The show focuses on a tough, sexy Long Island divorcee (Thorne, Rescue Me, Californication) who gets a job as therapist for a professional football team in order to make ends meet. Underestimated at every turn, she succeeds beyond all expectations and soon finds herself as the sought-after therapist to high-profile clients. Athletes, musicians, politicians and others living in the spotlight – all in a moment of crisis – clamor for her unique brand of tough love therapy. As a newly single mom raising two teenagers, her start-up practice wreaks havoc on her life. But recognizing that she’s changing people’s lives for the better, she is determined to make her new career work by striking a balance between her personal and professional worlds. The show also stars Marc Blucas (Buffy, The Vampire Slayer), Mehcad Brooks (True Blood) and Scott Cohen (Gilmore Girls, NYPD Blue).
On what made her want to do the show
I think initially really the fact that it was a true story and that it was based on a real woman, a real extraordinary woman is you know why I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the script and read it in the first place.
Because to me that automatically means that a story’s going to be that much more rich and that much more layered in terms of the – you know if Dr. Donna is there especially in the writing room it just means that everything’s going to be that much more true, that much more grounded.
And I was right, I read the script, I flew through it and it felt so honest and based out of a real kind of truth then even when I got to meet her, once I landed the role and I got to meet her it all sort of fell into place so perfectly.
Because there’s a spirit about her that fills up the entire page which then makes it that much easier to go ahead and get in front of the camera and try to sort of tell her story.
Jump with us to see more of what Callie had to say.
On meeting Dr. Donna, the woman the show is based on
Well she – I was acting when I landed the role before we shot the pilot, she and I got to meet in New York City and I was very nervous to do so.
But she is such an amazing energy, the minute we hugged you know it was one of those things we both sort of put our hands out to shake each other’s hands but just went oh never mind, and we gave each other a big hug.
And from that moment on, you know even through that first meal together and then through the course of the pilot because she was with us in Atlanta every day that we were shooting, it really was – I was so grateful just to hang out with her.
Not even so much – it wasn’t so much about research and researching her actual history. You know we did a lot of talking about that and how she you know – the sort of steps she took through her career, but what was important to me mostly was I just wanted to soak up her spirit because I think that’s partly what makes her so extraordinary and her story so extraordinary.
And so though she was always around to answer any questions I had about cognitive behavioral therapy or hypnotherapy and she had given me a great list of books to read up on.
And it was more important to me that she just be around and because I also – I was concerned you know that she was happy and that she felt good about what we were shooting every day.
And she makes you feel very safe. You know everybody in the crew, everybody was just so happen when she was around, it sort of made – everything was just a little bit more heightened when she was around.
And that helped me in terms of my own storytelling. You know though the show isn’t a documentary, you know it’s a show that is inspired by her.
It’s still very important to me that I represent her in the right way.
On what she found most challenging about the role
Let’s see, that’s a good question. I think that in any role that you have, whether it’s on TV or film, it can be hard to do comedy and drama. And within one story, and I think I thought that’s what was going to be hard.
But again because it’s a true story and so many of these things that happen in the episodes are all things that really happened to her for the most part, it doesn’t feel like a pendulum swinging from like here’s a really funny scene and then here we go to a touching scene.
It all sort of is very – it’s a very smooth journey through each episode. And I think that’s what I thought was going to be so hard and it wasn’t, it’s actually one of the easier things.
I think what’s hard for me is I – she’s a therapist but because she’s a different ilk you know she’s not as formal, she’ll go to the football field, she’ll go to the bar where the football player is partying instead of showing up to practice.
Sometimes it’s hard for me as Callie not to play her even more maternal, you know because you know in terms of the comfort level. It’s hard for me to sometimes remember that there still is a boundary of the therapist and the client.
And so I do have to sort of mark myself that way, but that’s what’s great about her, she’s always – Dr. Donna’s always available for me to call her and say isn’t it hard for you sometimes not to want to hug your client?
If they’re crying don’t you just want to hug them? And she’s like I absolutely do, she’s like, I have a heart, you know. But it’s an interesting – I think that’s an interesting challenge of the show for me.
On going from a smaller part in shows like Rescue Me to the lead role
Yeah, it was a really big transition, I’m not going to lie, I was very nervous about that because you know starting in television for me, that was 1997 when I joined homicide as an ensemble cast.
You know and since then have been sort of thriving in that arena and so I was very nervous about that kind of being number one on the call sheet change.
I – in terms of Rescue Me and seven seasons of watching Denis Leary sort of be a master number one on the call sheet, and it was kind of like a master class, I didn’t know what I was soaking up from him.
