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Marin stars as "Judy" on CBS's comedy series "Two And A Half Men". Hinkle is best known to television audiences as a regular in "Once and Again." Her other television credits include the series WITHOUT A TRACE and "Feds," on CBS, "Spin City," "Law & Order" and "Lefty" and the television movie "World War III." Her feature film credits include "I Am Sam," "Frequency," "Dark Blue," "The Next Big Thing," "I'm Not Rappaport," "Angie," "Breathing Room" and "Milk Money." Her theater credits include "Electra," "A Thousand Clowns" and "The Tempest," on Broadway, and numerous Off Broadway and regional theater roles. . She received a bachelor's degree from Brown University and a master's degree from New York University. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband Randall Sommer and their son. Hinkle was born on March 23, 1966, Dar Es Salam, in Tanzania, and grew up in Boston. Marin's parents met while serving in the Peace Corps. She was born in Tanzania, but her family moved to Boston when she was four months old. Two years later, her brother Mark, was born. Her father, Rodney, is a retired school teacher. Her mother , Margaret, is a judge for the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Marlin wanted to be a ballerina and studied dance until age 16 when an ankle injury ended her dancing. While concerned about her decision to pursue acting, her parents nonetheless urged her to follow her dreams. They just encouraged her to get a Masters degree so she could at least fall back on teaching. She graduated from Brown University and then transferred to New York University, where she says she was pretty terrible in her acting classes. In 1992, she met her husband, Randall, a New York theater director. After her success, they both moved to a Hollywood home that they have leased after they had a 9 month separation. Marin had her first successes performing in New York theater (Electra & The Tempest), then got some minor movie roles, and then guest roles on several tv shows before her co-starring role on "Once and Again".
Marin Hinkle: Two and a Half Men and a Lesbian Ex-Wife
CBS' sitcom Two and a Half Men stars Charlie Sheen (most recently of Spin City) as 35-year-old Charlie, a wealthy, carefree jingle-writer who lives on the beach in Malibu. His life is turned upside down when his brother Alan (played by Jon Cryer of Pretty and Pink) separates from his wife and moves in with Charlie, bringing his brainy 10-year-old son Jake (Angus T. Jones) along with him.
The event that sets this all in motion? Alan's estranged wife Judith finally starts to deal with her attraction to women. Although Judith is not exactly marching in the gay pride parade yet, she's definitely on her way, and her relationship with Alan serves as a subplot to the central one which revolves around the relationship between to the two brothers and their attempt to co-parent Jake.
In a brilliant casting move, Judith is played by Marin Hinkle, who played Sela Ward's quirky sister Judy in the lesbian-friendly ABC drama Once and Again. Hinkle has also been in movies like Frequency and I am Sam, as well as several plays and a short stint on the NBC daytime drama Another World.
Holland Taylor also stars as Alan and Charlie's controlling mother, Evelyn.
A high-profile cast (particularly Sheen and Danner), and the fact that the pilot beat out several others for a place on CBS' fall schedule, bodes well for its success, and early feedback on the pilot has been promising. With the hit show Everybody Loves Raymond as a lead-in, CBS appears to be trying to give it a fighting chance. Some competition will come from competing networks, however, as the sitcom goes up against Fox's new drama Skin, NBC's new drama Las Vegas, Everwood on the WB, and Monday Night Football on ABC, all of which air between 9pm and 10pm and Monday nights.
But even if the sitcom does well, it remains to be seen whether Judith gets to be a full-fleshed character with a storyline beyond the "my wife is a lesbian" jokes straight men appear to be so fond of, or whether her storyline shrinks to being almost non-existent, as it did for another lesbian ex-wife on a sitcom called Friends shortly after that show debuted almost ten years ago.
Since this is a sitcom revolving around two straight men, Judith probably never will become more than a prop to their storyline. But even if she only lasts a few episodes, Two and a Half Men will be worth watching just to see Hinkle again; her presence on the small screen has been missed since Once and Again was canceled.
And since Judith is one of the only new lesbian characters so far on next season's network primetime TV schedule and ER's Kerry Weaver is the only returning one, we also don't have many other options.
Marin Hinkle: Bringing TV Drama to Life.
For those of you who may not recognize her name, Marin Hinkle is a wonderful actor, currently appearing in the ABC series "Once and Again" as younger sister Judy to recent Emmy-winner Sela Ward's Lily. The drama is another careful, deliberate, character-driven show by the team of Herskovitz and Zwick, who also brought us "Thirtysomething" and "My So Called Life." The series has found a home with viewers who can identify with the themes of family and love, and the wrench that divorce can throw into it all. Now in its second year, the drama is constantly expanding its scope, taking the time to explore the lives of each of the characters and ingeniously showing the unusual relationships that can arise from the blending of families.
