Several years ago, this writer spent some time on the set of the NBC military drama The Brave and had the opportunity to talk mom-to-mom with Anne Heche.
She was playing The Brave’s leading role of badass Patricia Campbell, the head of operations for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, opposite Mike Vogel (Under the Dome), who led a second surveillance team.
The role required 12 to 14-hour days and the cast and crew explained that they became like a second family led by “den mother Anne Heche,” who frequently fed them and looked after them. The 13-episode one-season series even took them to Afghanistan for the fourth episode where they cemented their bonds.
With Heche succumbing to her injuries after a tragic fiery car crash resulting in brain trauma, it is clear that her legacy will endure with her two loving sons and formidable body of work, including The Brave.
She was declared legally dead on Friday, August 12, but because Heche often used her celebrity status to raise money for a variety of causes, and as an organ donor she remained on a ventilator in order to see if her organs could be harvested and donated before the machines were turned off. Heche was 53.
The charming and sprite-like film, Broadway, and TV actor with numerous credits to her name leaves a formidable body of work. When we met, she was like a cool and refreshing breeze on an impressively hot August day (2017) in the roasting sun of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The Emmy Award-winning actress, who grew up and came into her own at the New Jersey Shore, was eager to talk about her two sons; Homer Laffoon, now 20, and Atlas Heche Tupper, now 13, who had joined her in New Mexico during the filming of The Brave. Homer is the son of Heche’s ex-husband Coley Laffoon and Atlas’ father is actor James Tupper.
Heche’s first order of business when she arrived from L.A. to New Mexico to work on The Brave was to get her sons settled in for the long TV shoot. “Atlas immediately fell in love with his surroundings. He got out of the car and soaked up the majesty of the mountains,” she recalled. “He loved that he could run as far as he could. I love that he is in awe of something like this.”
The themes in her life were echoed in the highly emotional scripts that she embraced: “honesty, trust, standing up for your convictions and beliefs, and the importance of empowering women to be role models.” She also said that she “believed in letting your heart rule your life.”
Choosing to star in The Brave at that particular time in her colorful career had a great deal to do with family, and the life lessons she wanted to impart to her sons as they grew into young men. “One of my main goals for my children is that we look at what we can do to help others.”
She believed that people often fall short of this goal because “most of us don’t think we’re responsible to help, and we don’t really know what’s going on in the big picture.”
With Heche’s extremely active career, which often entailed taking on very complex roles and frequent travel, she was keenly aware of her juggling act as a hands-on mom of two young sons, who were 15 and 8 during our extensive talk on the set of The Brave.
“For me, The Brave is pretty ideal scheduling-wise because I work half the week from the office that is the show’s command center,” she explained, “and I am home with the kids the other half. As a mom, my kids always come first!”
“I am the mom who works hard to work everything out,” she explained as I nodded in agreement. “At home, no matter how you plan and do everything that needs to be done and cross every T, there are always surprises. You want everything to go smoothly, but the hardest thing as moms is that we can’t be perfect. We can only be the best that we can be.”
Some surprises are good ones. She said her sons, who often traveled with her for work, only saw her as their loving mom. In February 2022, this writer had the opportunity to talk to Atlas’s father, James Tupper for his movie, The Requin.
“Anne is amazing. A great mom and a lovely and caring person,” Tupper said. “We are extremely lucky to have her in our lives.”
She recalled that her older son, Homer, was with her in Africa and then they went to an NBC function in New York and talk show host Jimmy Fallon walked in. So, Heche asked her son if he wanted to meet him. The boy responded, ‘You don’t know Jimmy.’ He never imagines that people know who I am. I was tempted to call Jimmy over and have him throw his arms around me, but I kept cool.”
The Brave’s creator and executive producer, Dean Georgaris, (The Manchurian Candidate and Lara Croft Tomb Raider) was thrilled that Heche agreed to be his leading lady for his new show. He actually wooed her to take the part in The Brave, writing in a letter to her that “she broke my heart in Donnie Brasco, and I had been a huge fan ever since.”
“Working with Anne is incredible,” he said on the set of The Brave. “Not only is she one of the most talented actresses in the world, but she is also one of the kindest and most generous people I know. Every day I go to set, I thank my lucky stars that she said yes to the role.”
Georgaris added that off the set, “Anne is one the warmest, funniest people you could hope to meet. She’s the kind of person who knows everyone’s name on a crew of 230, and since we have a number of actors who are relatively new, she’s always finding ways to support our young cast, both as actors and as people.”
