Holly Hunter returns tonight in her captivating role as a good but troubled cop on TNT’s ‘Saving Grace.’ Last we saw Grace Hanadarko, she’d confronted issues of past sexual abuse and her relationship is hanging by a thread, at best.
Meanwhile, her “last-chance angel,” Earl, is suggesting that Grace has a connection to death-row inmate Leon Cooley, who is about to be executed.
I caught up with Hunter recently to talk discuss her role, one and half seasons in, about whether it’s changed her view of religion or spirituality, and about Christina Ricci’s three-episode arc that also starts tonight.
Looking back after almost two years in this role, what has the transition from movies to TV been like for you?
Holly Hunter: Who Grace is continues to be is surprising to me. I think that’s one of the aspects of the character that, from the pilot on, I have not been disappointed with. When I read the pilot, I thought, how can they keep this up? It was so unpredictable. And I still think, what will Grace do next? The character has such an incredible life force. How she approaches her problems, her passions, what guides her impulses, is very, very raw and original. And in no way is it linear. This character’s going to get better and better.
This is probably the longest time you’ve ever played one character.
HH: It is. And it’s very odd, because I’ve done plays for long periods of time. But [in plays] you’re telling the same story every night. This is a whole different kind of intimacy. I feel that I know Grace, of course, really well, but it’s still a really steep learning curve. It’s a challenge to bring each episode to the screen. It’s very creative.
Has playing Grace challenged any of your own ideas about religion or spirituality?
HH: Well, certainly not religion, because, yeah, I’m just not into that. But spirituality, I’ve always felt that, for me, I gravitate more toward the idea that we all have a collective energy and that collective energy, the essence of it, is profound. There’s a profoundness to the energy that we are responsible for. Is there a heaven and a hell? No. But do our actions have consequences? Of course. They can be infinite and also can be relatively unknown. As all of us get older, we realize the ramifications of what we do. And I think the show is a discussion about that.
So would you say this show isn’t about religion?
HH: I really think it’s a larger question that I find much more compelling, personally. But a question of religion? The show embraces no religion.
What kind of reactions do you get from fans of this show?
HH: I think people really take Grace personally. I think they can’t help but take her somewhat personally. It’s a challenging show. It’s a show for adults. It examines connections, emotional connections and juvenile connections, as well. It examines adolescent connections that we all have inside of ourselves. Grace is very adolescent, but the viewership feels more mature to take in what is going on.
Are there any of Grace’s characteristics that you would like to embody more in yourself?
HH: I love her impetuousness. On a TV schedule and with our lives being as complex as they are, impetuosity can take quite a lower priority. I do think it’s awfully wonderful and it feels very fresh. It’s one of the things that makes Grace so youthful, it’s a childlike thing that I admire.
What can you tell me about Christina Ricci’s role?
HH: Oh, she was great. We wanted her to do this part, and we hoped that she would, and it was fantastic that she did. The character is a more complex than you might think. You’ll see her in three episodes, total. Will you see her beyond that? Who knows?