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Jane Seymour exclusive interview on The Kominsky Method, living in Malibu, and life’s second and third acts

Alan Arkin's character Norman gets a lovely do over in love with Madeline (Jane Seymour). Pic credit: Netflix
Alan Arkin’s character Norman gets a lovely do-over in love with Madelyn (Jane Seymour). Pic credit: Netflix

Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actress Jane Seymour joined Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin in the coming Season 2 of The Kominsky Method.

Ms. Seymour has one hell of a resume and work-ethic, one that includes memorable acting roles, producing, writing, successful life in the arts and design world, and tremendous accomplishments in the nonprofit world. She even has time to raise chickens for fresh eggs and grows her food in her Malibu compound.

Now she has landed a plum role in Netflix’s breakout hit series The Kominsky Method, cast as Madelyn, the long lost love of big-time agent macher Norman Newlander who is working through his life as a recent widower.

It isn’t going to be an easy path to coupledom, as Norman really, really loved his dearly departed first wife. But based on the trailer for the new season, Madelyn seems to make a breakthrough.

In an intriguing twist, Madelyn and Jane’s backstories have some commonality. Ms. Seymour found love again with a man she met decades ago and rebuilt her life after a painful divorce from James Keach, who, with Ms. Seymour, founded the charitable Open Hearts Foundation in 2010.

The Open Hearts Foundation was created based on a legacy dedicated to serving and empowering people to turn adversity into opportunity, all predicated upon the open-hearted philosophy of Ms. Seymour’s mother, Mieke Frankenberg, a World War II internment camp survivor.

As a tribute to her mother, Jane gives a portion of the proceeds of Open Hearts artwork directly to the Foundation.

Once known around the world as Queen of the miniseries, Ms. Seymour earned early recognition for her breakout role as the stunning card reader and clairvoyant muse Solitaire, in a classic James Bond movie, Live and Let Die (1973).

Later on, Ms. Seymour earned a Golden Globe for her performance as Cathy Ames in the 1981 miniseries, East of Eden, an onscreen adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel.

In 1988, she was awarded an Emmy Award for Onassis: The Richest Man in the World. Starring in the six-season hit show, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman (1993-98), Seymour earned two Emmy nominations and her second Golden Globe Award for a compassionate portrayal of the fictional Dr. Michaela “Mike” Quinn.

She has many more notable films and theater work under her belt, and is famous all over the world, with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

But the process of her catching the attention of producer Chuck Lorre is a fascinating look at how this super producer puts a show like Kominsky together in the first place.

Ms. Seymour revealed to us how Mr. Lorre’s process works and how he writes each episode after he has watched the final version of the previous one, an unusual practice in TV scripting.

This process reveals how fluid Mr. Lorre is in reading the chemistry of each character and how they are playing out on screen.

We spoke to Jane today from Malibu about this new chapter in her life:

Monsters and Critics: Were you a fan of The Kominsky Method before they approached you for this particular role?

Jane Seymour: You know what, I had never seen it, and I got the call, but I’d heard about it. And my agent said Chuck Lorre wanted to meet me about doing a role. They didn’t say what the role would be.

They said that he was considering two different roles for me, and he wanted to spend an hour or so with me just talking in general, to see what he felt. And so, of course, before I met with him, I watched it immediately, binged it, as one can. And I was absolutely, compulsively in love with it when I first watched it.

Plus, I’ve known Michael Douglas over the years, and I’ve been a big fan of Alan Arkin’s. And I didn’t know Lisa Edelstein, but now I’m a huge fan of hers. And anyway, the whole thing, I loved it.

So when I went in and talked with him, he was throwing ideas around and checking me out, trying to decide what he would want to write me as. And the way he works is fascinating. He writes one episode at a time. So he writes one, sees how it plays, and then writes the next one.

But there’s no arc; we’ve no idea. Nobody knows where it’s going. And so the beauty of that was that he brought me in. He then was worried about whether I’d look old enough, and I just said, “Look, I color my hair. I would naturally be quite gray, and here’s a picture of me with gray hair.” And he went, “Oh, wow.” And I said, “Yep.” I said, “I can easily pull that one off, so don’t worry about it.”