But you know it’s – it is weird being the person that’s there from sunset you know sunrise to sunset while all the other actors sort of come in and do these scenes and then they leave and someone else comes in, I’m the constant.
But it’s interesting because it doesn’t feel – I don’t feel like I’m the lead, because the scenes are so rich with these other characters and because the actors are all so – you know I think it took a long time to cast this pilot and for good reason I think because they took such great care in every character.
It didn’t matter if someone was a lead or if – or they’re farther down on the call sheet so to speak. And so it still feels kind of ensemble to me because each moment with each character is equally important.
Like even if it’s two thirds of a scene with my daughter, that scene is equally as important as a four page scene with Mehcad. And I think the hardest thing for me to master in terms of shifting jobs like that is even sort of shooting one episode while learning the next episode.
Because I’m used to getting the script, I’ll learn my couple scenes, I’ll go in two or three times a week, bam, bam, boom I’m out there. And that is the exact opposite of what’s happening here.
And you know at first I was scrambling a little bit you know because I wanted to be able to be you know overly prepared as I am in my other jobs and that’s a real – that’s an ass kicker.
You really – you have to buckle down, but I found that I actually – I kind of thrive on it and I love shooting you know – shooting scenes of Episode 4 but at lunch I’m studying scenes for Episode 5 and I’m very good at sort of compartmentalizing all of it.
And it’s very sort of – though it’s new and could have been really scary I love it. I love it.
On who Dr. Dani goes to for advice
Well I think that there’s – her friends definitely, you know she has her best friend Jeanette, Amanda Detmer, the genius Amanda Detmer and you know I think in the beginning her relationship with Marc Blucas’s character Matt not quite yet that person.
Because you know they’re sort of walking that romance like will they, won’t they line and – or do they keep everything business wise, so he’s not quite somebody yet that she can turn to when she needs help.
And you know her mother’s totally off her rocker, so it is sort of – that’s I think part of what pushes the story, you know that who does she turn to for help and you know maybe Nico might turn out to be somebody surprisingly that she can turn to.
But I think that – I kind of like that she doesn’t have someone yet, you know what I mean? I like that where we find her in terms of that you know she’s newly divorced and she’s a newly single mom.
And you know the job being shifted into new gears, I like this that everything at home is still kind of being figured out that the audience is figuring it out at the same time that she is figuring that stuff out, you know?
I think that’s what makes it extra interesting.
On how much she identifies with her character
I think that the things I most connect with I think is the idea of you know sort of not giving up, you know it’s something that Dr. Dani and obviously because of Dr. Donna that it really is one of the things that she works with her patients in therapy.
You know the bottom line really is to not give up on yourself and that’s an ongoing thing that I have in my own life that you know you sort of have to trust your instincts and just keep trying.
And if you come up against a brick wall, you’ve sort of got to, you’ve just got to figure out which way you want to go up or around.
It’s all about sort of the attempt and that’s what I connect with, that not only is she sort of trying to teach people that herself but it’s a daily lesson and it’s a daily exercise for me.
On her relationship with the rest of the cast, especially because they film in Atlanta
You know I think it had so much to do with us being out of an industry town. You know and it was very similar to – I had mentioned Homicide earlier, Homicide was shot in Baltimore and it was – it’s very much the same feeling when you’re not in an industry town where you like you know hundreds of other actors and there’s – you know you can go do stuff after work with people that you know you’ve known for years or whatever it is.
With us being in Atlanta for the pilot you know we had about – all of us were together for about a week before we shot and then it was a month and a half that we had to shoot the pilot.
So again it was sort of – we were given a sort of perfect amount of time, we didn’t feel rushed, that we were kind of just kind of all passing each other by, doing scenes.
It sort of felt like a luxury that we got to work really hard on something that we all – a story that we all really wanted to tell. And so then you know when we would wrap at night we all still wanted to hang out, which is a rarity.
You know sometimes when you’re working with people and situations you know it’s so concentrated you kind of are like okay, that’s great, see you tomorrow.
But I think because we were in a town that none of us had family here or had worked here before so it was all sort of exciting. You know we’d all go to a different restaurant every night or you know the weekends we sort of couldn’t wait to make a plan.
Now I have to admit I’m making it sound like I did a ton of socializing, I rarely got to go out that much during the pilot, but when I did I was so grateful for this particular group of actors and the crew.
You know the crew got – we all got really tight. And I think that we were lucky for it because I think it showed up on camera. It definitely shows up on screen and that when the series got picked up and we all came back here it was like we were all sort of coming back to our own little sort of playground you know.
