Interviews - Actresses
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Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
October 30, 2006.
every new TV season, there are breakout stars who make viewers sit back and
take notice – Who is that??? What have I seen her in?
Why haven't I seen her more often?
stage and TV performer
is getting this kind of buzz for her role as a smart and beautiful hostage
negotiator on the series Standoff.
Previously, DeWitt has been active in the Broadway scene, doing acclaimed
turns in Danny and the Deep Blue Sea and Small Tragedies. She
has also appeared in the movies The Great New Wonderful, Buy It
Now and Shut Up & Sing. DeWitt has done a lot of TV –
guest-starring on series
like Denis Leary's Rescue Me, Sex and the City, Love Monkey and
Law & Order: SVU.
2005, DeWitt got an amazing opportunity – to play a major supporting role in
a movie about her own grandfather, boxer Jim Braddock, in the Russell
Crowe/Renée Zellweger film
DeWitt played Sara Wilson, the wife of Braddock’s doomed best friend in the
DeWitt is star of one of the big buzz shows of the 2006 season – FOX’s
hostage crisis drama Standoff, co-starring Ron Livingston (Sex and
the City, Office Space). DeWitt has gotten a lot of the breakout buzz
about the series, with Entertainment Weekly singling her out recently
with this comment: “DeWitt is the find of the season. Sarcastic and smart,
her Emily Lehman seems like a good woman to share a beer with.”
all FOX shows, Standoff was off the air for a few weeks during the
baseball playoffs and World Series. In the week leading up to the show’s
return, DeWitt gave us a call to chat about her burgeoning career and her
How did you first get involved in acting?
don’t know. I did all the school plays and played like… I think “The Feel”
and “The Circus” in first grade. Then the parts just started getting
better. I did musicals. I tried to talk myself out of it by the
time I got to college. I thought if there was anything else that I could
possibly do with my life that would make me happy, I should do it. Because
I knew that it would be a grind. But I saw a production of Streetcar
Named Desire with Frances McDormand and Blythe Danner (in 1988, also
starring Aidan Quinn) that made me, when I was in high school, have
to do it. And another one, I saw Angels in America when I was in
college. I was like, that’s it. I have to do it.
You’ve done a lot of
Danny and the Deep Blue
Sea and Small Tragedies. How different is it to perform on stage
as compared to on camera?
The main difference is you play out someone’s story every night in its
entirety. When you watch an episode of
Standoff, we shoot that over eight days or nine days.
[In theater] you play the
whole thing every night. That’s great. That’s fun. You get the immediate
reaction from the audience. That’s completely exhilarating and exciting.
Then at the same time, if you have a huge funeral scene, you can’t lose your
mind, because you have to do it again seven more times that week. On
camera, you can sometimes go a little bit deeper. Although, TV is a fast
medium. It’s sort of like paint by numbers rather than make a Monet.
(laughs) We work super fast.
Last year you got an opportunity that very few people ever have – you were
able to play a significant supporting role in a movie about your own
grandfather. How weird was that? How close were you with him? Did they
know who you were?
Yes. (laughs) It was so surreal. It was honestly the best. It was
one of my favorite experiences I’ve ever had as an actor. They did know who
I was going in. I think that’s why they agreed to see me, because I don’t
know that my New York theater credits were registering on Ron Howard’s radar
so much, you know? It was a really big movie. Ron wasn’t going to do
anyone any favors by giving them a part in a movie. I’ve heard him
do interviews about it. I think the phrase he used was that it
was a courtesy on his part to see me. Then we got to talking and I was
telling him some stories. He said, let’s read. After I read for
him, I think he literally said, “Oh, you’re good.” I think he was
surprised. He thought I was a hair dresser and I was pretending I was an
actor or something. So then we read another scene and I came back in
another time. Then I waited a long time while they cast Paddy Considine.
We had to match up and it had to be a believable couple. It was just odd.
It was the best ever – such a thrill to help tell that story.
