We had the honor of sitting down with fellow Georgia girl Holly Hunter to talk about Saving Grace, her character, and what she loves most about Atlanta. Here’s what she had to say:
So Holly, I’m a fellow Georgia girl myself.
Yeah, I’m from Jonesboro, so I’m pretty close to Conyers.
Yeah [laughs] you are!
So I wanted to ask you do you ever get back to Conyers or Atlanta? And are there any places you try to stop by when you’re in town?
Wow. The Fox Theater and the Pleasant Peasant right next to the Fox, I always love to go there. I’ve been dying to do a tour of the Fox. It’s one of the greatest theaters of the world I think. I didn’t get to do it last time though. I went to aquarium instead which was outrageous. I also love to go to Krispy Kreme Donuts in Downtown. I just remember going to it as a tiny child. It’s a place I always feel like I have to go back to when I go home, which is about twice a year.
Do you feel like your character has changed at all since Earl has entered the picture? Do you feel like his presence is effectively “saving” Grace?
I think Earl wants to give Grace peace. I think he wishes that she wouldn’t struggle with a lot of the things that she does. In this season, Earl finds out a lot about her. He’s a close observer, and they get to know each other better as human being and entity [laughs] or whatever Earl is. He says he’s an angel. Okay [laughs]. But I think they get to have more understanding about who they are. As this season progresses, there are many things that he grows to admire about her.
Will we see any changes in Grace between last season and this season?
I think she changes all the time, actually. I think there’s give and take inside her. There’s always movement. She’s very kinetic. And I think she’s also kinetic in a psychological way. I think that the way she handles her nephew, for example, that’s something that changes very suddenly with what she’s honest with him about and what she withholds from him. I think there is some distance that Grace covers in becoming coming closer with her family.
What’s your favorite thing about playing this character?
The most thrilling thing about her is how alive she is, so many people are truly asleep for long periods in their days and their lives. I think Grace spends an extraordinary amount of her time really awake, awake to possibilities, awake to a real, true curiosity about why people do what they do. She also is a real tester of what people are capable of and what she herself is capable of. She wants to understand why people do what they do.
How much of a back-story were you given for Grace, and how much of her did you create as you went along?
Well the pilot came to me fully written. We didn’t change a word of it with the offer. Nancy Miller, who was the creator of the show and also the executive producer, she provided me with a lot of the back-story. She was my main source of information and inspiration. Nancy is the main fuel for the show. She’s such a gifted writer.
Now that you have a season under your belt, has this character taught you anything that you feel like you’ve taken with you?
I’d love to be as alive as she is. That’s a difficult thing to do. Right now, I’m definitely not as alive as Grace. I’m always dragging [laughs]. Grace so often doesn’t think of herself. She is so often thinking of ‘How can I make this better for this person?’ in the way that she is capable of. The way she solves problems are different from the way that other people solve problems. But I think there is something incredibly generous and incredibly pure about her intentions.
What made you decide to take on a television show yourself? Did it have anything to do with the success of The Closer?
What preceded that was the success of The Shield and Rescue Me and The Sopranos… really started the wild, wild west in cable. FX and HBO kind of started this new idea, which was real character drama. A character who does anti-heroic things, not just a character who’s quirky, but a character who straddles two worlds. One world being highly charged with questionable thoughts and behavior, such as Denis Leary and Tony Soprano and Vic Mackey. Those characters live in a more similar vein to how Grace lives, except that Grace is a woman. That’s where cable is really kind of taking off. It’s given women opportunities to play highly controversial characters. There are women who are doing things that maybe they wouldn’t have been able to do on television 10 years ago, like Weeds on Showtime, Glenn Close in Damages or Minnie Driver in The Riches. Women who were living lives of real, deep grayness.
Did you talk to any friends that had made the transition into TV before signing on to play Grace?
I called Dylan McDermott, since he’d done The Practice. I called Dylan because he’s a buddy, I so respect him and also because he’d done a David E. Kelley series, which is so particular. I was asking him something I’d never asked an actor before, which was: How do you memorize all those lines? That was a very pertinent question for the first time in my career. With David E. Kelley, the actors, they never stop talking! It’s just this incredibly sophisticated, fast pace dialogue. I just asked him, ‘What gives? How do you do this every week?’… That has never been a concern of mine, I memorize the entire script before I start shooting a feature. It’s no big deal. Dylan said, ‘It’s going to be a scary ride when you first get on. You’ll be able to do it, and your memory is going to become a very well-used muscle early on. It won’t fail you the way you’re afraid of’.
He was right. There’s always fear there though, the idea of memorizing a script for two days, having only two days to memorize it, and then just shooting it… it’s dicey. That’s the technique that I’ve used though, I take two days, and I memorize half the script one day and then the other half the next day. I just cram 25 pages a day for two days, and then I just go.
What about the difference in the workload that you’ve experienced between television and motion pictures? Now that you have done a year of the series, are you easing into a bit more, or is it just as hard?
I think it’s really difficult, and it’s really a high. You feel the wind blowing in your hair when you do a series, in the best of times. Other times it’s just trying to catch up. But I’ll tell you, this work is really fulfilling, and it’s great for me as an actress to get to adapt and be flexible. You’re demanded to be very flexible, very adaptable and be very much a problem solver on a set like this. I kind of used the skills that I’ve developed over these years doing feature films and just kind of accelerated them to make this series. Like I said, it’s both exhilarating and somewhat frustrating.
Interview By: Emma Loggins