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Calista Flockhart: ‘Brothers & Sisters’ Is Up Her Ally

The television landscape has changed dramatically in the five years since Calista Flockhart was last seen on television—people have moved on from buzzing about Ally McBeal to new water cooler favorites like Dr. McDreamy. But the actress proved there’s still a lot of star power in that slender frame when her new series Brothers & Sisters became one of the new season’s breakout hits, already renewed for a full season.

Hollywood.com: After all the time away from television, what was it about this character that made you decide this is the one that will bring you back?
Calista Flockhart:
Well, her political views are fundamentally different from mine for the most part, but it is really interesting and compelling to play someone else’s point of view and that definitely attracted me to the part. But having said that I also think that the character is a woman who is at a point in her life that she’s making decisions that will carry her through the next ten or twenty years. So she is going through a stage—she’s a conservative, but she is still a young woman who is making decisions about her family and about her boyfriend and about marriage and about having her own family and I think that a lot of issues like that will come up.

HW: Having been a stay-at-home mom for the last five years, how have you explained to your son Liam that you won’t be around all the time?
Fortunately it’s been a rather easy period of adjustment, for whatever reason. We talk about it a lot and he’s really okay with it. He always says, “Well, you’re a mom, but you’re an actress too.” So for me it was exciting and it was a hard period of adjustment and I can’t say that I had an easy time, but I think that he had a pretty easy time.

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HW: Did you ever miss the acting over the five years off?
I did. I certainly did. I loved being a mom, but as any mother will tell you if you stay home with a two-year-old 24/7, you start to get mush-brain and you start wishing that you were working, and then when you’re working, unfortunately, you’re wishing that you’re home. It’s a tough dilemma that I have a new appreciation for.

HW: Were there any projects that you were going to do before this one?
Almost. But this was the first time that I really took the step.

HW: What was it about this that made you want to do it?
Well, first of all it fit into my lifestyle and secondly I have a relationship with Robin [Baetz] for many years from doing theater with him New York and so I had a certain amount of trust. I think that he is extraordinary and really intelligent. That’s what I thought about this. I thought that the characters were so smart and their banter is smart and they’re funny and they’re complicated grown ups. I also really liked that it is different from the show Ally McBeal because that was very high comedy. Sometimes it was dramatic and sad and poignant, but for the most part we weren’t living in reality and this is a very real show about very real issues and that attracted me.

HW: On Ally, David E. Kelly was known as a word-perfect writer. Is it a bit more loose and easier to give things your own spin? Have you done any improvising?
No. We haven’t improvised yet, but it is interesting because I keep calling the script supervisor and saying, “What is that word? Is it ‘is’ or ‘it?’” I’m very specific about the words that I say, and [writer-producer] Robin [Baitz] and [producer] Ken [Olin] are like, “Who cares?” I say, “I care.” It’s funny because Robin writes it better than I say it. So I’m the actress that stays right on the script unless I’m asked to improvise. But usually I like to stay on the script.

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