You’ve done a lot of TV and movies over recent years – in fact you did a
couple of episodes of one of my favorite shows,
What was that show like to work on?
of my favorite shows, too. I love that show. It’s so much fun. Now that
I’m on this show I really realize, it’s so easy! I don’t know why it’s so,
so easy to work on that show. They deal with heavy stuff. They really get
in there, but there is something about those boys that they just have fun.
You know what I mean? They know how to have fun. They go play street
hockey in the morning before they go, then they go to work. They’re telling
jokes and they’re making changes. Peter Tolan directed the episodes that I
did and he’s just fast and wonderful to work with. It’s just – I don’t
know, it’s really easy. That’s the only thing I can really say. And, you
know, it’s kind of hard to be around all those cute boys… (laughs)
saw in an article that you auditioned for
on a whim during an LA
visit. How surreal was it that you actually got the role?
don’t know. It’s so funny, I don’t know who said that. But I don’t know if
it was a whim…
Oh, okay, I saw that in a story from
Yeah, I think that… I don’t know. I guess somehow I conveyed that to them.
I was here for pilot season. I was doing the mad feeding frenzy that
actors do when they come out here. You don’t necessarily expect to book
anything. It’s more just to see if you can test. I think the big shock for
me was that it actually got picked up. Not that I didn’t think it was
great, because I really thought the writing was awesome and Ron Livingston’s
amazing. But you just don’t really ever expect those things to work out.
Once it got picked up it was, oh my gosh, I have to move to LA and make this
What was it about the idea of
funny, because the show has been… It’s like a work in progress, so we’re
forever finding it and forever changing. Initially, I think what I liked
was that I felt that this is a woman who was sort of on a level playing
field with a man. It wasn’t a girlfriend or a wife part. It was someone
who had a lot of substance in her own right. That’s so much more fun as an
actor. If you’re going to put me on screen with Ron Livingston, let’s be
able to roll up our sleeves and really wrestle with each other. That really
attracted me to it.
Most of the time on shows when there is a sexual attraction between
co-workers it is something that is teased but not actually acted on. Emily
and Matt are actually involved – how do you think that opens up story
wonder. It’s funny, because you read all different things. Different
people have their opinions on whether it helps us or hurts us, what the
writers chose to do. A lot of our
relationship unfolds as the crises unfold. So it will be interesting to see
how deep we can go within it. There is so much meat there, though.
I just think people are so afraid of each other. (laughs) It’s as
scary to fall in love with somebody as it is – in a way, or metaphorically –
as it is have somebody’s life in your hands. That’s what it feels like, falling in love. There is a lot of meat there, and a lot to mine, in
terms of the relationship. If we fight for it. If the writers keep coming
up with interesting ways in, which they been. The next couple
[of episodes] – we’re
going to start airing again next week – I feel like they’ve been doing a
really good job.
It is a fine line because Emily and Matt are in such a vital, life or death
job. Do you think it may be foolish on their part because it can the
relationship put others in harm’s way? Like, for example, the episode when
the couple was robbing banks and the woman kidnapped your character, Ron
broke protocol and could have endangered himself and others just to save
your life…How much do you think that dichotomy will play out in the upcoming
think more and more so. The ones we’ve shot since… that was number four,
we’re on ten now… we’ve explored that a lot more. The stakes seem
to be getting higher every episode, which is good. But then it’s a fine
line to figure out how can they banter and play with each other when the
scale of the hostage situation is epic. So, yeah,
they do break the
rules. The more we do that and the more we create our own heightened sense
of what’s real, the better the show has a chance of being its own
fitting and having people watch it.
In the first episode, Matt used as a negotiating ploy the fact that he could
get fired for being involved with a fellow negotiator. The cat is out of
the bag, and you both still have your jobs. Do you think it will be a
Yeah. I think it will keep coming into play. You know, what I mean? Like
when they crossed the line, and who crosses the line and who’s in too deep.