I spoke to Ms. Hinkle in early November, and she was an absolute joy to work with. Before I had even asked a single question, she took off into her thoughts and feelings on the show with incredible enthusiasm. She has a wonderful stream- of-consciousness speaking style, and she wandered casually between talking of reality and of the fictional "Once and Again" characters. It really kept me on my toes! As per usual, I could hardly bear to edit the interview, reading back over our discussions on the series, theater, life, loves, family--even the actor's strike. So I just tried to weed out some of my extraneous affirming or reiterating comments, and did my best to keep intact the wonderful musings and ramblings of a thoughtful and sensitive actor.
Hinkle's role on the show as the rebellious yet sensitive Judy could be considered by some as a breakthrough role for a newcomer. But as you'll discover, she didn't just arrive out of nowhere, and a TV series wasn't the route she'd ever imagined herself heading for.
HINKLE: I don't really watch TV much, and didn't really grow up with watching TV, so it's been rather humorous for me to try and understand how to be a TV actor, because I don't have a lot of history in being able to compare the show to other shows, you know, that I watched growing up. People will say, "Oh, it reminds me of "Family" or "The Brady Bunch" and I sort of smile and go, "Oh, that's wonderful," and I have no idea!! And you know, "Thirtysomething", because Marshall and Ed worked on that...I had never seen it. So people keep saying it's the style of "Thirtysomething", and I, thank God, was smart enough to say to the people, can I rent some of the tapes or borrow some of the tapes, so I could get a sense of what that style is? Same thing with "My So Called Life," I just looked into those to see what they were about.
SPENCER: Don't feel bad, because I haven't seen "Thirtysomething" either.
HINKLE: All right, there you go.
SPENCER: I did see "My So-called life", though, and it is a similar style...it's more like real life.
HINKLE: Right, and it's snippets every week of family issues and kind of not necessarily a big story line that's going to have a beginning, middle, and end to it. And I know that's one of the reasons that the Nielsen ratings aren't as high as we all want, and we think it may be partially because some people are so much more grabbed by an episode of a "Law and Order" or "ER", that kind of deals with one issue that you can sort of emotionally grab onto. Our show's more kind of lingering, and languid, and just kind of lets you come in and out...
SPENCER: Right. I know when I picked up the show, I did have to watch a couple episodes just to get to know everyone.
HINKLE: ["Once and Again"] is very family-oriented and if you missed out on one of the intricacies of one of the children's problems last year, then this year when a problem erupts you might not understand where it started from. You know, they're bringing Shane West, who plays Eli, Rick's son- -this year they're having him be quite rebellious with his father. And I think that it's a fine thing to watch, but it's even more interesting if you know that last year he was very much the "good son", who was always doing the right thing for his father. And this year he's kind of resenting that his dad--you know it's almost like he's taking out some of the aggression from his dad getting divorced, and feeling like his dad wanted him to be perfect, and in attitude he's kind of like the kid who dyes his hair purple or blue and decides he doesn't want to go to college. It's very interesting to follow it as we follow our own lives. We just kind of let the progression happen without judging it, I think.
SPENCER: That is the kind of thing that happens in families-sometimes the kids will switch--
HINKLE: Right, the one that was more dominant and the one that was the good student is suddenly not. I think sometimes you get sick of your own position. In my relationship, in my marriage, there are times when I'm always the one who's the listener, the supporter, and my husband's the guide and he comes up with the ideas of what we're gonna do. And suddenly I'll get sick of that position and I'll be like, "You know what, I'm doing this and we're doing this now, and I'm the captain now...(laughs) It's just interesting how it can see-saw that way...
Maybe in playing Judy, I think that was something I was not used to either...When it started out, I was in some ways the rebellious, cynical...pained sister...and I think there are still those things inside of Judy, but this year...I don't know if you saw this episode, with this newfound passion she has in creating that store and making it into a possible kind of dating service...and it's almost like it's allowing her a sense of courage and self-worth...so that she doesn't have to feel so badly about herself. This year, maybe, there'll be moments where she can feel proud and strong and not as bitter, and hopeful about love, you know. I love how they twist her, and as soon as I'm in a place where I think that I've been there too long, they let me come to a new side of her personality...
SPENCER: That was actually one of the things I was going to ask you about, because you did a TVGuide on-line chat back in April, and you had said that you hoped that maybe some more positive things were going to happen for Judy.
HINKLE: My family is very sensitive to it...they go, "Oh my God, they're making you so mean!!" And they'd get really scared about that, because the friends of the family are judging you, and that kind of rubs off on me. I felt a little scared that I was too aggressive...but luckily Marshall and Ed got me to see that people are really complex and even if they're aggressive and obnoxious one day, the next day they can be loveable, gentle, and very supportive...
I did want not just negative things to happen to her. Of course, the funny thing is, I'm shooting an episode right now that has to do with love, and possible romance in her life, and at the end of the episode--I don't know if I'm allowed to say this, but at the end of the episode it doesn't look that hopeful (laughs). It's just interesting that if they allow me to connect with some men, they don't really allow the connection to last...
