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Legal Briefs: Televisionary Chats with Anastasia Griffith of FX's "Damages"

This week's episode of Damages ("Tastes Like a Ho Ho") may have presented us with a look behind the lies of pivotal character Katie Connor, who storms out of Manhattan after she's forced to perjure herself during a deposition, but that doesn't mean that we've seen the last of Katie, played by British actress Anastasia Griffith.

We had a chance to speak with Damages' Griffith about her involvement in the FX legal thriller and about what's really going on with her mendacious character.

First up, how did Griffith (the sister of Battlestar Galactica actor Jamie Bamber) get involved with the twisty drama?

"I had moved to New York City in December last year," says Griffith. "And I think about a month after moving into the City... 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 [you've got to audition] in an American accent, go in and do it. So that was it, really. 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 [Rose Byrne] playing an American [...] Three days later I was told I had the role, so it was a very quick process."

What had attracted Griffith to Damages was the quality of the script and the cast that the producers had assembled. "I think that speaks for itself," she said. "I think 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. And the writing, too, is fantastic. I mean [the pilot] script is, obviously, all that we had seen at that time but it was so punchy with so many twists and turns. It is a dream come true, really."

So what's it like for Griffith to play Katie Connor, a character who seems to be filled with equal parts of light and dark? Katie, after all, is originally presented as an innocent in the entire Frobisher matter who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but we've slowly learned that she has some rather dark secrets of her own.

Griffith says that the innocence angle was something that the producers kept trying to steer her away from during the shooting of the pilot. Due to the fact that the character has undergone some astonishing changes since that initial episode, Griffith says that she had no idea at the time where they would take the character.

"I think in a way that innocence is almost my naiveté as far as the character goes," says Griffith. "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."

So what's her take then on Katie? "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 done her own thing," she added. "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."

"I think perhaps if David had been the older brother then she would have felt more like she could do that, but she’s really not a bad person," Griffith continues. "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."

What about Katie's manipulative side? After all, this is the woman who got Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) to ask her how old she was when she realized she was a good liar. "I don’t think it’s so much a manipulative thing, although she is a punchy girl who has got some mouth,"says Griffith . "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. So she’s definitely intelligent, but she’s just someone who’s got a bit of a dark side and her younger brother does not. I think growing up with that she became very aware very quickly that she had to kind of keep that side to herself and she just shows people around her what they kind of want to see from her until this comes out. Obviously, well, we’ll see what happens."

As for the issue of Katie's, er, tendencies towards deceiving everyone around her, Griffith had this to offer: "I 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 is [her] naïveté, but, it’s really helped [as in] the previous week’s episode, Patty Hewes saying, 'When did you discover how to lie?' It’s helped that I actually didn’t know that information. 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."

As Griffith mentioned initially that she really didn’t know where the character of Katie was going, has she since been informed about where the writers are taking her, going forward?

"No, we’re kept very much in the dark," admits Griffith. "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."

We do know that Katie is not murdered any time soon as "Tastes Like a Ho Ho" shows her identifying David's body, but is Griffith even entirely sure about what will befall Katie by the end of the first season?

"I don’t know what’s happening at the end of the season," sighs Griffith. "We kind of find out storylines when we go, but by this point, you know, the writers are kind of writing for us now, so we have gotten together and discussed where these characters are going and they see the way the characters are developing and they, with us, kind of bring that idea to life, through their writing. Although we don’t know where it’s going, I hope we’re informing it in some way as actors. And I just have absolute trust in the writers that they’re going to take it in an interesting direction."

You and me both, Anastasia. Regardless of what new twists and turns lay in store for us in the next few weeks, I have complete faith that this season of Damages will ratchet up the tension and surprise us every step of the way.

"Damages" airs Tuesdays evenings at 10 pm on FX.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Thanks for the great interview, Jace! I can't believe that Anastasia and Jamie Bamber are brother and sister! That's too funny. Both of them do excellent American accents. You would never guess they're not from our side of the pond.

I really like how the character of Katie has developed. As Anastasia said, at first you see her as totally innocent but they've now revealed some dark things in her past which make her much more interesting. I can't wait to see where they take her character next!
Anonymous said…
Awesome interview. I'm really glad that Katie and Anastasia aren't off the show. I love Damages and love BSG but had no idea that she and Jamie Bamber were siblings. Why the different last names???
Anonymous said…
@wes
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamie_Bamber_Griffith
HTH!
Anonymous said…
Thanks, Anon! I too had no idea that they were related and I watch both shows. I'm very curious to see where they take Anastasia's character especially since she and Ellen haven't spoken in months. Will she blame her for David's death or become an ally against Patty?
Anonymous said…
Thanks for a great interview! It's good to see you getting to interview people on some cool shows like this and Pushing Daisies. I love Damages and hope that Katie doesn't get pushed out of the picture as she is one of the more interesting characters in the show. Do you think Anastasia could get her brother Jamie to appear on Damages?
Anonymous said…
I take the day off from work and you run an interview on one of my favorite new shows? Damn you Jace. Thanks for another insightful interview especially with an up and coming actress like Griffiths. Now that you mention it she and Jamie Bamber do look very similar. I second the notion that Katie should stay on the show.
Anonymous said…
Wes - there was already a Jamie Griffith listed at British Equity so he uses his mothers maiden name (and his middle name) for his working name. As far as I'm aware he uses Griffith still as his actual surname away from acting.

The resemblance between Jamie and his sister is more noticeable if you look at older pictures of Jamie when he was more blond

Can't wait till we get Damages over here - looks like a really interesting drama
Anonymous said…
That's so funny...a Brit and Aussie playing New Yorkers...ha!

They definitely pull-it-off well, though...and I'm getting more and more interested in Katie's darker/complex side, every ep.!

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