If all of this wasn’t enough, their unofficial “den mother” held ‘Sunday Fundays’ also known as ‘weekly Anne Heche specials.’
“She brings together the cast and non-work friends for epic meals and afternoons filled with games,” explained Georgaris. “She has managed to make filming in a distant location feel like we’re filming at home.”
During this writer’s visit to the Albuquerque set of the show, she and her co-stars were eager to talk about the enormous obligation they felt that they had to the men and women in the military, who are the inspiration for the stories.
“It is an honor to be a part of a project that is so respectful of those who serve,” said Heche, “and it is amazing to be a part of it. Being part of this show keeps getting better and better.”
Another aspect of The Brave that Heche strongly related to was how authentic the characters and the plots were. “There are no limits to this show,” she says. “I think this is a way to say thank you to all of the people who sacrifice themselves for our country.”
Heche was enamored with female role models, including Wonder Woman and Natacha Karem (Homeland), who plays Jaz Khan, a sniper on The Brave.
“Working with Anne is a real treat,” Karem said during the set visit. “Anne’s spontaneous, fun, and an absolute team player. Her energy and charisma are infectious. There is never a dull moment when Anne’s around, and we all appreciate that so much.”
Heche talked about women on the rise. “I think the blindness to women being as powerful as men, is really changing. I think as we go to other countries, we are going to see the number of powerful women who are influencing big decisions made in the world today. The more we see it, the more we know about ourselves. So, when we see that girl take over and be so tough, yet be womanly as well; I just love it.”
As Heche thought back to what inspired her to pursue a career in the performing arts, she had vivid memories of growing up in “an amazing, old house,” on Ventnor Avenue in Atlantic City.
Her imagination was sparked by the treasures that were left behind in the house. “The woman selling it had left behind all of her grandmother’s clothing, and so we went up in the attic and just discovered all of it,” Heche explained. “It was just what you want an attic to be; filled with antique lace dresses, scores of hats, and all of this crazy old paraphernalia, and I loved all of it!”
While Heche admitted that early in her life she was a bit of a loner—the family moved 11 times during her childhood—all of that changed when at age 12 they moved to Ocean City, New Jersey, and that family-friendly resort town would become the locale of her first creative outlet.
“That’s where I first became an actress,” she explained. “I literally started singing for my supper, right on the Boardwalk. I would flip burgers and sing show tunes to get people to come to our stand.”
Next came singing at her church, and her first paying job was for $100 a week at the 76 House Dinner Theater in Swainton, New Jersey.
She came a long way from the South Jersey Boardwalk and dinner theater. This was followed, shortly before her high school graduation in 1987, by a dual role on the daytime soap Another World.
For her soap role, she received a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Young Actress in a dramatic series. All of this led to film, Broadway, and TV success.
During her 35-year career among her more than 30 film roles are Donnie Brasco, Wag the Dog, Six Days, Seven Nights, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Psycho, Return to Paradise, John Q, The Juror, Cedar Rapids, Birth, Rampart, My Friend Dahmer, and Milk Money.
She also hosted a Sirius XM Radio Show, wrote a screenplay, directed a movie, and wrote a 2001 book, Call Me Crazy: A Memoir, which addressed her difficult early years.
Her many TV roles include: Men in Trees, Save Me, Aftermath, and Dig. Her career success has included a Tony Award nomination for best actress in a Broadway play for Twentieth Century, and an Emmy nomination for the Lifetime movie, Gracie’s Choice. Her last movie, and fourth for Lifetime, is Girl in Room 13, set to air in September 2022.
Directed by Elizabeth Rohm, in Girl in Room 13, Heche plays the mother of a human trafficking victim named Grace (Larissa Dias). Grace becomes addicted to opioids after suffering a sports injury and is ready to leave her addiction behind under the watchful eye of her mother, but her past won’t let her go when she is kidnapped in a motel room in order to be sold.
A versatile actor, Heche played drama, mysteries, thrillers as well as romantic comedies, one had to wonder which she preferred. “I love it all,” she admitted. “It’s just different parts of my personality.”
Her goal was to enjoy work and family and take time for yourself and your loved ones. “You have to make time to sit down, to read books, and be quiet. When I am not working, I need to just enjoy my life.”More: Anne HecheJames TupperMike VogelTribute -