So I did talk to Marshall at one point, with kind of a smile, I was like, "Come on guys, she can have love, too, can't she, that lasts more than one night?" So they're like, "I don't think so!" So, we'll see if they let that happen.
I think they like it, as an aspect of humanity, that people right now are very strong-minded about what they need in their life in terms of a love partner, and in a love relationship. You know, our generation, through years of therapy, self-evaluation, or a lot of the media, becomes much more certain, I think, or maybe falsely certain, of what they think they want in a match. In my parents' generation, it wasn't really contemplated as much, I think...my parents got married much younger, and my mom had dated only one other person, you know, and I think it's different, and they're letting Judy be more a kind of person who reflects that kind of person in society who really has been searching for "the one". And they're very picky, about who that one is. And maybe now that this character is in her thirties, she's wondering if that was not the right choice, because she's not sure if she's gonna find "the one".
SPENCER: There's actually a book out, called "Facing thirty", and it's about all that, how women now have a lot more choices than their mothers did, and like you said, they know more about relationships. So sometimes they end up alone because they kept going, "Well, I think I can get something better, or I could be doing this..."
HINKLE: I agree, and I think that in a way, I don't want to blame therapy for this because I think therapy is a wonderful tool for awareness, but I think if you spend a whole lot of time talking about your own needs and getting that supported, that sometimes you forget that a lot of people out there are not going to fit into an exact archetype of what supposedly is perfect for you. And in a way you have to learn that compromise is sort of the hugest part of a relationship. And I know some of my women friends in their thirties that haven't found love, sometimes it's because it's harder for them to compromise because they have such strong ideas of what they think they need. And I'm not saying that's the exact reason why it hasn't happened, but it's certainly a little of that strong-mindedness that might be getting in the way of it. I think Judy has that, too.
SPENCER: Yeah, I think that was reflected in this past episode, because the carpenter, she was just looking at him thinking, "This is definitely not the type of guy--"
HINKLE: "Not what I want."
HINKLE: And then at the end, when he walks out the door, you're sort of saying, to Judy, "Why don't you take off your judgment...let your heart and your soul kind of say, here's a guy who looks like he's ready to love you. And what are you waiting for?"
It's hard because, in the script we're working on now, they brought that guy back. Which is wonderful, but they didn't allow Judy to see what we're talking about, they still have her kind of very judgmental...and I got angry, cause I thought it was so obvious, that Judy would say, "That's the guy!" And so it's been very difficult to do the episode, because I'm not sure I agree that Judy wouldn't see it--they're making her less aware than I want her to be.
SPENCER: That's something I had wanted to ask, if sometimes it is hard, when she's doing things that you wouldn't do?
HINKLE: Yeah, it is... I mean, I wonder if it's not as hard in a film, because it's a smaller segment of your life, a film is usually between like 2 and 4 months and you sort of do it, and you kind of commit to it, and then you let go of the character. But what's weird about playing a character over, now it's been a year and a half, is, she's basically, in a weird way, an alter ego now. I have my own life, but this other life that I play. And there are times when I play her that I feel like, I'm in that professional life, I'm becoming her, for that moment of my work, and there are times when I feel like "That's not what I would say." And I take that, sometimes, to those poor writers who are so respectful but obviously, thank God, very strong- minded, and I say, "I don't think this the right word to say," or "This isn't the right thing that would happen," and they look at me with these smiles, and they put their hand on me and go, "You know what? You have to say it." (laughs)
And you know, maybe it's because I don't know where they're taking the character, 'cause they're very secretive about it, and maybe they're creating this because they want her to make mistakes and maybe I'm not able to make the mistakes because I've learned in my own life that that mistake doesn't work. Judy's maybe a little less evolved on that choice.
SPENCER: Is there anything in the character that you do relate to on some level?
HINKLE: Yeah, there's one thing about her that's such a joy to play--is that I find her incredibly compassionate. That sounds very flattering, "Oh, I'm just like that..." but she takes a lot of delight in lots of types of life...she's open to different kinds of people, and she loves her nieces so much...she's very, I think open-minded about connecting to different types of men. And I think that that's a beautiful quality. She's emotional, she connects to her feelings, and she's very feisty and gets angry, and she's also able to be vulnerable. And I don't know if I am exactly like that--I hope I am--I love how passionate she seems to be, and I feel like her vulnerability is really something that the writers have been courageous in allowing their character to be.
...Another thing about Judy is, I pretend I'm not that cynical in my own life, that somehow I'm an eternal optimist, that life is really filled with positive things, but I do have a lot of sarcasm in me, and I think I love that they allow Judy to do that--you know, she makes fun of things a lot, and she makes fun of herself, too.