Because the stakes are high, at a certain point, if it’s going to have a
really bad outcome then someone’s going to have to… they’re going to have to
stop being partners or stop being lovers. So I guess they’ll keep asking
Ron Livingston has done a lot of TV and movies over the years. What is he
like to work with?
great. He’s so fun. The hardest thing about working with him is that they
have to yell “Cut!” a lot, because we’re cracking up. (laughs)
We’re supposed to be serious and we get so silly at work. But it’s good,
because you’re working crazy hours. You have to laugh at that kind of
stuff. He’s such a good actor.
Does the cast and crew ever tease him that he should wear more flair or file things in
know what they do? We have these desks in the bullpen where Matt and Emily
sit next to each other and there’s always post-it notes from Sex and the
City. All the background actors are always thinking they’re clever, but
it’s always the same one. They don’t realize that the background actors two
days ago left the same note. It’s funny, though.
Standoff is your first starring role in a series. After being a guest a
lot, what is that experience like; to get up every day and work on a show
which is relying totally on you and Ron?
good. It’s good to feel used up at the end of the day – like you’re
working hard. It’s hard sometimes to wear all the different hats.
Because you’re trying to keep on top of the writing and make sure that you
feel like the writers are serving Emily. You’re trying to flesh her out.
You want her to be a three-dimensional character. Ron and I will get
together and try to work on the Matt and Emily scenes, sometimes, in between
takes or on our lunch break. The hardest thing about it… because
it’s great, there’s really no way to complain about it because it’s a great
job… is that it’s hard to make it good. It’s a new show. It really has to
figure out what it wants to be. Everyone has to let that happen, but at the
same time work really hard.
know it’s just the way it is on FOX, but the show was really building
momentum and then the baseball playoffs and World Series come and suddenly
the show is off the air for a month. How frustrating is that
when you are trying to build a series?
Well, I’ll let you know next week, because we haven’t stopped
working. Just because they went to baseball, we just kept shooting at the
same pace, working the same schedule. I don’t know what it will do in terms
of ratings and people watching the show. I’m sitting in a hotel
right now getting ready to do some press and it feels like we’re re-launching
the show. We’re doing what we did four weeks ago, six weeks ago when it
started. So, I don’t know, it’ll be interesting to see how much we have to
build back up and if the commercials running during the playoffs helped.
How much they helped and if people watch us, you know?
I’ve only seen the first few episodes, so obviously you’re ahead of me as
far as the storyline goes… Without giving up any real secrets, what can we
expect for the rest of the season?
Well, I feel like you can definitely expect to learn more about the
characters. Their point of view. Where they’re coming from. What makes
them tick. Why they are how they are. Especially the one [episode] back
think it’s called “Life Support”
we learn a lot about Ron’s character. I
feel like they’re doing a real good job. The episodes keep getting bigger
and bigger – and I think that’s a good thing – in terms of reveals and
twists and turns and just the general scope of it. Which gives us a lot
more to worry about. You read the scripts going, “Holy, cow, is that really
what they’re going to do? How are they going to shoot that?” It’s very
action-y, too. It’s getting very dramatic, but hopefully at the same time
we’ll be able to inject it with a lot of fun.
Do you have any ideas for the show that you’d love to see them do – either
about Emily’s character or more generally for the show?
general, I’m just really always excited when I get a script and there a lot
of what I call “Matt and Emily” in there, because those are the fun scenes
to play. Ron and I do have a fun time working off each other. The deeper
it goes in that realm is always fun. A lot of shows have a
big crisis – all the procedurals and the action shows, but the thing I
really think could make our show different is if we really explore the
relationship between the two of them.
As a life-long New Yorker who just moved west for the show, are you getting
used to the LA lifestyle?
No. Not at all. It’s such culture shock. I never get used to it. I mean,
I totally like it. I’m all about the hikes and nature and going down to the
beach on the weekends. But there’s nothing like New York, you know? For
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