So I went ahead and got the gray wig. I got somebody who was retired at the time, who very quickly un-retired himself and did this for me in 48 hours. So I was very fortunate to get a good one [wig].

I showed up on set, and Michael literally didn’t recognize me, and we’d had a table read two days earlier. I know it’s the story you hear everywhere, but I just thought it was hilarious. And so does Michael, because he just did a double-take and I kept thinking, well I wonder what he thought when he did rehearsals with a woman with gray hair that he didn’t recognize? Did he think that Chuck had just at the last minute recast, or what happened?

Anyway, we’ve all had a good giggle about that one, but I was thrilled because it made me absolutely believe, and especially when I started working with Alan, that we really could play a couple.

And I met his wife, and she was lovely — Suzanne — and it just worked. The chemistry between us was immediate; we just got along brilliantly. I was told that Alan, who can sometimes not like things, went to Chuck and just said, “I love Jane, I’m loving this, I’m having the time of my life.”

So the next thing I know, Chuck keeps writing more and more episodes for me. So I’m in five out of the eight, as you know.

One thing most thrilling in life is to work with brilliant people, and who I consider Chuck and every member of the cast and the directors, everybody involved on it are the best of the best. The other great honor for me in life is when they actually write more for you. And yeah, it’s happened a couple of times in my life, and when that happens, that means more to me than anything else, because it means that you’re giving them more than they hoped for and it was nice. Yes.

M&C: I love Arkin’s character Norman so much. I’m thrilled that he’s getting such a quality girlfriend. About your character, who is she, who caught Norman’s eye?

Jane Seymour: Okay. Madelyn and Norman knew each other when they were very, very, very young, and long before they could ever really consider having a long term relationship.

And I’m not sure, because Chuck, of course, writes it, so I don’t know what’s in his head. But in my head, my back story, having talked with Chuck, they had a great relationship, but either geography or work or college or something split them apart. And they went on with their lives, as one does, and married other people and had lives for 50 years.

And then randomly, both of their partners have died, and they’re alone, having been with someone for a long, long, long relationship. They randomly meet up at a funeral of, presumably, a mutual friend of theirs.

So I know from my mother, from back in the day, she used to tell me, she said, “oh, you’ve got to have young friends, because there comes a point where your only social calendar is funerals.”

I thought that the brilliance of Kominsky is it’s real, and it’s sad, and it’s poignant, but it’s also funny. And I think the only way of dealing with really sad stuff in life is to actually also find some humorous aspect to it. Because as we know, laughter heals. So I think it’s funny that they should meet and get together at a funeral.

And then the other side of it that’s so interesting is nobody thinks of older people getting together, or people finding somebody after they’ve been in a long-term relationship. You know, what does that relationship look like?

So I thought that arc was really, really interesting because everyone gets set in their ways and then everyone’s got baggage and by that time you’ve got a ton of baggage. Plus, you’ve got your children’s baggage, and maybe even, if you have them, grandchildren’s baggage, and it’s how do you navigate baggage and have a fresh relationship?

You don’t have time to build it; it’s got to be now because who knows if anyone’s alive tomorrow. So I told Chuck, I said “I can in some ways relate,” because I was married forever, I thought that was going to be it, I’d die with this man.

And suddenly, everything fell apart, and I was replaced, basically. And so I just went, “whoa, what do I do now?”

I couldn’t see myself doing Tinder and I …literally happenstance, so randomly, ran into someone that I had known 38 years ago, not romantically, but professionally, who was in a similar situation to mine. And [who] was single and had been for a year or so and was attempting to date and was not necessarily picking the right partner, as I wasn’t either.

The next thing we know, we couldn’t stop talking and, rather like Madelyn and Norman, we decided why waste time, let’s see where this goes. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. We have children and grandchildren and exes and financial things and work and ailments.

I think Chuck realized that I could actually be interested in this part of a relationship, and yes… So, I mean obviously my prayer is they bring it back, and they bring me back with it. But you know, who knows? At least I’ve shown that I enjoy playing my own age or even a little bit older for a change.

M&C: Does Sandy (Michael Douglas) get a little bit jealous that Norman has such a great girlfriend?

Jane Seymour: Well, you know what? I think that would be really nice. I think he is slightly because I think he’s used to having Norman be the kvetching person in his life, like “oh my God, not again, get on with it.”

