January 6th, 2009
11:57 AM ET

Star unmoored by 'Damages'

“Damages,” the topsy-turvy series starring Glenn Close as a Machiavellian lawyer, returns tomorrow night on FX. The core of the cast has returned - Close in her Emmy Award-winning role as Patty Hewes, Rose Byrne as increasingly cynical assistant Ellen Parsons, and - apparently - Ted Danson as billionaire Arthur Frobisher, who was shot last season but, according to previews, is still alive (though, given the way “Damages” plays with time, it’s hard to tell).

There’s also a new addition to the cast: Oscar winner William Hurt, who co-starred with Close in “The Big Chill.” But it sounds as if he has mixed feelings about joining.

In a rambling interview with The New York Times, the loquacious and reflective actor expressed a number of reservations about television in general. “For as privileged an actor as I have been, TV as a standard is short shrift. They have to do it so quickly that they don’t stop and take a look. They just shoot,” he said.

And, though he found the “Damages” experience exciting, he also was obviously uncomfortable about what was, for him, a lack of preparation.

The show’s creators, Glenn and Todd A. Kessler and Daniel Zelman (known around the show as “KZK”), are fond of seat-of-the-pants plot twists, and Hurt didn’t always enjoy what they threw at him, even as he admired their abilities. (He called them a “collaborative consciousness.”)

“I don’t even know what I’ve done. I can’t even tell you what the plot points are,” he told the Times’ Dave Itzkoff with a laugh. “To me, we’re laughing about it, but I tell you, it’s quite a struggle on the day.” He credits the show’s editors for combining takes to show him in his best light.

On the other hand, perhaps he’s getting used to the situation. "I'm the least equipped for this of anyone," he told The Associated Press’ Frazier Moore. "What I'm relying on here, instead of experimentation over a long period of time, is my faith in them: KZK. They know what they're doing."

Will he be back for a third season? He doesn’t know. But it sounds like season two is going to be quite a ride.

“Damages” premieres Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET.

- Todd Leopold, CNN.com Entertainment Producer

Filed under: television

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soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Gem

    On the Matlin comment I would like to say that although it did sound arrogant and 'jerk' ish on Hurt's part to actually go and say it to his co-start but actually that's how I felt about it too. Maybe he said to be brutally honest with her it becuase there were seeing each other at that time. But when I saw the movie I thought Hurt deserved the Oscar more than Matlin their competitions aside,

    January 8, 2009 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. J_Koz

    Normally I believe one should 'Kill their TV'. BUT this show is one of the very few that redeems the dreck seen on TV. Glenn Close is so intimidating, then there are the twists and time shifts.
    I can't wait for Season 2 to start.

    Hopefully Damages can live up to the high standard of Season 1.

    Otherwise it won't be an easy death.

    January 7, 2009 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
  3. ErikSJ

    @Phillip Taylor: the Matlin comment was made over 22 years ago... talk about dredging up old news to try to make a point. Wasn't Dubya still snorting cocaine 22 years ago? Yet he was elected by the moral majority... seems they're more willing to forgive and forget than you?

    January 7, 2009 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  4. Midwestern

    Absolutely the best show on the air. I missed the first few shows last season, got caught up and have been hooked ever since.

    January 6, 2009 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BC

    Everyone in season 1 was fantastic - except Rose Byrne. She has two expressions - blank and blank with tears.

    Otherwise, an amazing show!

    January 6, 2009 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. RJ

    This show is so addictive! I think Glenn Close is one of the best actresses out there! William Hurt has also done some great acting. I don't think it's a bad thing that he was uncomfortable with the way this show is filmed. It will probably add great dimension to his performance. I can hardly wait for the first episode of the new season!

    January 6, 2009 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ed4030

    Relax William, relax!

    January 6, 2009 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Brookfield Bill

    Geez. Hurt and Close. Who cares about egos. What great artists! Just enjoy.

    January 6, 2009 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. J.A. Kilgo

    This series is great with great actors, Hurt should be an asset. Hard to follow sometimes but that is what is so good about it. It makes you use your mind. Very suspenseful and you never know who is going to do what or really who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. Great TV.

    January 6, 2009 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. amber- law student

    This show kicks a**! Glenn Close is inspiring (in a scary kind of way).

    I can't wait for the Premiere this week 🙂

    January 6, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Gem

    Also WH is a higlly 'trained' actor having graduated in drama from Tufts. His reservations against the methods of producing a TV show are no different than any other 'stage' actors' reservations against acting in movies. Theatre actors are used to creating characters by reherasing, and digging deep into characterization as opposed to acting scenes relentlessly.

