A chat with FX ‘Damages’ Anastasia Griffith

“Damages” (10 p.m., FX) features Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) cooking up a case against Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson).

No surprise to fans of the edge of your seat new legal thriller that potential key witness Katie Connor, played by Anastasia Griffith, is playing two sides of the fence well.  Her scenes in the new FX series are riveting.

The casting in Damages is flawless. TV addicts are thrilled to see Ted Danson in a meaty role that challenges and defies his normal casting.

Rose Byrne is cast as Ellen Parsons, wide-eyed ambition and guile caught between domestic bliss with marked for an early death David, played by Noah Bean and his sister Katie, played by Anastasia Griffith.

We got a chance to sit and talk with the transplanted Londoner Griffith last week regarding her plum role on the FX series:

Media Boulevard magazine asked Anastasia what it was like as the youngest child with a lot of older brothers. 

“For people who don’t know, I’ve got six older brothers and I am the only girl and the youngest.  I think secretly they were a lot more protective than they ever let on to me.  People have told me since, being an adult, that my brothers are fiercely protective of me, but they’ve never kind of let me know that, which I think is probably a good thing.

Media Boulevard followed up with a question about actor brother Jamie Barber and her father’s opinion of acting in general.  “Jamie is an incredibly bright guy and he had so many opportunities when he was younger and acting kind of grabbed his attention, as it did mine.

I think (my) Dad is old school and thinks it’s more fitting for a daughter to go into acting than it is a for a son, but having said that, he’s done everything he can to encourage me to do other things.  He’s got huge confidence in my intelligence and my ability to do things and also to act.  But he just has no trust, I think, in the world of acting. 

But, having said that, since Damages has taken off for me and it’s doing so well he’s actually written me a note recently saying congratulations and you, obviously, did the right thing.”

Televisionary asked Anastasia how she got involved with Damages and what attracted her to the project.

“I got involved with Damages through the regular path really.  I had moved to New York City in December last year.  I’ve been with Paradigm for a long time and I’ve gone through the whole pilot season situation a few times and I actually got a call from my agent saying that this is last minute, but the producers are in town and they want to see you for this role.

It’s a great role, it’s a great show, but it’s in two hours’ time, and in an American accent, go in and do it.  I went in and met the producers then and there and they were a little concerned at first about a  Brit playing an American, especially because they already had an Australian playing and American.

I met them again the next day, and spoke to them in an American accent from beginning to end of the meeting just in order to put their fears at rest I guess.  Three days later I was told I had the role, so it was a very quick process.

For any young actress working with Glenn Close is a dream come true.  I mean she really is at the top of her game, whether that be theater, film or television and also Ted Danson, Rose Byrne; it just has an incredible cast.  The writing, too, is fantastic.  Actually it was I think the only script I had read at that point which really did grab me and so it was just amazing that that’s the one that I ended up being a part of.  It is a dream come true, really.”

Anastasia discussed her training for accents and perfecting the American dialect.

“I have had formal training.  I trained at drama school where we do dialect and, yes, I’ve been to see over the years a couple of times, dialects.  When I was in L.A. during pilot season I saw one there.  It’s like a muscle I think; you’ve got to just keep it sharpened and keep it flexed and keep your ear in it.

“When I first arrived I had come straight from London.  My Dad is actually American…  we have been brought up with an American father who speaks very much with his American accent despite having been in London for thirty odd years.
We have that influence, but I do think it’s very important to keep your ear in it.  And we had an amazing dialect coach, Rose and I both went to see a lady called Deborah Hecht at NYU and does a lot of theater work here and she was fantastic.  She just helped us both just click into that mindset.

I think a lot of Brits make the mistake of thinking that just because we’ve listened to a lot of American songs and watched a lot of American television we immediately are good at doing this accent and I think it’s a lot harder than people make out.”

Monsters and Critics asked Anastasia about a filming and logistics shot question from the pilot. 

In the scene where her dog was killed, she quickly backed up against the wall without looking over her shoulder and it was pitch perfect; she was framed over her right shoulder with a knife sticking in the wall saying, “be quiet” on a piece of paper.   We asked if she did that on the first take, given she instinctively recoiled and slid backwards so quickly?

“You are quoting back at me what Wex, our first A.D. said when he watched it.  He just said, the whole time, obviously, he has to worry about the actors’ safety on set the whole time and he hadn’t worked on the pilot and when he watched it he was freaking out for me and said, ‘How the hell did you do that without injuring yourself?’ 
But funnily enough I think I did that in a couple of takes; I think it was one or two because we had so much blood on my hand that it was a nightmare for continuity and for make-up so we did do it really quickly.  I think it might have been a one take.  And I didn’t really even think about it.  Thank God it worked out.  I just kind of looked at where the knife was and knew I just had to avoid it. So I think it was kind of good luck.”

Anastasia then discussed her character of Katie on the FX series.