SPENCER: My mother said that she actually likes Judy the best, because she's kind of like the straight-shooter; everyone else is a little bit more moony about stuff...
HINKLE: Right, she's sort of in the middle of some happy event and she might say, "This sucks!"
SPENCER: (laughs) Exactly!
HINKLE: (laughing) You know, right in the middle of someone glossing over something she might be like, "Oh, come on, please, look what's underneath!" So I like that about her.
SPENCER: That's probably a good balance for the show, too, because she is a good contrast to Lily.
HINKLE: Right. Lily has sweetness in her all over, and Judy's kind of a little bit more the black sheep of the family. Cause she has this older sister who's pretty perfect, and gorgeous, and got the man early, and had the great children, and yes, had a divorce and that's a problem, but found a man--
SPENCER: Right away again.
HINKLE: Right! And her brother is schizophrenic, that's who Patrick Dempsey plays on the show; that's something that I think Judy felt deeply guilty about, like, here's this brother that's not well, and I think that in a way she became the one that was less--the parents gave less attention to, and somehow she felt less loved.
...I have a brother, two years younger than me, and when I was growing up, I was the older sister who was very sort of possessive of him and protective of him, like the way Lily is towards Judy, and interestingly enough, Mark had a child and I don't have a child, and in a way what's been so great is that it's like what we talked about at the beginning of this interview, that our relationship has turned around. Like, he is now the older brother, and I'm the younger sister, and he's learning how to be a father and I'm sort of watching with great awe because he's so good at it. So I love how sometimes they let Judy know more than Lily about something, so she takes the younger sister role away from it and becomes an older sister to Lily.
SPENCER: You do have a pretty big cast--the plot shifts back and forth from one person to another and sometimes you'll just have a small scene in an episode--is it hard to get into character for just those little moments?
HINKLE: It's interesting that all actors tend to agree with me on this one. Maybe there's some exceptions, but it's much harder when you only have a few lines or if it's just one scene than when you have a bigger part. I used to feel this way when I did plays, too--if you have a little scene in a play it's much more difficult, because you put so much energy into it and you're so desirous of making that unique and special, that you sometimes overdo it. You know I look at some of my work in some of the episodes where I don't have much to do and I go, "Oh God," because I was just trying to put everything and the kitchen sink into that scene.
The episodes where I'm more exhausted, where I'm working every day, tend to be more relaxed and it tends to usually be a better performance. And it's also particularly hard on this show because there are many episodes that I haven't been in. I moved out to LA this year, to be here for the show, whereas last year I was living in New York and commuting out to work, and then flying back to see my husband, and I was ready this year to kind of say, "Ok, now I'm here full-time you can use me every day," and they have had many an episode where I haven't been needed and it's horrid. You know, actors are weird, when we're not working, we don't feel like we're alive, and it's difficult. Just recently I called the agency and said, "You know, maybe I could try to work on something else at times if I'm not working on the show," and luckily Marshall and Ed have been pretty good about letting some of the actors that have smaller roles like mine do other little projects.
SPENCER: Do they film the show episode by episode?
HINKLE: Yeah, we started in July, and they had written, two, maybe three scripts at that point. We basically have an eight working day shoot. Let's say at the beginning of the month it started on a Monday, and then they would go through to the following Wednesday, with the read-through of the next episode happening that day and starting the following day. And then they'd go through another eight days, not counting weekends. It's like each eight days is a new film. And they're handing you a script maybe two or three days before you start shooting. The episode we're doing right now [focuses] very heavily on Judy, which is fantastic, I love that, but it's a little scary, because they hand it to me like four days before we start shooting, and I was like, "Oh my God, I've got a lot of lines to learn!" I had to put my plans for the weekend aside.
SPENCER: In between seasons, too, you have time off...
HINKLE: We finished last spring, around April, and then didn't start up until July, so I ended up doing a play in New York, a TV movie, and a small part in another little movie. So it was really wonderful to on my hiatus do stuff that was very different from the TV stuff.
SPENCER: Is it hard to come back and try to get into that character again?
HINKLE: In some ways it was such a relief to me, to go to a place I was familiar with, it felt like coming home. And you know what was remarkable about my show is that I just adore the cast and that's not to say I don't love all casts I've worked with, but the children, particularly, are remarkable to me, as actors and as people. The little girls- -it just slays me to watch them grow up--I just feel like I get educated by them every day I go to the set. So I was really looking forward to being back with them. And I love Sela, I love working with her, and Susanna Thompson, who plays Karen--her character and mine are now starting to have scenes together.
SPENCER: I liked that. I thought that was kind of an unusual twist. That's another thing the show does, is it keeps intertwining everyone and sometimes I have to stop and think and go, "Now wait a minute.."
HINKLE: "Isn't that the wife of the man who's dating my sister??" (Laughs). "What's going on here?"