And now, all of a sudden, Norman does a 180, and he’s now he’s like super-happy. It’s like, wait a minute…I’m the hot dude at the Kominsky Method teaching young people, I’m the one that’s supposed to be having the hot romance, not you. So, yeah, I think it’s kind of fun.

M&C: Madelyn would usurp Sandy’s relationship with Norman a bit. They relied on each other so much as the first season went on, and then all of a sudden, Norman has you. So he needs Sandy a little less…

Jane Seymour: Exactly, exactly. And I mean, there’s so many different changes, plus he’s so used to putting his daughter [Phoebe, played by Lisa Edelstein] in rehab, and now suddenly she’s sober. How do you deal with that?

You know, is that a ticking time bomb, or is this a new reality? And again, that’s a nice element for me to play, because I can see that this is a young lady or a daughter who is dying for another chance and really wants to be trusted.

But on paper, she doesn’t look too good. So there’s so many layers. I mean, I just loved playing the character.

M&C: The last time we spoke in person, you were telling me that you loved living in Malibu, and that was your home. Is it still home for you?

Jane Seymour: It is, very much so. And I still love Malibu, and I realized that with, whether you call it global warming or whatever it is, it’s constantly challenged by either fires or floods. And I’ve been told by an expert in the field that if the ocean goes up one more degree, cause it’s already warmer than it’s supposed to be, we’ll have tornadoes here too.

But in the meantime, I personally still absolutely love living here. I’ve traveled the world literally, and I cannot think of anywhere I’d rather be. And also, because of my profession, it’s a great base to have, and my kids all live here in California.

I’m very, very fortunate because I grow all my own food and have chickens, and I’ve got my solar panels. I drive my Tesla. I have fire hydrants on the property. I recycle my water. I’m trying to be a good citizen here. And some people have empty nests, and mine is filling up fast.

Some kids are coming back temporarily, and I run my business out of here, I run my art studios here, I have a son who produces music, and so he does his thing. And another one who plays baseball. I have grandchildren that come here, and I use the property to raise money for non-profits.

So, all in all, Malibu and having this compound here is very important to me. And there’s not an inch of it that isn’t used on a daily basis.

M&C: I think that’s what it’s all about, right — having the space and wherewithal to have your loved ones close and live healthily and happily around the people you love the most. I think that that’s brilliant. Well, good for you.

Jane Seymour: Well, the other side is, I ask myself, people say, “aren’t you going to downsize, aren’t you going to retire?” And actually, I feel that I’m better at what I have ever done in my life now than I was when I was younger. And I just feel this is my time. Well, sadly, that’s not normally when you get work.

But I’m very fortunate, I’m actually being offered things all the time, and I think it’s about being a realist and also about creating your own projects as well. I produce, as well.

I’m excited about being able to show my kids and grandchildren what my world is, or what the world is and show them around and let them experience things that they maybe wouldn’t experience otherwise.

I’ve worked hard for this, so I just feel like I’d rather have experience living with people I love and kids that had to deal with not seeing me as much cause I was working all the time. Let’s enjoy it now before it’s too late.

M&C: I agree with you. I think it’s a fantastic thing and I want you to keep working till the very end. I’m still heartbroken about Robert Forster, but he worked right to the end. I think he was probably very ill when he was in El Camino, that movie for Netflix.

Jane Seymour: Yes, definitely.

M&C: But he turned in a fantastic performance, and he did what he loved till the end, and that’s all any of us can hope for, right? Do what you love till the end.

Jane Seymour: I had the privilege of working with Sir John Gielgud on War and Remembrance, and I was working with him over nine months. I got to know him very well because we would be in Auschwitz and places like that.

So we would talk a lot about a lot of things in life. And I said to Johnny one day, “John, why do you still work so hard?”

And he said, “dear girl, so long as my name is on a call sheet, I know I’ll be alive in the morning.” So I’ve never forgotten that. His humor is like, “if my name’s on the call sheet, I’ve never missed my call, so I’ll be alive.”

The Kominsky Method is back for season two October 25, 2019, on Netflix

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April is an accredited entertainment writer, interviewer and television critic. She is a current member of the Television Critics Association (TCA), Gay and Lesbian Entertainment... read more
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