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

BE: You had a couple of other pilots that didn’t go, but they’ve still become a bit legendary among TV geeks because they really seemed like they should’ve gone. The first that leaps to my mind is “Lost in Oz.”

MG: “Lost in Oz” was actually my decision. It was weird, because my contract lapsed. They picked it up, they wanted to do a second episode, but my contract lapsed, and by that time I didn’t want to move back to Australia. I was living in America, and the show was shooting in Australia. So, y’know, it was partly my decision. But what a show! What a concept! And then “L.A. Confidential,” with Kiefer Sutherland and I. That was for HBO.

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BE: With these examples having been cited, however, do you ever feel like you dodged a bullet by not making it into the final cast of NBC’s “Coupling”?

MG: [Long pause.] Oh, my God. You’re good. I like you. I like you very much. These are good questions! I won’t sleep tonight now, but thank you for reminding me of all these things. [Laughs.] I’m just kidding! With “Coupling,” it was an audition from hell. I had to be six different characters. I had to go for every part, and then by the time I got to the last one, they were, like, “Oh, you’d be great for Susan.” But then they fired the writers on set, they fired the creator, they fired me, they fired the other people…they fired everybody, and then they remade it with somebody else, I don’t even know who, and then it was gone. So, yeah, I dodged a bullet. And then I got cast as the lead in “Lipstick Jungle.”

BE: Now that I did not know.

MG: It was written by the woman who wrote “Sex and the City,” and, in fact, I got cast by Candace Bushnell, who was the creator and the producer of “Lipstick Jungle” at that point. She cast me as the lead, and then she got fired, I got fired, so it never happened.

BE: So was your role the one that Brooke Shields ended up getting, then?

MG: I have no idea. Mostly because I never watched it. I have a very good knack for forgetting the things I didn’t get. [Laughs.] It’s quite a skill, actually. I hope to pass it on to my children. But, yeah, I kept getting cast in things, but…for some reason I kept getting paid off for my contracts because the shows never happened.

BE: Well, that’s not a bad deal.

MG: No, it was a great deal! I have a great story about that, in fact. I was in a meeting with Brian Grazer, it was with about six actresses, it was pilot season, I had seven test deals on the table. Literally, seven. My lawyer was exhausted. And you know it works, I’m sure: you have to sign a deal and negotiate as if you’re going to get the part before you even audition. So I had seven test deals, but Brian Grazer had heard that the previous year every show I’d been cast for had either changed the cast or never got on the air, and that I’d get paid out but no one ever saw my work. So he yells out in the casting room, in front of all the actresses, “I want to meet the highest paid actress who’s never worked a day in your life.” I said [Sheepishly.] “It’s me.” He said, “Come with me!” [Laughs.]

So, yeah, I got cast and paid out constantly. But it was awesome, ‘cause then I’d go make “Mulholland Drive” with David Lynch and “The Limey” with Steven Soderbergh and all these great films. “Dark City,” with Jennifer Connelly, too. And “The Amityville Horror” and “Derailed.” I’d keep getting cast in these great, high-profile films, sometimes even in lead roles, and then I’d be doing a pilot, hoping it wouldn’t get picked up. [Laughs.]

BE: Since you brought it up, do you have any particular anecdotes about working with Terence Stamp on “The Limey”?

MG: I just loved working with him. I mean, what a legend, you know? I remember we were both staying at the Chateau Marmont, and there was some tour bus taking everyone to the Beverly Center, and…I’d just met him, but we went to the Beverly Center together. It was so random. I just remember being so young and being, like, “Omigod, it’s Terence Stamp!” [Laughs.] Very handsome. Beautiful blue eyes.

BE: And how was David Lynch to work with?

MG: David Lynch is my hero. He got me my first visa. I was cast in “Mulholland Drive” based on a photograph, and then when it came to me doing the movie, I had to reveal that I wasn’t actually an American, and he’s, like, “Oh, my God!” And so he got me my visa so that I was able to stay in America.

BE: Not bad.

MG: Not bad at all. [Laughs.] He just treated me great. He’s just amazing.

BE: Well, to bring it back to “Hunted” to wrap up, I’ve read enough interviews with Frank Spotnitz to know that he didn’t really want to end the season on a cliffhanger because he obviously didn’t know for sure if the show would come back. Can you speak to how your character’s arc goes over the course of the season?

MG: Well, she has two jobs. One is working for Byzantium (an espionage organization), so that case is going to be closing by the end of the season. But the journey of revenge, of finding out what happened to her mother and her in Morocco, is going to keep going.

BE: So those who follow the journey all the way, when they hit the last episode, even if – God forbid – there aren’t more episodes to come, will they still feel like they’ve had some sense of closure?

MG: Um…probably not.

BE: [Laughs.] I applaud your honesty.

MG: Well, I mean, there’s no closure because the finale…there’s a big, big reveal which will have people going, “Oh…my…God. I want more!” And that’s really the whole idea, isn’t it? [Laughs.]

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