    So to me his reservation is completely understandable.

    January 6, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Gem

    WH may come across at times as arrogant and proud but actually he may not be. He is known to have collaborated with a start up theatre in Washington state and been very good to novice performers. His intellect is another factor contributing to the holier-than-thou image.

    But even if he were, when you are that good a little pride and arrogance is but natural. He is after all human. Quite similar to Russell Crowe.

    If I were so good and successful at my craft, I would find it quite hard not to take pride in it and take my craft seriously.

    January 6, 2009 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. woodie

    Best show on TV. Dexter a close second. Nothing else mentionable.

    January 6, 2009 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Carole at the beach

    He is as pretentious as they come.

    January 6, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ruth

    I feel like I am the only person in the world that has seen this show. No one I know watches. But I agree with the opinions already expressed. It is an amazing, gripping show.

    The madness/ruthlessness of Glen Close's character is unbelievably scary. Let's hope these charcters are not an accurate representation of the business world today!

    January 6, 2009 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Kristine

    One of the best shows in television.

    January 6, 2009 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Cathy

    All I can say is I am so glad it has returned...it is television at its greatest

    January 6, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Matt

    As an actor of a few decades, I have to say, every time Hurt opens his mouth I/we all laugh. Never has an actor taken him/herself so seriously as this guy does. It is acting-not brain surgery. Yes, it is difficult and seems like you are rushed all the time in TV-but on a show like this-with the abundant inane talent among the writers, director(s) and of course the cast, you are out classed and out performed-even if you are Oscar winner William Hurt-and by the way "Altered States" was lame!

    January 6, 2009 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Kristin

    @ Jackie in Dallas
    Agreed. To me it sounded like he was describing his own discomfort, not trashing the show or anyone involved making it.

    January 6, 2009 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Kevin

    But he was able to find the plot points in "Lost in Space"?

    January 6, 2009 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Phillip Taylor

    To Jackie, I would have to disagree with you on Hurt's ego. After Marlee Matlin won the Oscar, he is said to have told her in the limo, that she won it because she was deaf and if she had been a hearing actress would not have won. How rude and arrogant is that. I think he definitely needs to get over his self.

    January 6, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Jackie in Dallas

    Hurt is known as a "deliberate" actor, one who researches his character, knows his motivation, background, and reasoning, and depends on this vast preparation to give his best performances. However, as much as I respect his acting ability, the times when he has been pushed outside of his comfort zone (movies such as "The Big Chill", "A History of Violence", "The Kiss of the Spider Woman", and "Altered States") and took chances, are where he has given his best performances, in my opinion. The curious exception to that is his role in "The Accidental Tourist" where that deliberate, almost plodding acting MADE the character.

    I admire him for taking chances at this point in his life and career. It isn't easy to join a cast that has already formed attachments and developed a type of short-hand communication.

    To JD: William Hurt is one of the LEAST full-of-himself actors in the job field! I've actually had the opportunity to see him in person, and he is modest and self-deprecating. He certainly wasn't running down his friend Glenn Close or the producers and directors - he was just saying it isn't as comfortable for him to work in the same way. The fact that he persevered on and didn't play the diva on set says a lot for his willingness to subjugate ego for the good of the project.

    January 6, 2009 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  23. D.

    Yes – please watch this show!!! It is the best show on TV. It's really more movie-quality – every week, and you get so sucked in and just want more. Seriously, if you watch nothing else this season, watch Damages.

    January 6, 2009 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Renae

    This was a great show last season. It had the great mix of suspense, intrigue, murder, and corruption. It was so good in fact, that the second season has a lot to live up to. Usually shows don't out perform their 1st season if it's great. Some exceptions of course–Sopranos, Seinfeld, Friends, blah blah blah. Check it out if you haven't seen it.

    January 6, 2009 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Prince

    With all due respect to William Hurt, this is television at its absolute best. Glenn Close is so scary I have to watch the shows with friends, and I am 70 years old. Byrne plays Ellen with the right understatement and when she unleashes on Patty I am a five year -old cheering on the good guy. All the actors are the best, especially Donovan and the man who played the lawyer who killed himself in Hewes' office. I have been watching the papers and the promos to make sure I see this season weekly. I saw the first season in straight hours over a weekend and I could not stop watching even to sleep at 3:00 o'clock in the morning. DAMAGES delights!!

    January 6, 2009 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  26. JD

    Dear God! How full of yourself can one man be!

    January 6, 2009 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |

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