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Calista Flockhart Plays House

The award-winning actress discusses her return to the stage in LATW's A Doll House, her reflections on Brothers & Sisters, and the films of husband Harrison Ford. logo
Calista Flockhart
Calista Flockhart began her career on the New York stage, with acclaimed performances as Laura in The Glass Menagerie, for which she won both a Theatre World Award and the Clarence Derwent Award, and Natasha in The Three Sisters. In 1997, she became one of television's most popular stars, headlining Ally McBeal (for which she won a Golden Globe Award and received three Emmy Award nominations), and more recently, Brothers & Sisters, which just concluded a five-year run on ABC and will begin airing on SoapNet on September 26.

On September 22, Flockhart briefly returns to the stage as Nora in L.A. Theatre Works' production of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll House, which kicks off the company's season at its new home, UCLA's James Bridges Theater. Flockhart recently spoke to TheaterMania about the play, her future plans, her thoughts on Brothers & Sisters, and watching the films of her husband, Harrison Ford.

THEATERMANIA: After over a decade away from the stage, what made you want to do this show?
CALISTA FLOCKHART: It's a really smart play and I find it very interesting in how it dissects this marriage between these two people. Nora is extremely complicated; she's very capricious, flawed, and that's interesting to me. And I've always been attracted to the idea that you can make one decision -- in this case, to keep a secret from her husband, and it leads to a series of events that defines her entire life.

TM: What decision have you made that defined your entire life?
CF: I think making the decision to leave New York to go to Los Angeles to do television was a defining moment. It was a very big change for me.

TM: Do you think you are more ready to tackle Nora now than you might have been 10 years ago?
CF: Absolutely. So many great roles demand life experience. I remember when I was 18, one of my acting teachers gave me Nora's big monologue at the end of the play, and as I was saying it, I was crying, sobbing; I thought I was going to throw up. And he said, "You need more pain, Calista." And I thought, "Can I have more pain than I have right now?" But you get to a level in your life when you know what marriage is and how it would feel leaving your children, and it becomes deeper.

TM: Looking back on your many theater experiences in New York, can you recall one really special one?
CF: There were a lot, but I remember when I replaced Jami Gertz in this Off-Broadway play, Wrong Turn at Lungfish. Not only did I have only five days to learn the part, I had to do a real Brooklyn accent. And that's not something I'm good at; I do not have a good ear for accents. I remember that being a particularly exciting and challenging time, and it ended up being a lot of fun.

Rob Lowe and Calista Flockhart in Brothers & Sisters
(© ABC)
TM: Now that Brothers & Sisters has ended its run, can you look back and say whether or not the show - especially, your character, Kitty Walker - ended up being what you expected when you signed on?
CF: Not even remotely. But that's the thing about TV. Five years come and go, and characters change and evolve, and the plot goes in different directions than you ever anticipated. When I signed on, no one ever said the word lymphoma, or that I would be married to Rob Lowe; that was not in my contract, and he was a lot prettier than me. But I loved him. When we did the pilot, there was no Sally Field, and the series changed a lot -- probably for the better -- to become about this mother taking care of these adult siblings rather than just being about the siblings.

TM: Was the lymphoma storyline, when Kitty got cancer, the most challenging work you did on the show?
CF: It was tough stuff. I consciously went home every night and said out loud, I do not have cancer. But I found it to be an important storyline that touched a lot of people.

TM: Did you let your son, Liam, watch those episodes?
No. He was way too young. He's only ten, and he hasn't seen one thing I've ever done, because I think all my shows would be over head. I figure he's getting old enough to watch Ally McBeal soon, and when he does he'll probably get a kick out of seeing me so young and then ask "what happened to your face, mama?"

TM: Has he seen any of your husband's movies?
CF: We recently watched Raiders of Lost Ark together. I'd never seen it, and we both loved it! Then we tried to watch one of the sequels, but it was too scary and we turned it off. And Liam and I went to see Cowboys & Aliens this summer, and he told Harrison it's now his favorite movie of all time.

TM: So, when can we expect to see you back on stage, either in L.A. or New York?
CF: I am afraid this is not the beginning of a return to the stage. The schedule is not conducive to having a 10-year-old. He has a lot of extra-curricular activities I take him to, and if I did a play, I'd be home at 10 and he'd already be in bed. I think it's a good time to do theater before they start school, or when they're off to college. So maybe in another eight years. Right now, I'm just taking some time to think and sit and see what comes up next.

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