what are going to grab people and keep them, hopefully, engaged.
Can you kind of compare for us what you like or dislike about the differences between working in theater or movies or television, since you’ve done all three?
L. Warren: Yes. I think that, generally speaking, working in movies it is the director’s vision. You answer to the director and it was very surprising to me and really different that in television, it’s really the creator and the producer that really are the responsible voice in the show’s tone and style and direction. And so I was so used to going to the director as being the person at the helm and that’s not true in television, it’s really not true.
So that was an adjustment. And, of course, in theatre it’s an extremely collaborative medium, and the actors really ultimately are the ones that have the final voice because they’re on stage and nobody can stop them doing what they’re doing. So I like them all for different reasons. I do love working intensely with directors that I trust and respect, which is no easy case, but in this case, it’s David Maples who has that position in a way. So that was equally interesting and challenging.
What got you started in acting?
L. Warren: Well, I was going to be a ballet dancer. And I was born in New York, Manhattan, and I was studying ballet from the time I was six to about 14 and then when I was 14, I saw a Broadway production of Bye Bye Birdie and I saw all these kids my age on stage doing this singing and dancing and acting and I became enthralled. And I decided that that was what I wanted to do and I started studying acting and I started studying singing at 16 and then I started seriously auditioning. I did my first audition when I was 14, but I started auditioning when I was in my last year of high school I was 16 and I got my first Broadway show. The ingÃ©nue lead in 110 in the Shade on Broadway when I was 17. So that’s really how I began.
How do you stay in such incredible shape? You’re ageless and you bring so much vitality in your character to the show. We want to know what your secrets are?
L. Warren: Thank you, first of all. The last 25 years of my life I have been living a really, I would say holistic lifestyle. I got very sick in my 20’s and early 30’s because I was a ballet dancer when I was young and I was starving myself and all this stuff. And I had a lot of health problems when I was in my 20’s and I came upon this doctor, this naturopathic doctor, in my early 30’s and I just knew inherently that that was for me, and so I’ve been doing Chinese medicine, homeopathics, acupuncture weekly for a long, long time.
Plus I exercise a lot because of having been a dancer and I don’t drink coffee. I stopped drinking coffee in my early 30’s. I don’t drink drink. I have like a half a martini once every three months or something. It’s like I live a pretty healthy life and I do believe that it’s mind body spirit connection and so I think that that really contributes greatly to my energy, my sense of well-being and my physical well-being.
What is ahead for you in the future either on In Plain Sight or just in terms of your career?
L. Warren: Well, I just finished a movie for Hallmark, which will be on in January, and I’m very proud of it. It’s a very, very different kind of piece. It’s about a woman who is dying of cancer and who comes home to spend time with her best friend and the daughter that she never raised. And so it’s very serious, very emotional and very beautiful. It’s about female friendship and so that’s coming up, I know, and we’re hoping that we get a second season and a third and a forth and fifth.