“The thing about Katie, actually, funny enough the innocence things was something which they kept trying to steer me away from I think in the pilot and it’s something which, because I had no idea where Katie was going to go when we filmed the pilot and there had been a lot of changes as to whether she was older or younger; there had been a lot of changes as to who she was.

I think in a way that innocence is almost my naiveté as far as the character goes.  But, having said that, I love the fact that it’s not so much an innocence for me; it’s more that she seems to be very upfront and open and honest and I think she is in a lot of ways and I think she’s somebody who gives a lot to the people around her and is actually a pretty kind, good-hearted girl.

I think she’s someone who has grown up with a younger brother who is perfect and she’s probably not as intelligent as David is and she’s never quite gone down the same perfect path and she’s trained opposite Kirk and done her own thing and she’s a very strong girl who is working in a man’s world, but I think this fact that David is this kind of perfect guy means that she keeps a lot of her own instabilities and mess ups and problems to herself. 

I don’t think she shares that with anybody. She’s somebody who has kind of made mistakes and is bright enough to know she’s made those mistakes and isn’t proud of them.  So she just keeps them to herself… a punchy girl who has got some mouth.  And she’s certainly intelligent.  For someone to be able to run a restaurant in New York City at the age of 30, that’s a pretty tall order.”

Anastasia revealed she was in the dark about the arc of her character in the series, and the secrecy in the scripts.

“We’re kept very much in the dark and I think this happens with all big TV shows, which are going to be subject to twists and turns and I think it’s quite right that we don’t know everything to begin with because we’ll give too much away.  It’s not a movie; it’s an ongoing TV show and I don’t think that the writers even know entirely where it’s all going to end up, certainly not next season or the season after that. 

I kind of had a very clear picture of who Katie was, but that evolved and I think that is one aspect of it that has kind of changed a bit for me, this naïveté, but, it’s really helped because, obviously, not this week, but the previous week’s episode Patty Hewes saying, ‘When did you discover how to lie?’  It’s kind of helped that I actually didn’t know that information and it absolutely is just Katie Connor being able to pull the wool over people’s eyes and showing, projecting what it is that other people want to see in her.

I don’t know what’s happening at the end of the season.  We kind of find out story lines when we go, but by this point, the writers are writing for us now, so we have gotten together and discussed where these characters are going and the way they see the characters developing, and bringing that idea to life through their writing.”

Media Boulevard brought up actor Michael Gaston, who described himself as being an incredible jerk in a previous interview on the show directed at Anastasia’s character Katie.

“He was fantastic.  This actually is for next week’s episode so it’s Tuesday, the coming one and it really is a big episode for Katie, it’s a lot of the law stuff and she gets brought in by Patty’s firm and the scene with Michael was fantastic.  He’s a very, very punchy actor.  He’s someone who can deliver a line with huge simplicity, but huge power.

It was a bit of a faceoff between him and I, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and it’s one of my favorite scenes that I’ve done so far so I don’t want to say too much about the episode or give too much away as to where his character comes in, but needless to say it was a strong scene.”

Anastasia discussed the progression of the series and her character at length. 

“We are filming episode eight; so it’s the seventh after the pilot.  I haven’t been in for a couple of days, but they’re all filming that right now.  I’ve actually been doing a couple of days on another TV show and then I’ll be back in shortly.

Although I certainly cannot relate to everything that’s going on in Katie’s life, there are parts of her which are pulled from me and my friends and people around me.  But as I say, I just think she’s written in a way, which is actually real and I think sometimes in television or in movies these characters are created too much two dimensional. 

Suddenly Katie is getting slated as a liar or a cheat or being manipulative, when actually really you’re just getting inside the mind of a complex individual who’s got her insecurities and her fears and her issues.  And she does have issues; but I don’t think anyone is black and white and I think the writers have really nailed that actually.

I love her balls; I think she’s ballsy, I think she is brave.   She’s one of the characters in that show that has real personality.  I like the fact that she’s complex.  I like the fact that she’s got her insecurities.  I like the fact that she’s made mistakes and she’s an exciting, punchy, feisty girl who, you know this girl has lived and worked in New York City restaurants for the last ten years and I think that kind of helps create that darkness in her.

I like people with a dark side.  I find them fascinating and interesting, so, yes, I think there is that side of her.  She just brings a bit of mouth to the show.

Even if you just take Frobisher and Patty Hewes, I mean you can’t hate Frobisher in a way and you can’t love Patty Hewes, nor can you hate her.  Those are so much kind of gradation going on with these characters and I think that is where the success of the show lies essentially. 

For us as actors, that’s where the interest comes in, the fact that you can’t absolutely guess or kind of know where these characters are going and what they’re about and what’s driving them.

That’s real life, you know, actually however much we love to try and put people in boxes it’s next to impossible and you know the interesting thing about being a human being is this kind of dichotomy between good and bad and the light and the dark and I think all of these characters, to a certain extent, have got that fight going on within them, and Katie no less.”

Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.

Elsewhere on the Web