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Michelle Forbes Talks 'Durham County' and How She Wishes More People Watched It

by Chris Jancelewicz, posted Sep 2nd 2010 5:30PM
Michelle Forbes is a rare breed of actor; ever the chameleon, she nomadically jumps from show to show, giving us just a taste of her ability. She then moves on to her next role to stun us once again. Most recently, Forbes played a maenad on vampire hit 'True Blood' and the icy Admiral Cain on 'Battlestar Galactica.'

One role that Forbes treasures is one you probably don't know her for, which is as demented psychologist Dr. Penelope Verrity in the second season of Canadian-made-and-produced 'Durham County.' It's a dark, dark role in an avant-garde show, and it mostly went under the radar.

TV Squad sat down with Forbes to discuss why she's done talking about 'Star Trek,' how she stays a TV nomad and why she wishes everyone knew about 'Durham County.'

So, I have a whole list of 'Star Trek' questions ... kidding!
When people ask me those questions, I just think, 'Really guys?' It's 2010, two decades later. I've answered those upwards, downwards, forwards, sideways. The show went on, it was great. Everybody's still breathing, everyone's doing fine. Are we still asking those questions? [Laughs] For me, I only did nine episodes! I hardly remember anything.

It probably has to do with your appeal – you tend to play very strong characters.
I think I just got really lucky with writers who create very fascinating characters. I'm also usually playing roles that come in and out of shows. I'm a gypsy, I like to pop in and pop out. I've been very fortunate to hit these great shows.

'Durham County' Clip 1

How do you ensure that you stay a TV gypsy and keep moving along?
It used to be that I would just sign up for recurring things ... my representation could kill me most of the time, because when it's a full-on series regular and a seven-year commitment, you're staring down the barrel of a long-term contract. I've gotta get over it, but it puts the fear of God into me. You're going to be dealing with one set of circumstances for seven years.

I've often said that 'True Blood' is the one that got away, because you're never bored on that show. You have no idea what they're going to throw at you. From script to script, you just don't know.

Like, in your case you're probably thinking, "Will I be gyrating today?"
[Laughs] Am I dancing? Am I dressed up in Graham's wardrobe? That's an aberration, that show. As the stories get better and better, I get less cautious about signing up for a lengthy time. In some cases, as with 'Durham County,' I saw a snippet of the first season I knew I wanted to be part of it right away.

I'm going to be straight with you. I'd never seen 'Durham County,' and many of my counterparts haven't, either. But when I watched the second season, I was blown away. It's nothing like other Canadian TV shows; it's dark, avant-garde and definitely out of the box.
'Durham County' was a real game-changer in terms of Canadian television. It swept the Geminis [Canadian TV/Movie awards] for its first season... And yet, no one in Canada (or the U.S. for that matter) really knows about the show. I was really quite shocked that people weren't seeing it as a show with a profound Canadian voice.

I mean, this is a show that wasn't copied from an American show – so many Canadian shows are – which usually results in a watered-down version. That's what I think is smart about 'Durham County.' It's not derivative of anything American. It's more in the vein of the BBC miniseries I grew up with.

'Durham County' Clip 2 - Warning: Foul Language

Yeah, it's too bad that most Canadians and Americans missed the first two seasons of 'Durham County.'

Everyone always wants to talk about 'True Blood' and 'Battlestar Galactica' – no one's even interested in 'Durham County.' It blew my mind when I came to Canada and no one asked me about the show. So many people didn't even know about it. They didn't even know it was on the air! It's very curious to me.

Your character on 'Durham County,' Dr. Penelope Verrity, was also really great, and quite intimidating.
Yes, she is. I always approach these characters from a different place, so I only see her as a very deeply sad individual. She's intense, and desperate for love. She was heartbreaking to me. She did some awful things, but they all came from heartbreak. So often in TV, when you have an antagonist who's supposed to be the "big baddie," it's so easy for them to become clichéd. What I love about what Adrienne [Mitchell], Janis [Lundman] and Laurie [Finstad-Knizhnik] did is they tried to get viewers to understand why Pen behaved the way she did. It makes this a provocative and engaging bit of television, for sure.

Every time Pen did something, I was cringing. I wanted to yell 'Stop!'
I'm glad to hear you say that ... I wanted that to come across. She's mentally ill and driven by her compulsions. Like any addict or alcoholic, you put a lid on it for a moment, but then you're right back into it a few seconds later. When someone is being chased by their own terrors, they slowly lose their mind. It was a devastating place to be.

The core of this woman is failure. She failed as a wife, she failed as a daughter, she failed as a sister, and she failed as a mother – the one thing women are biologically "supposed" to do. She couldn't do it. She failed on every level.

Did it mess you up at all?
It kind of did, and I'm not that kind of actor who gets all affected by things. It seeped in. I was very isolated in Montreal [near where 'Durham County was filmed]. Thankfully it was an Indian summer. Anyway, the leaves were gone, the streets were bare, and there was lots of rain. I walked Old Montreal by myself a lot.

'Durham County' Clip 3

Did you do any psychological research?
I did quite a bit. Weirdly, there isn't a lot out there about women who kill. Women who kill their children do so for many different reasons. Andrea Yates was someone I looked at quite a bit. Susan Smith was another. Very different women, very different disorders. I did a show called 'Wonderland' a few years back, and I was fortunate enough to spend a full-on two weeks – I'm talking 13-15 hours a day – with the doctors and patients at Bellevue in New York. That served me well for 'Durham County.'

How about your castmates? How was the chemistry there? I especially liked the girl that played Hugh Dillon's daughter.
Oh, Laurence [Lebeouf]. She is a revelation. Every once in a while you come across one of those actors and you realize you've learned so much from them. She was an absolute gem. Everyone on this cast was just wonderful. In many ways it was great to get out of Hollywood.

What's up next for you?

I'm doing another uplifting story about dead children! [Laughs]

Are you joking?
[Laughs] No, I'm really not! It's called 'The Killing,' and it will be on AMC. More rom-coms for me! [Laughs]

Catch Forbes on season 2 of 'Durham County' – if you can – and keep your eyes peeled for 'The Killing.'

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Stories about crazy women and child killers are just not my cup of tea. But I love Battlestar Galactica!

October 14 2011 at 1:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark Andrews

She's mentally ill and driven by her compulsions. Like any addict or alcoholic http://hubpages.com/hub/African-Mango-Review-Does-African-Mango-Diet-Pill-Work

February 16 2011 at 9:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Xtreme No

Everyone always wants to talk about 'True Blood' and 'Battlestar Galactica' – no one's even interested in 'Durham County http://www.xtremenoscam.org/

February 02 2011 at 7:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jay Waters

@Rory, I'll have to check out Messiah, I've never heard of it... Michelle is one of the best right now and I'm wondering why Durham County isn't as big in the US...

January 27 2011 at 2:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Michelle Forbes is a really good actress in the hollywood her career is blooming in the hollywood she is a really hot and sexy actress,

September 11 2010 at 6:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Michelle is the better actress, she has chosen more versatile roles and has excelled in them. She is great in In Treatment. Teri Hatcher has only had 2 good roles in her life, and she lucked into them.

September 11 2010 at 12:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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I do believe it's being shown on Showcase now, as they tend to get much of those series after the pay service is done with them.

September 10 2010 at 6:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've seen the show on ION and it is very dark. Almost not Canadian.

Must be shot in BC.

September 04 2010 at 9:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Michelle Forbes is fantastic - she always draws me into her roles and I notice that she's been playing more 'villainous' roles of late. She has created a very complex character in Durham County. Seek out the BBC series 'Messiah' in which she played the lead detective's deaf wife - she's incredible even without dialogue.
I ordered seasons one and two of Durham from Canada based on the positive reviews (I live in the UK where it hasn't aired yet) and its dark and intense and i hope they keep making it.

September 04 2010 at 5:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They did air the second season of Durham county on ION, I happened to catch it because they showed a marathon of season 1 leading up to the premier of Season 2. I DVR'd but the episodes were so good I typically watched in live anyway!

September 03 2010 at 12:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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