Holly Hunter, Hard as Nails

By Greg Archer

Originally published on Advocate.com March 02 2009 1:00 AM ET

As Detective Grace
Hanadarko on the TNT hit
Saving Grace,

Holly Hunter plays a hard-as-nails yet positively admirable
mess of a human. In real life, it might look as if Hunter has
some of Grace's stronger edges -- that seemingly unshakeable
confidence helps -- but it's remarkably clear that the actress
is a passionate creature consumed with the joy her career
affords her. Advocate.com sat down to talk with the
Oscar-winning actress (
The Piano

) -- and two-time Emmy winner and multi-Golden Globe nominee --
before the curtain rises on another round of new
Saving Grace

episodes this month. Is there an LGBT story line in the show's
future? Hunter tells all.

Advocate.com:Congrats on the show and such a memorable character. If
Grace could, what advice do you think she'd be doling out to
the president?
Holly Hunter:

She would give none. I think she's a liver of life, but I don't
think she gives advice. I don't know if this guy needs it. I
mean, he has an extraordinary amount of wisdom, for such a
young man. It's incredible. The world is different.

The group depression has lifted. No need for Zoloft -- at
least about the presidency.

Even though we are in terrible shape economically, I do feel
hopeful.

What are you most excited about in 2009?

Well, I am excited about him. It's interesting to think of a
president as a role model, but I think that he kind of is one.
I think people will listen to him. I think if he said, "I
want all Americans to turn their thermostats down this
summer," I think people will. It comes down to being as
pragmatic as that. If he encouraged all Americans to buy
American cars, he might have an impact. That is the power that
I think he has. Even with things just as practical as that. I
think that guy has the power to have a real effect on us as a
country.

He's spurring us to get involved in our own community. Spark
change.

Definitely.

About Grace, what do you love most about playing her?

You can never anticipate who she is going to be. I think she
gets to play lots of different roles. Even in her job, I think
the job encourages her to role-play with people; to figure out
who she is in order to get information from people. That's just
one aspect. The thing that lures me in the most is the
relationship she has with her own self, which I think is very
conflicted, very passionate, very uncensored. She has a large
soul.

There's a lot or raw emotion there, and you certainly bring
it out well. Was that one of the reasons you said yes to the
role?

Absolutely. I was really impressed with the fact that the
character had three dimensions, especially with procedurals, I
think the thing that can take precedent is the crime, the
environment. In this show it's the characters that are going to
keep me captivated for a long time.

Were you hesitant or choosy about taking on a lead in a
series?

I've always been a little choosy, but I have to say that when I
read it, I said to myself, "I don't care if this is a movie,
a miniseries, a television show, or whatever. I don't want
anybody else to play this part!" [
Laughs

]

Well, you're also executive producer. How much of say do you
get in story development or the story arcs that we see?

[Writer] Nancy Miller is coming at this from a real inside
place. Grace is her creation, and I trust her. She has
extraordinary instincts and she assembles a beautiful staff of
writers that are very imaginative. Sometimes I have an idea or
tell them something I'd like to explore, but for the most
part those guys do what they are going to do. I think the show
is finding itself all the time. It's kind of a complicated show
to put up. It's working on a lot of different levels, and I
think the show continues to get stronger as we go on.

What's the hardest thing about playing Grace?

The hardest thing is the hours. The easiest thing about playing
Grace is that I love her.

Overall, the show's a big hit. What do you think viewers are
connecting to?

I don't know. I can never anticipate what viewers are
connecting with. I connect with all of her, really. I think
that it's essential that the connection begins with oneself. If
you are playing a part, it has to start there. It can't start
with some outside result that I am thinking about or how people
perceive this. It has to start with me. And I think it's one of
the reasons the show has some honesty, because it begins with
Nancy Miller, when she started writing the character. And then
it transfers to the actors. All of the actors have a genuine
hookup with who they are playing -- a genuine
curiosity.

That's a good thing. Now, about the spirituality aspect of
the show, I would imagine that taking on a role about tough gal
who is guided by a gruff angel named Earl, that you yourself
might be a bit introspective. Are you? I mean, do you ponder
deep questions or even believe that angels are out there ...
guiding us?

Well, I certainly consider myself a spiritual person. I mean, I
think that acting can be a spiritual thing and anybody who is
endeavoring to create -- being a mother, being a father --
those are spiritual roles that we can have in life if that's
how we think about them, and I do. Angels? I don't really
believe in literal angels, but I certainly believe in people
that guide us. You have to be open to be guided. But there are
mentors for us. There are teachers. I think in a way those
people can absolutely be considered angels.

Yes. I usually get a "sign" or an interesting bit of
synchronicity or sequence of events.

Yeah, you know, I think that's kind of undeniable. There is an
energy that we all contribute to.

Absolutely. What more can we expect in the March episodes?
Christina Ricci has signed on as a fellow detective for a story
arc.

It's fantastic to have her. Nancy wrote it with her in mind.
She has a very unique energy as an actress. And I have been
admiring her for a long time, and it's been great to work
opposite of her. But you know, I think we'll be seeing
something about forgiveness. I think it's kind of fascinating
between Grace and Leon, the death-row inmate. It's explored
more. That's an interesting relationship, as are all of them.
The show continues to grow. I think the last episodes of the
second season are just fantastic. I think the show has traction
now.

What would you like to see next from Grace?

Don't know. They are working on that right now. The writers are
in the writers' room right this second, spinning out these
imaginary tales about Grace. I am very excited about that.

Any similarities between you and Grace?

Grace comes from me and only me, just like all characters that
actors play. They come from them. And only them.

So you're pretty tough?

I would say Grace is many things.

That's just one of them.

Yeah. She is definitely very tough. But I also think that she
is very fragile. She is many things.

Do you think the writers would ever consider an LGBT story
line at some point in the future?

I don't know. That might be interesting. That would certainly
not be out of the realm for
Saving Grace,

you know? They may be cooking that up right this second.

Any thoughts on the recent SAG Awards? You were up for Best
Actress.

It was pretty fun. I have to say. I happen to think that this
particular year was a year of really great performances. It was
kind of wild. Richard Jenkins and Melissa Leo and Anne Hathaway
and Sean Penn and Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti.

What were your thoughts when they named Sally Field as Best
Actress in a TV role?

It was cool. Are you kidding? It was Sally Field. What's the
problem? She is an exceptional woman; an exceptional actress.
At my age, it really, truly is to be honored. Once you've been
around the block -- and Sally Field feels the same way -- once
you've been acting a long time, you realize the privilege of
being in a position where your show, your movie, your work is
recognized. That is a privilege. So, you know, I love that she
won. It would have been cool to win, but I would never look at
it as being a loser. That's too silly.

What do you for fun?

Travel.

Any places you really love to visit?

I spent three months in France. It's been really great.

Love that. So what's the most interesting thing you've been
learning about yourself lately?

Uh, wow! Patience is probably everything.

Hmm. Good thing to learn.

Yeah, man ... it can be really tough. Especially in
the world when things go so quickly; we all move so quickly
now. There are so many things we have access to. Patience is
something we no longer feel that we need, but at the end of
day, you know, you really do need patience. Dealing with people
-- patience truly is a virtue. People deserve patience.