HINKLE: It's funny, because Susanna and I became friends last year, and suddenly we had a scene together, and we were so comfortable with each other that when I looked at the scene later, I went, "Uh-oh, I think we looked like we were too comfortable." We have to be careful that our own friendship doesn't get reflected within the kind of gentle and tentative friendship that those two characters have.
SPENCER: That's kind of what I liked about it, though. It's so funny that you brought that up, because I didn't know that you had the additional friendship but I know when I saw those scenes, I was like, that was what was so moving about it, that you just seemed to settle in, like it was something that was just right.
HINKLE: I agree...there's like a pain in both women, that allows them to sort of understand each other without even having to say much. I'm glad you saw that. I'll have to tell Susanna.
And I'll tell you something that's hard about the show; once in awhile it's hard for me to play Judy angry at Lily. And the reason is because it's very hard for me to ever get angry at Sela--I can't even imagine it, because she's so sweet and she's so loving, she's so supportive, so when they give me these lines where I'm supposed to be harsh to her, it's difficult. Because it's so not who we are, Sela and I. So when we fight, as characters, we'll just look at each other and start laughing, because we just don't have any tension. And so, in a way, what was really nice about them creating a relationship with Karen is that they didn't give me tension.
The only friendship that I have with a woman in the show is Sela and they give us a lot of tension, so in some ways it was such a welcome relief to have a girlfriend that I don't have to be so tense with. Because even in my own life, most of my friends are women, and we don't really have that much tension. Once in awhile something erupts, but we're very supportive and loving, and so it was a very welcome thing to not have to have a fight scene (laughs). Sometimes they create a lot of tension between these two sisters and I know why they do that, because they need that...
SPENCER: And sometimes you do have different things going on with siblings, than you do with friends. That's an interesting point, too, because you don't want to have it like all your relationships with women have conflict--that's sending a message...
HINKLE: And I asked them that last year, I said, "You know, can you give me more scenes with the girls, because that really allows Judy to show her love in a very peaceful, open way whereas when you give me scenes with Lily they're often conflict scenes. And sometimes Sela and I get upset and we look at each other and go, "Not another fight!"
SPENCER: Do you think the writers, because they're writing it as the show goes along, do you think that they get ideas from how you play the character?
HINKLE: That's a really wonderful question. You know, they don't really tell me about that. Once in awhile, Winnie, who wrote "My So Called Life" and produced it--I will say to her, "Ah, you created a line which is exactly what I would say," and she will smile and go, "I think I knew that." She's taken something from my essence and put it into the role, without even knowing it, without me even saying anything or lending her that bit of information. I think that there's a bit of magical kind of symbiotic, almost osmosis...I don't want to sound too goofy, but I think that something happens in the rooms in the read- through or even in the moments before we read through the scenes each week, where the writers are sort of looking at us all, going, "Who are these real people?" and sometimes I think they take details of our own life.
SPENCER: This show does deal with a lot of serious issues and a lot of things that people face in their own lives. Do you all maybe feel a little bit more challenge or responsibility because people are kind of looking to this show as a guide or a comfort?
HINKLE: Great, great question! I'll give an example, of...one of the characters, Jesse--they're going to have her have an eating disorder. And that's something that is such a delicate, delicate topic that so many women go through. I think it's a really important issue to deal with really responsibly, and I know that the writers had a real long talk with her about it, and I was actually around for the week and a half that they shot it. Ed Zwick actually directed it and plays the therapist in that episode, and Marshall came in to direct those scenes that Ed was in, and so it was very much like a family affair. That particular episode really has a lot of heart and love in it--I mean, every one does, but that episode in particular.
And I think those issues, everyone takes so responsibly. So in answer to your questions, yes, because we're dealing with some real touchy subjects, I think there's hopefully a lot of care put on that. You know, last year, when I had the affair with the married man, they didn't take it lightly that that was happening; they didn't joke about it. I think that they allowed the pain of Judy's realizations of the guilt in not being able to share that with Lily, and the embarrassment that she couldn't stop. So I think they were pretty responsible with that. And I love that they do that.
SPENCER: The thing I like, too, is that the characters will come to a realization if they see a parallel from the opposite side. Here she's having an affair with a married man, which is just the same thing that happened to Lily, in the opposite way.
HINKLE: I agree. You know, there's a moment that you just reminded me of, which I hadn't even thought about. In the episode that you just saw, "Booklovers", I had a moment with Susanna, who's playing Karen. I kind of admit to her character that the reason I did this was because I'm desperately in love, and I'm just really trying to get over it, and she asks what I mean, and I say, "Well, I'm in love with a married man." Which is interesting that you say that, because I was saying that to a woman who is possibly still in love with the man who's seeing my sister. And the ramifications of how embarrassing it is to admit that, that I'm allowing someone basically to cheat on their spouse, you know it's like you say, interesting how the ripples of pain move out...and I see the truth through their eyes.
SPENCER: Are we going to see any more of Sam?
