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                                                Excerpts From An Interview With Christine Baranski

                                                Of “Bonneville”

                                                Dallas , Texas , February 20, 2008

 

Outlook:  You’ve had a fascinating career already.

CB:  Well, I’ve been doing this a long time.  I graduated from Juilliard in 1970, and was doing some semi-professional acting even before I graduated.  I finally got my break on Broadway, then went to television, and now in my late 40’s and 50’s I’m doing musical comedy, of all things.

Outlook:  And if I may say so, perhaps I can get away with this because I’m a church pastor, you’re the exception in your field, too, in that you’ve been married for a long time to the same husband…

CB:  24 years!  Yes, and it is an anomaly.  But you know, we were married in the Catholic Church, my husband is a very devout Roman Catholic, and we raised our children in that tradition, and we were very serious about our marriage, I think, and raising our children.  We raised them out of New York and out of L.A. , on some family land in Connecticut that my husband inherited, and I think that was a very healthy thing to do.

Outlook:  They had kind of a normal life.

CB:  They did.  They didn’t see their folks as show biz people.  Oh, occasionally, they’d fly out to L.A. for a premier or something, and they were vaguely aware of their Mom as television star, especially in the “Cybill” days, but mostly, I was the lady at home, who called herself Mrs. Coles.  We even raised them without television, because it became too hard to monitor what they were watching, and I really believe that’s one of the best things you can do for your kids when they’re little:  take the tv out.  It’s not that it’s all bad, it’s just that it’s too easy for it to become the baby-sitter.  Kids ought to be relating to their families, reading, out doing things, playing outside, spending time with their friends.  Not just veg out in front of a screen.  Kids learn through their senses, and they need to use them all.  That’s how we remember life.  We’re sentient beings. 

Outlook:  Agreed.  This character you played in “Bonneville” is not very sympathetic.  It’s hard to like her.

CB:  Yes, she’s the heavy.  She says, “This is my father’s house, this is what the will says”….it was my job as an actress to make her case….She’s a very angry woman.  She feels like she was robbed of her father, her children hardly spent any time with “Grandpa” because he married a woman my age and began this whole new life.  Working on the character, I felt like I could understand her anger.  The years had hardened her.  But it was fun for me, because I’m never that dramatic myself, I’m like the comic relief.  I kind of welcomed being such a bad guy… I’ve also had a lot of experience with death in my life, and I could identify with that character, and what she was going through…It also happened in my family that my father-in-law’s third wife is actually younger than me.  You think of Grandpa filling this certain role, especially in the lives of your children, and he just doesn’t.  But I think a lot of women go through that.  And who gets the ashes?  Who gets to bury the body?  Death really complicates things.  It’s the great Finalizer.

Outlook:  So you kind of tapped into all that when you were developing this character?

CB:  Um hm, I use anything and everything.  But I try not to make it too close.  It can be a danger using things too personal, because they may be unresolved issues for you, and can block you as an actor.  You’re much better off using your imaginative life. Your psyche will still tap in…I just had to get to a place very isolated, very unhappy, so the tension in the scenes could come across….I didn’t even try to make pals with the others until afterwards.

Outlook:  You were saying earlier that your daughter is a religion major at Princeton ?

CB:  Yes, she’s going to do relief work in Mozambique , then Angola , and she wants to do her thesis on the convergence of native African religions with Christianity, and how religion heals the ravages of a war-torn country.

Outlook:  Wow.

CB:  Yes, it’s very ambitious, and I’m very proud of her.  She’s such a good girl.  Both my daughters are.  You’d like them.

Outlook:  I’m sure I would.  Thanks so much for your time.

CB:  Thank you.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas