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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Melissa George (Cinemax’s “Hunted”)

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BE: As a rule, fans of cable dramas tend to have different expectations for a series and are often willing to take time and let a new series grow on them, but “Hunted” has a very unique dramatic structure. Do you think casual TV viewers will be able to latch onto it?

MG: Nope. They’ll really have to concentrate, I have to say. It’s not easy. Because every question you have…which my boyfriend was having while watching it…I’m, like, “That’s a great question, but you have to watch!” This is one show that you absolutely have to watch, because, I mean, my God, when you get to the eighth one, it’s, like, “Wow…” It’s a show that’s…we don’t have commercial breaks, so it’s a very different formula right there, because we don’t have to resolve a problem before the ad break or leave people hanging until they come back. We aren’t governed by that. We’re given a set amount of hours – eight – to tell a story. But cable viewers are sophisticated viewers, for sure.

BE: Given the complexity, presumably Frank Spotnitz was never asked to dumb it down.

MG: No, Frank’s not going to dumb down anything. And it’s not my style, either. I don’t want to be doing that joke/rim shot stuff. That’s not my thing. I mean, “In Treatment” was 46 episodes with one patient taken over 10 weeks with a storyline that evolved. You just kind of stick with it or you don’t.

BE: “Hunted” is a physically demanding role, whereas “In Treatment” was more emotionally demanding, I guess you’d say. Do you enjoy the opportunity to mix it up like that?

MG: Yeah, I really loved what we did on “In Treatment.” I felt like it brought acting back to its purest form, which is just two people talking. With “Hunted,” yes, it’s got action, but, really, the plot of her journey and her revenge and seeking happiness, it’s really quite an emotional journey, too. So what I’ve been trying to do with “Hunted” is a bit of both. Because when the fighting happens, it’s not because, “Oh, let’s have a fight scene!” It’s really building up to her either trying to defend herself or trying to kill the man that she thinks was responsible for her potential death in Morocco. Really, the fighting comes with context. I’m not into that whole Jackie Chan thing and flying on wires or whatever. I can do that. And brilliantly. [Laughs.] If I have to. But if I’m going to take on a role that’s gonna be maybe a few years of my life, then I want to have a story and not just be an action girl. I’m good at it, ‘cause I’ve trained at it, but I’m not really equipped for that. I don’t like that.

BE: They’ve obviously completely different in tone, but do you think viewers who remember you from playing Lauren Reed on “Alias” will be able to step into “Hunted” relatively easy?

MG: Yeah, I think so. I, uh, think either people never wanted to see Lauren Reed again or they loved her and wanted to see more of her. Which I’m fine with either one, actually, because it was still fabulous, but I’m exactly the opposite of all these roles. I’ve been in situations where I was in a confined space with people after “Alias” was on the air, and they were, like, “Omigod, it’s Lauren Reed, we’d better get out of here…” [Laughs.] People couldn’t separate it.

I think they’re going to sympathize with Sam Hunter a little more. Nobody cared about Lauren Reed, because she had no heart. Zero. There was nothing to like about her. But that was beautiful at the same time, because she was an assassin, after all. This is a woman that’s a spy and a highly trained MI-6 agent who’s protecting a little boy and going undercover. But with what happens to her mother in front of her and what’s happened to her, she’s not going to give up. I mean, you see Jason Bourne or James Bond or any of the other characters, they kill and they’re vengeful characters, but you don’t hate them. Lauren Reed, though, you hate. Of course you do. [Laughs.]

BE: Is there a project you’ve worked on over the years that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?

MG: Oh, that’s a great question. There was a film I did with Mandy Moore and Martin Freeman called “Swinging with the Finkels.” I had the time of my life on that film. But it’s usually the jobs that you have such a good time making that don’t work out so well. It just didn’t the love. [Hesitates.] But, you know, I don’t really know what the love is. I don’t know how the reviews were or how much it made or anything. Mine’s more of a personal journey through my life. Like, was it fun to make? Again, when I did a Brazilian film called “Turistas” with Olivia Wilde…I mean, hello, we were in Brazil for two months! [Laughs.] Time of my life. We didn’t get any love, but I didn’t care. I didn’t need that love, anyway, because it wasn’t my kind of movie!

You know, also, my character on “Grey’s Anatomy” didn’t get any love. At all. But it was weird, because I did “In Treatment” and I was exhausted, because it was just hard. Invigorating at the same time, but…anyway, I said, “I just want to do something fun! I want to wear scrubs, I want to be funny, I want to do whatever.” So I got “Grey’s Anatomy,” and I was on that for, like, nine episodes or whatever, and I remember being so upset when they were not writing for the role, because they’d promised me the role after “In Treatment.” I remember feeling, like, “Wow, I’m not getting the love,” and I was happy to leave. But I remember I finished at midnight on a Thursday, and on Friday morning at 5 AM, they announced the Golden Globes nominations. The next morning. Five hours after my character on “Grey’s” was no longer and I was driving home so upset, I got nominated for a Golden Globe for “In Treatment.” I just felt like…okay, it felt a little nice. [Laughs.] When people give up on a role that you’re portraying…that’s your face out there. It’s got to affect you in some way, be it you or your career. So to follow that by getting nominated for a role that you were so proud of…it’s just wonderful. It’s like life takes care of you. It all works out in the end.

BE: To throw a major flashback at you, what are your recollections about the experience of working on Fox’s “Roar”? Because I’ve got to tell you, I’m a huge fan of Shaun Cassidy’s work as a writer and producer.

MG: Oh, he’s so great, isn’t he? Oh, my gosh. Well, you know what? I fell in love with Heath (Ledger). We were husband and wife on “Roar.” It was just such a great time in my life. I mean, I was riding horses, the show was set hundreds of years ago, we were free…it was a great time. And Shaun Cassidy…I did a stunt on “Roar,” and I would never do this again, but I was so young that I was, like, “Oh, sure, I’ll go down the rapids with the strongest tide ever!” I mean, the rapids were really strong. And I had to go all the way down, with my bare body falling on rocks and going through the water, and I’m wearing this costume this long hair. And when my character gets to the cliff’s edge, I have to freefall 35 feet! Now, Shaun Cassidy was in American when I did this, and he heard about it from the stunt guy. The stunt guy called Shaun Cassidy and said, “Oh, my God, you’ve got to see this girl! She just did a freefall down the rapids, then hung onto the cliff and fell 35 feet into the water!” And Shaun Cassidy never forgot me. In fact, he hired me as my first lead in his next pilot, “Hollyweird.” He was, like, “I want that girl who did that rapids stunt. I want her as the lead!” I had to audition, of course, but he absolutely wanted me for the part. Just because I did that stunt! And when I got to Hollywood for the first time in my life, I got driven to audition, I got the part, and then I went to see Shaun, and he just hugged me and said, “My God! There she is!” And it was because I did the stunt for “Roar”! [Laughs.] But, you know, it’s amazing when you do something like that. When you work well, when you’re dedicated, people remember.

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