‘Brave’ Anne Heche bids ‘abusive’ past goodbye
Talking to Anne Heche is sometimes more fascinating than the characters she consistently limns with impressive proficiency. This, we found out during our chat with the 48-year-old actress in a recent phoner to discuss “The Brave,” the globetrotting dramatic thriller she topbills with Mike Vogel.
The 13-episode series, which launches its first season on Cinemax tomorrow at 9 p.m., owes its unique narrative hook to a compelling story that shines the light on the complex world of a topnotch United States military team that executes undercover missions, using its sophisticated surveillance technology, aimed at saving the lives of innocent people in the world’s most dangerous places.
Led by tough-as-nails deputy director Patricia Campbell (Heche) and field commander Michael Dalton (Vogel), the team gets its orders from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
The series is the first TV show to benefit from its collaboration with the DIA itself, and works closely with the agency’s technical consultants, including a former CIA agent and an ex-Navy Seal.
Yes, the elite group the show depicts isn’t a work of fiction. “These undercover stories have never been disclosed until now,” Anne said. “We have teams all over the world in about 135 countries, with operatives who believe in the mantra, ‘Work without any glory or publicity.’
“To earn the right to play Patricia, my commitment is to find in my being what it means to be as knowledgeable as she does. If (former US Secretaries of State) Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice and other influential women like them can do it, then we’re moving into a gender-free dynamic of how women should be hired—it’s not about whether you’re male or female, but how good you are at what you do.
“So, I consumed as much information as I could and tried to make myself smarter (laughs)— that’s how I prepared for the role! I imagined Patricia’s ability not to cry over the sorrow of how badly we treat each other and just utilize the sensitive information she knows as a component of her compassion, not just her wisdom, to arrive at life-and-death decisions.”
But, bliss hasn’t always been on Anne’s side, especially early on in her eventful life and career: Her three-year romance with Ellen DeGeneres, for instance, was tabloid-fodder until they decided to call it quits in August 2000—which, the former stressed, was her only same-sex relationship.
The actress became just as newsworthy a few years later when she engaged her ex-husband, cameraman Coleman “Coley” Laffoon—whom she met on Ellen’s standup comedy tour in 2000—in a tumultuous child-custody battle. Moreover, she reportedly left Coley for her “Men in Trees” costar, current hubby James Tupper, with whom she also has a son.
Anne’s troubled past also hounded the actress. In 2001, she divulged this “skeleton in her closet” by way of the controversial memoir, “Call Me Crazy,” in which she wrote about her estranged mother Nancy’s refusal to acknowledge the sexual abuse she had suffered at the hands of her father.
The actress claimed that when she contracted genital herpes as an infant, Nancy insisted that it was nothing but a benign case of diaper rash and refused to let a doctor examine her! Fact is stranger than fiction, indeed.
Thankfully, Anne is in a much better place these days. It’s a fortuitous turn of events capped off by a moving and emotional realization that she later talks about in the course of this interview.
Excerpts from our Q&A with Anne:
Do you have to like your characters to portray them well? That’s a complicated question. I like all of my characters, yes—because I don’t judge people. So, to find my character, I need to find her truth. I don’t think anybody goes around thinking they’re doing something wrong.
Given that context, I just played (serial killer) Jeffrey Dahmer’s abusive mother Joyce (in Marc Meyers’ “My Friend Dahmer”), who is responsible for what the devastation and wreckage that not paying attention to her son resulted in. But, I had to learn how to “like” her to understand that the demise of that family was her responsibility.
Joyce was one of the most hateful human beings who ever existed. That character destroyed me in the week that I played her, because I had to get into this human being who treated people so badly and was so unconscious of it that she thought she was right.
On the other hand, Patricia is a lot more fun! She comes from a place I like. She loves people and surrounds herself with others who have the same belief system. She finds the light through the darkness.
Why should viewers watch “The Brave”? We’re not doing a documentary; it’s a show about people who are doing something about issues that need to be addressed—and that’s one of the reasons why the show is going to be a hit.
How has your acting changed from the time you began pursuing it? Dramatically. In fact, I just had an incredible transition in my life. I didn’t know that I was looking for it, but it must have been pouring out of me—because when I recently watched “Aftermath,” the 13-episode TV series that I did with my husband, something happened.
In the series, I play a mother, a military pilot, who without any hesitation would do anything for her children. It’s a life-and-death role in a story set in the aftermath of the “end of the world.”
After we wrapped up shooting, my husband took me to Hawaii for the premiere of our show. In our hotel room before the premiere, I stood by his side with my white gown and sparkly shoes on and paced around as he was watching our show in bed.
Then, I wept, turned around (she begins to cry) and said, “I no longer have to portray characters born of my past… I have nothing more to resolve.”
The only thing I’ve ever wanted to do was represent a mother every child deserves— and I didn’t know until I saw my character for the first time onscreen that I had done what I set out to accomplish when I started acting—which is to become the mother I never had!
You’ve once been quoted as saying that you were insane for the first 31 years of your life. Do you think you would have become the effective actress you’ve always been without that colorful backstory? The thing about insanity is that I never thought anybody would take me seriously when I called my book, “Call Me Crazy.” I had a point of view on my life—and it took me 31 years to figure it out. That’s what was insane.
I had to find clarity with who I was, and get rid of the many layers of abuse in my life. If I hadn’t been born into that situation, would I be offered the same roles? I don’t know. Would I be the actress I am now? Absolutely not.
To have been brought into a very chaotic and abusive world, then overcome it is part of the reason why I can represent a human being like Patricia, who will fight to the death for the truth.
If we’re lucky enough to find the freedom to express our pain, then we’ll eventually find out who we are and what we’re born to do—and I’m here to do just that.
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