HINKLE: You know, I know Marshall and Ed loved having Steven Weber on the show, they just thought he was incredible, and I did too. Because he's so talented, he's got a new TV series, and so everyone went, "Uh-oh, groan, we'll never get him back." (Laughs). The way I feel about it, is that if Steven ever wanted to come back, they would make a way to have something happen with those characters. But they're trying now to let her move on from that.
I'm so curious about whether they'll let Judy find love, I really am. It's funny how I have such longings for her, (laughing) to feel loved, you know?
SPENCER: I'm sure they probably have to keep in mind, too, how long they want the series to be on...
HINKLE: You're right, I'm sure they want it to be a progression. If they let me find something successful now, then, it has to maybe last for awhile.
SPENCER: When you do have really dramatic, emotional scenes, is it ever hard to kind of come out of that?
HINKLE: This is going to sound so funny, and I might be an exception, I don't know, but when I have emotional scenes, it makes me feel most alive as an actor. Maybe I turned to acting because I wanted to express those things to help people or allow people to see themselves in the character. So I get so excited when I get to do those scenes, but when they finish I feel--really alive, and really, so glad to be able to be an actor. So no, I never feel--I mean, I come home and my eyes are tired, from doing a scene for five hours where she's supposed to be crying, but I feel sort of rejuvenated, too. It's strange that way for me.
I've played roles on stage, where the woman is just screaming and yelling and physically kind of going nuts, and those conditions can kind of make it like a marathon, where I'm just physically exhausted and the next day I sort of have to rev up again. But TV isn't quite as demanding that way. It demands a lot of focus, though; you don't sort of joke around between scenes. At least I can't. You kind of have to stay within the character.
SPENCER: Is it a little bit harder, too, with TV--once you've done the scene it's done, whereas theater, maybe the next night you can try something better?
HINKLE: You're absolutely right. I do find it hard for me to finish up a scene, because we do scenes out of order, and then do a scene that would have happened earlier, and then kind of look back and go, "Oh my God, that scene that I shot yesterday, I would have changed that scene, because I would've thought it was different with what I now know". So sometimes I really have a longing to re-shoot, and because of time constraints, we can't.
SPENCER: Why do they shoot out of order--is it because of location?
HINKLE: Yeah, I was always wondering that, too, before I worked on the show. What it is is that for money purposes, rather than saying, "okay, we'll do all the first scenes that first day, and some are bookstore, and some are outside," we do all the bookstore scenes on one day so we don't have to keep lighting. Because the lighting situations take so long to set up, if we would try to bump back from the bookstore to outside the bookstore, it would take hours... So they have to usually focus on location based on the money situation and the lighting stuff. And like hiring extras...let's say you're going to shoot a whole lot of scenes in the restaurant, you can't have the extras come like all five days, you have them all come on Monday. I never understood that either, it was like, "Come on guys, let's shoot in sequence, so you can really feel the progression!" but they can't do that.
It was funny because Steven Weber and I had to shake hands, and be sort of like, "Hi, my name is Marin," "Hi, my name is Steven," and let's shoot the first scene, which is not the scene where they first meet, but the scene with their first kiss. And it's like, "What are we doing? We're jumping ahead in the relationship before we've even had time to get to know each other!" But you have to just kind of dive in.
SPENCER: I would think that would be the biggest challenge.
HINKLE: It really is. Because it really is more natural, in the theater, to take the time, as life is being created, in two hours of the show, and by the end of the acts you're feeling a progression. And here it's exactly the opposite. We might go to the most emotional scene the first day. And you hardly know the person.
SPENCER: How did you get the role for this show?
HINKLE: I was in New York; I had been doing a lot of theater over the past ten years, right after I got out of grad school, and I had been auditioning for TV shows and I had been in a few pilots that hadn't gone to series. When I got a call from my agency asking me to go in for this particular audition, I read the script and at the time, actually, the character was supposed to be older than Sela's character. So the first time I went into the audition, I was like, "You know what, there's no way I'm gonna get this." So all the responsibility and pressure of getting the role was actually off. So I met with Marshall and Ed and they put me on tape, and I only had a few lines, and as I say, I was supposed to play a character that was older than Sela's character.
I felt completely wrong for it, and then I went back and I was doing a Broadway play, called "Electra". And then about a month later I heard the news that they were interested in testing me, but it turned out that they didn't need to fly me out, which was good, because I was in the middle of this Broadway show and it would've been hard to fly out to LA anyway. So they used that same tape, that one little day, and they showed it to the network, and some beautiful, blessed amazing thing happened where the network said "This girl is fine, you can use her." And then suddenly I found myself up in January, flying out to do the pilot and then crossing my fingers that maybe it would get picked up.
