Hot off a run on Season 1 of AMC’s acclaimed ‘Mad Men,’ Siff signed on for FX’s then-new biker drama, playing mildish-mannered Dr. Tara Knowles. Flash-forward two seasons and the healer is creating patients, roughing up tattling hospital administrators who dare to threaten the career of this “old lady.”
Fancast invited Siff to share with us how she came to embrace Tara’s darker side – and reveal, surprisingly, how the doc is not much unlike herself.
You just got back from the latest Season 3 table read. How are things shaping up thus far?
They’re looking good! We’re in the middle of shooting our fifth episode and reading our sixth, and things are heating up. There’s not much I can say about the third season; they’ve sworn us to secrecy.
We can only imagine what Tara’s mindset is these days. So much went down in the Season 2 finale. Half-Sack got killed, little Abel was kidnapped by Cameron Hayes….
That’s true. A lot of this season really is taken up with the events that unfolded in the last episode of the second season.
Jax (played by Charlie Hunnam) must be on the warpath.
Yeah, well… One of the things this show really explores is how these people are warriors, they’re fighters, and they express their anger pretty immediately and fiercely. You can imagine what the aftermath of an event like that is.
Series creator Kurt Sutter told the Chicago Tribune that a chunk of this season will unspool in Ireland, home base to SAMCRO-Belfast. Might Jax or Tara wind up over there?
There are definitely storylines that are unfolding there, but there are also storylines unfolding in Charming simultaneously. Some people will end up there… and some won’t. That’s all I’m going to say! [Laughs]
That dual narrative – and exploring the oft-mentioned Belfast charter – would seem to deliver some very dense storytelling.
It’s kind of amazing. There are so many storylines and they’re so intricately plotted, and the introduction of a whole new charter…. It is very dense and layered and complicated, but in an exciting way.
How do you steel yourself to take Tara dark places? What part of yourself do you tap into?
One of the things that I enjoy about Tara is that when dark things come up for her, it tends to be swift and fierce and very scary – and that’s not far from my nature. She’s pretty controlled and she’s really educated, so she kind of tucks away these darker sides of her and they rise up when she’s provoked, scared or angry. And then they are powerful. One of the great things about working on this show is that the actors, the crew and our directors create respectful environments, especially when we have to do intense, emotional scenes. When we were shooting the scene where Johnny Lewis (Half-Sack) got killed, it was a very focused day of work. We were saying goodbye to one of our actors, and there was a child in the room. The child wasn’t in any danger of course, but the reality of that situation begins to feel very real.
What has been your hardest moment to play?
There was a long scene in the first season with Jay Karnes, who played the [ATF agent] stalking me, that was challenging, but Tara ends up having the upper hand. But in the scene where Half-Sack was killed and Abel was kidnapped, that was hard because of how impotent she felt, having to sort of watch these things unfold.
What do you like most about Tara?
The thing that she shares with the rest of the world is the thing I like – she’s fiercely loyal. She’s passionately in love with this man and her attraction to the people in this family – which is really the only family she knows – is very, very strong. She ends up going to great lengths for them even she knows it’s against her better judgment some of the time. She’s also really smart, so when push comes to shove, she manages to navigate complicated situations. When I get to engage her passion and intelligence at the same time is when Tara is at her best.
Who’s an actor whose work admire, one who makes race to the movie theater?
Cate Blanchett is somebody who I could watch do anything. I love what an extraordinary chameleon she can be. There’s something about the way she bends and transforms that feels otherworldly to me. Other actors I admire crossed over from theater to film, like Laura Linney, Patricia Clarkson, Edie Falco…. People who have a strong and earthy presence are the ones I relate to in terms of what I can do.