And we thankfully all enjoy each other so much and we all think each other is so funny, you know so we have a really, really good time together.
And knock on wood because that is not always true.
On the therapist’s family being the one falling apart, much like the plumber’s house being the leakiest on the block
Yes. Well that’s – you know I think that is part of what I love about the pilot so much is that you know we’re finding our – having thought she had a perfect normal life, like a stable, lovely suburban life.
And that the fact that everything kind of blows up in her face and she in a way is scrambling to sort of keep it together, you know I think you see people’s true character in that kind of environment.
You know what happens to people when they fail or feel like they’re about to fail, what is it that they do then? You know I think that’s where you can sort of see someone’s true heart.
And it – because this is all coming out of a real life story, I think it’s something that audiences can really connect with, whether they have been in this kind of situation, whether they have been divorced or you know whatever it is.
I think that the stories are so well told that I think people will kind of dig watching her navigate her way through all this new – everything is just new. And that’s why it’s so much fun to play and hopefully why it will be so much fun to watch.
On a possible love triangle with Dr. Dani, Nico, and Matt
No, I think that that was sort of a – it’s kind of a delightful accident that happened during the pilot that not necessarily that we weren’t meant to enjoy the relationship between Nico and Dr. Dani.
But I think that after all was said and done and the show was put together it – because the relationship is so different between she and Matt and she and Nico that it does kind of set it up for a delicious place for there to be a possible triangle.
And the way things have been going not that there’s like flirting going on between Dani and Nico, but that there is an energy between them that’s like why you – I’m going to pound you but really you just sort of know that they kind of – they find each other interesting.
There’s an ongoing thing where my character you know she’s always trying to get him to smile, like cracking a joke or doing something dumb and whether or not you know it works we sort of – we always play with that because it’s also very fun to watch Nico/Scott Cohen crack.
You know and I like that they’re letting us play with that a little bit because I think that while there is the fascinating part of the Matt and Dani role they won’t say, it takes it a little bit further than the formula to have there also be this sort of you know the questions of Dani and Nico.
And whether that that would become a romantic relationship or that he would become someone like a confidant to her. That’s I think that’s what’s going to come into play.
On the similarities between Sheila (her character on Rescue Me) and Dr. Dani
No. Nothing. The only thing that I can – the only thing in Sheila that I can see in Dani is that Dr. Dani would love to get her hands on Sheila, maybe help Sheila a little bit.
But you know that certainly is one of the reasons I was so excited to get this role because they are – you know they’re like photographic negative images of each other, these two women.
And I always say that playing you know sort of stability is equally as hard as playing instability, you know that it’s not like it’s easier to tell a story just because someone’s not like ripping their hair out and throwing themselves at people and you know lighting things on fire.
But it’s a different sort of – it’s a different level of complexity with Dr. Dani and the things that she’s dealing with and that she is coming from – Sheila comes from a place of unbelievable like she’s a megalomaniac and she’s very lonely and she’s very desperate and very greed – sort of love greedy.
And the – Dr. Dani is really wants to give instead of take. It’s all about the giving. And so I think that really was a trigger for me, you know I wanted to learn more about that.
On her relationship with the actors who play Dr. Dani’s kids
I love them. Patrick and Hannah are two of the most extraordinary young people I’ve ever met in my life. They really – they’re unbelievably excited to be on this show which you know makes a difference in everything.
They’re so happy to be where they are but they also happen to be incredibly gifted and are way ahead of their years in terms of the wisdom.
You know for whatever reason my scene work with them always flies by, we’re always like oh, we’re done? You got that already?
We – the three of us seem to click very well and we have very much the same sense of humor. And so when the three of us are together it – there is a little bit of a spark.
You know though I don’t know what it’s like to have children, there is something when I’m with them that I go into momma mode and even when we’re between scenes and I get to sit with them and hang out which I love to – I love hanging out with them because they’re so funny.
And – but I definitely feel very motherly towards them and I’m constantly going wait, what? What did you say? What happened? Who said that to you? Well here’s what you should do.
You know I’m always throwing advice at them that they’re not asking for but it’s because I just adore them so and I – you know I didn’t get to – when they were casting the roles of my kids, I didn’t have the opportunity to do any kind of chemistry read with them.
And so it very much was that I was just trusting that they were going to cast a couple of great kids, but they went far beyond what they could have done by finding these two. I really think that both of them are going to have really long careers.
And I’m very excited that they’re with me on this show.
Don’t miss the series premiere of Necessary Roughness tonight on USA at 10/9c!