So I think it was about the middle of May when it got announced that it would get picked up, and then I tried to negotiate--was I gonna live in LA, or would I rent a place and then fly back and forth, and that's what I opted to do. I was skeptical about it. I think it was Ed that used to say to me, "Oh come on, go buy a bed," and I was like, "Nope, I'm not gonna buy a bed because I don't know if the show's gonna go for another year." (Laughs). So I slept in a Murphy bed for half the year and then a futon for the second half, and now I've moved up to where we've got a real bed out, my husband and I...so I can say I have full faith that the series will last a little longer.
SPENCER: Sela getting the Emmy should help.
HINKLE: I know that helps although are ratings aren't good enough--we're praying that the ratings would go up-- (whispers) so tell all your friends to watch it!
SPENCER: Definitely! It's good, too, because Lifetime picked up the reruns. I think sometimes what happens is that people don't catch the first episodes, and then later on they go, "Well, I've missed too much." I was surprised, actually, that it had only run one season and they were already in syndication.
HINKLE: Yeah, unfortunately I don't see the residuals from that--that's one of the reasons the actors are going to strike, you know. Somehow it's not negotiated correctly for the actors and you see yourself shown on television and you're not getting the financial reimbursement for that. But on the other hand, it's really good that the show is being watched--that makes me happy.
SPENCER: Is there any hope that the residuals issue will change?
HINKLE: I think that the Screen Actor's Guild has just been finishing up the strike that had affected the commercial industry, and I think that the actors did get some agreements with cable that are better than what they had had before. My guess is that if there is a strike, that's what's going to be fought for. Our circumstances are fairly specific, but I know for instance that things like "Sex and the City" and some of the other shows on HBO, the actors are not getting financial rewards that they should be because their shows are being aired a lot. That's a real problem.
It's difficult, because obviously the pay that they get as an actor for TV is quite good, so it's hard to sort of like, feel the pain of it. But on the other hand, our image is being put out there and if I try to get work later--I heard from my agent the other day that they won't consider me for a certain show because I'm known as "Judy". So, in a way, an odd way, it can be a blessing but then sometimes a curse, because you're seen as a particular type of character. It's hard to break that image, and the more that they're showing it, the harder it makes it. So you have to be careful, that you're in control of your image, and that it's not being put out there a million times without you getting paid for it.
SPENCER: It's also a principle thing, because even if you're not necessarily needing the money, why should someone else be getting the money for your work?
HINKLE: Right, I agree. And you know, my husband went to graduate school and I went to graduate school and we still have loans that we're paying off, and so as much as I'm getting a wonderful salary, still I'm not at square zero yet, paying off all the education it took to get here. So we definitely feel like there'll be a certain point financially where I'll be able to say, "yeah, okay, whatever," but really, like you say, there's no real point at which you won't say, "Look, I kind of feel like I did the work and someone else is getting the money there." It is tricky.
But then again I'm getting paid so much better than I did in the theater world, the stuff that I was doing, because there you get paid less than you would get from an unemployment check. You get $200 a week, sometimes, doing an off- Broadway play.
SPENCER: I guess with theater it's because you don't have all the corporation advertisers...
HINKLE: Exactly. It's not the scope of which it's being shown for TV...so they just don't compensate you the same way for it. But I do think it's just deeply unfair because an actor for stage works so, so hard and gets so little back financially. So it has to be about the rewards you get because if fulfills your soul, because your proud to be an actor...
SPENCER: When did you decide that you wanted to be an actor?
HINKLE: Well, I used to dance, when I was growing up--I was really involved with ballet. I lived outside Boston, and I would go to the Boston ballet two or three times a week and starting at age 6, I was in the Nutcracker Suite, and every year I would sort of do all these performances, and I loved being on stage, and when I was 16, I injured my Achilles tendon and so I wasn't able to dance. And I took the interest that I had in the world of being on stage, and sort of placed it onto the world of theater. I took part in the program at Brown University, and continued on to graduate school at NYU.
In a way it was a slow path; I'm not one of those actors that started at 15 and was like, "OK, put me on a TV show". I'm definitely more of a tortoise than a hare, I definitely took baby steps. I really wanted to be comfortable in knowing how to be an actor that understands the technique of it.
SPENCER: Do you have a preference between theater or television?
HINKLE: I think I love the idea of balancing that. To do a little of all of it would be my hugest goal, to just do a film and then possibly get back into the theater, and the joy of being on a TV series and what that offers, is just so incredibly challenging to me and so, so exciting. So I really can't even say I prefer one or the other. I love the collaboration that the theater world gives you, because you're working on a play, and you're rehearsing it for months, and you all talk amongst yourselves and learn from each other, and in the world of TV, you have to go faster and you don't get to talk so much about the role and about the storyline, and so I miss that from the theater. But I love working on the TV show, too.
SPENCER: You've done a lot of heavy, dramatic work in theater.
HINKLE: I have, I've done Chekhov, some of the more historical pieces, like Romeo and Juliet, or Uncle Vanya, or there was a play called The Dybbyk, which was a Yiddish play, adapted by a great writer, Tony Kushner, so--
SPENCER: I read about that--that was a really interesting story.
HINKLE: Yeah, I played a woman who gets possessed by her lover, so it's a girl whose playing a boy inside of her. So you actually end up playing like an alter-ego thing, a female and a male. It was amazing, it was such a challenge, and I was working with a great cast. I've worked with some amazing actors who I've just learned so much from.
SPENCER: Do you try to pick those things more specifically, the more dramatic things, or is it just what comes along?
HINKLE: This is going to sound kind of crazy, but the world of theater in New York is so competitive that I almost never felt like I had a possibility of being able to pick anything. I just kind of went with whatever took me (laughing). To be honest, it was like, if they cast me, I went, "Oh my God, I got a job? Thank God!!"
In some ways maybe it's the opposite--something about my body or my type of acting sort of is a little dramatic, so that would be why I was doing those. But I like the comedy, too; I got cast in a few shows that were more comedic, and that was really a great challenge. I did a play called A Thousand Clowns with Judd Hirsch, and that was a very kind of wonderful, slightly ditzy, dizzy character who's just adorable and really fun and kind of quirky and I loved playing her. I thought that she was so alive and funny. So I like both the dramatic and the comic stuff.
SPENCER: The bio on the site said that you had a movie "The Next Big Thing".
HINKLE: Yes, I played a small role in that, this summer I worked on that, it's supposed to come out next year.
SPENCER: And then there was "Killing Cinderella"?
HINKLE: Yeah, that film has never been picked up for release, which is too bad. Some of the things that may not be in my bio: one of them is called "Final" which was directed by Campbell Scott, and it stars Hope Davis and Denis Leary, and I play Denis' girlfriend, before he has this sort of tragic thing happen to him. And then I did another film recently called "Sam the Man" which is with Annabella Sciorra, and Fisher Stevens, and I play the girlfriend in that--they're not huge roles, but their nice roles, and the other thing I did recently was a made for TV movie called WWIII, and I play a nice-size role in that, I play Timothy Hutton's wife in that. I play a doctor in that, and it's kind of ironic because the character's name is Judy.
SPENCER: Do you have any kind of a dream role?
HINKLE: You know, I think that every role I get to play sort of shows a new side of what I love. I don't have a specific kind of character that I have to play. Like I said, the best thing in the world for me is to jump back and forth between somebody that's maybe shy, or vulnerable, to somebody who's strong and feisty, to someone who's comedic and goofy. You know sometimes that is not seen as an asset because people get confused with what kind of actor you are. If I could have a career that would allow me to play different kind of roles like that, I would feel so fortunate. Recently, I don't know, maybe it was Lisa Kudrow, who was quoted as saying you know, the character actors are allowed to spend more time in a career because they don't always have to look beautiful. Like playing the romantic hero or heroine. I suppose that's true, that my looks are not some perfectly glamorous look, so in some ways maybe I'm lucky to be a little odd-looking in some ways because I can hopefully play different types of people.
SPENCER: I think this is something that you and Susanna have in common, that you are both able to portray people as-- sympathetic. You know, especially on this show, a lot of times the characters are very flawed, and for the audience to still be able to sympathize with them is, I think--that's a strong trait for an actor.
HINKLE: Thank you, I really appreciate that. Again, I think I probably turned to theater because it meant something to me to watch people perform. I still love going to the theater so much, or seeing film. I get very moved by people that I can relate to, and you're right, it's wonderful to play someone that hopefully people can relate to and that makes me really very happy.
Right now Ms. Hinkle has a lot to be happy for. She is already well on her way in an interesting and varied career, and has done well developing her craft carefully. I found many positive reviews of her theater roles--even amongst large and varied casts, the writers always made sure to mention the sincerity and earnestness of her performance.
"Once and Again" as a whole has drawn both high praise and weary criticism, which is always the mark of a challenging and innovative show. The actors are of the highest caliber, and as Marin mentioned, the younger cast members are simply astounding in their honest, candid portrayals. The show's themes are ones we can all relate to, and I often find myself smiling in recognition of things that go on in my own family.
Mostly I appreciate all the small details. They take the time to let you experience things as they're happening and give you fully-drawn characters rather than cardboard caricatures. In the recent Thanksgiving episode, I liked the little moments--like when Rick's daughter Jessie is upset about Thanksgiving dinner at Lily's because the cranberries won't be like her mother makes. These are the things that really happen in life--that parents try to look at the big picture in caring for their children, and sometimes miss the small details that matter most to them.
So I'm following Marin's advice and telling all of my friends and readers to watch "Once and Again" on Tuesday nights at 10pm Eastern. Check your local listings to be sure of the time! And keep a special eye on the feisty and emotional Judy Brooks--that is, if she hasn't caught your eye already.