The DirecTV 10-episode drama series Full Circle marks the television debut of award-winning screenwriter and playwright Neil LaBute, with two half-hour episodes airing every Wednesday. Examining the human condition and relationships through a series of conversations between 11 people whose lives are intertwined, each episode takes place in a restaurant and features a conversation between two characters, with one of the character’s storylines then carrying over into the next episode.
Episodes 7 and 8 (premiering on October 30th) feature Trish (Kate Walsh), first celebrating her anniversary with her husband Trent (Billy Campbell), and then meeting with a student (Noah Silver) in her class. While at the show’s press day, actress Kate Walsh spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about what attracted her to this unique series, how intimidating it is to take on dialogue written by Neil LaBute, the challenges in having one 30-minute episode to get across the entire history of a relationship between the two characters featured in that episode, working with her co-stars, and her desire to do more comedy. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
Collider: How did this come about for you?
KATE WALSH: Well, content is showing up everywhere now. At first I was like, “What?! National Geographic is going to do what?! That’s weird!” And then, you’re like, “Oh, cool!” So, when they said, DirecTV was doing a show, I was like, “What?!” And then, they were like, “It’s Neil LaBute,” I said, “Yes!” I’m a huge fan of his, and always have been, and I’ve always wanted to say his words, so I was very thrilled to get the offer. I was like, “Yeah, let’s do this!” And then, there’s the challenge of it. Those two-person episodes were like, “How do we keep this going and alive and interesting?” His dialogue is so dense and metered and myriad. There are 800 different notes to hit. It was super awesome.
Is it intimidating to take on dialogue like that, knowing that he’s going to see it?
WALSH: Yeah! What was hard for me is that I’m a perfectionist and I wanted to do it verbatim, as much as I could. He’s so specific with ellipses, punctuation and repetition, and that was a challenge. Not so much with Episode 7 ‘cause I was prepared for Episode 7. But, the first episode I shot was Episode 8 and we only had one day for that, so that was a little trial by fire. It was like being dropped into a shark tank and having to swim. That was definitely challenging. I was like, “I don’t even know if anything I’m doing is making any sense,” so I begged forgiveness via email. But, Episode 7 was pretty spot-on.
How much time did you have with the material before you had to shoot?
WALSH: We didn’t have a lot of time. It depended on how much time you wanted to devote to it. I was jamming those lines in my head. I had just come off of Private Practice, having played that character for so long, and a couple of summers ago, I did a play in New York, and it was the same thing. You forget how hard it is to memorize a totally different cadence, writing style and character. In the rehearsal process for a play, you have all that time to be ugly and have it not be good. But for this, it was like doing a play but not having that time, so it was really challenging to try to hit every beat and note, and get the lines. So, I was traveling around the city for a couple weeks with that script crumpled up on my front side, asking anybody who would to go over lines with me.
Did the fact that you really had to look each other directly in the eye through pretty much the entire scene really help to stay connected, in the moment?
WALSH: It was great, particularly with Billy [Campbell]. It was just great to sit there with Billy and have two people that were like, “Hey, I’m willing to totally open myself up and share this, and go on this crazy ride with you.” One of the things that’s great about this series is that we got such great actors to do it, and it’s not because it’s a bazillion dollar budget or a high-paying job. We were all there for the right reason. We all love to act and we all love Neil LaBute, and that is a great thing. When you have actors who are all there just because they love acting, you can’t get any better than that.
What are the challenges in having one 30-minute episode to get across the entire history of a relationship between the two characters featured in that episode?
WALSH: There’s a lot of work that you do. There’s a lot of homework with what happened before and what their history is. I went over it and over it and over it, on my off time, to try to inhabit it as deeply as I could and find all those moments. It’s so great. It is like a play, in that you could do it every night for months on end and find different things in every performance. So, it was definitely a challenge to try to find everything, but we had great directors that I trusted implicitly. That’s different than in traditional network television where the directors are really just there as visitors every week. They move you and block you, but it’s not classic directing. It was more like a film director, where they give you notes. We didn’t play these characters week in and week out, so it was a great collaboration.
What can you say about your character, and how she connects to the story being told?
WALSH: I play Trisha. In Episode 7, Trish and Trent are celebrating their 19-year wedding anniversary. They have two kids, one of whom makes an appearance in the other episodes. And things may not be as good as they seem, in their relationship. There’s a third character in her storyline, that shows up in both Episode 7, with her and her husband at their anniversary dinner, but also in Episode 8, when she’s there with her student. Trish is a teacher. So, there’s also this piano player in the restaurant that keeps communicating with Trish, and there might be something there between them. It starts in Episode 7, and this annoying person or fly in the ointment becomes this other thing. That recurs in Episode 8, and then again in the season finale, as more and more is revealed. It’s really pretty powerful. I predict that you’re going to want to watch this over and over again because there’s so much information that you don’t want to miss a little beat. It really does all inform that next episode. One really does connect to the next, and culminates in this insane finale.
How was it like to work with both Billy Campbell and Cheyenne Jackson?
WALSH: Cheyenne was so wonderful. What a great energy and presence he has, and he’s so beautiful. You just look at him and fall right into him. He’s got that quality. And Billy is amazing. Billy Campbell just gets better looking with every year, and beyond that, he’s just such a generous actor. Everyone on this show was there for the right reasons. There was nobody just punching a time clock on this, or complaining about their trailer size. And to get to work with these directors was really a wonderful experience, all the way around. The energy that was there, particularly that was there for the finale, where there were a lot of characters there, felt so powerful and so intense that it felt like we were in a play because it felt live. The great thing about doing these episodes in one or two days was that you get this rhythm of doing a whole thing, as opposed to chopped up scenes. It was really, really powerful, and I think it translated to the show.
Once Private Practice ended, you must have gotten a bunch of offers for other projects. Did you want to take a mourning period, before jumping into something else, right away, especially if it were something more long-term?
WALSH: I think that was done because I had prepared myself and mourned, as we were finishing it. I really grieved it. But, I didn’t want to go right back into something. I definitely didn’t want to do pilot season. I didn’t want to go do something, right away. It didn’t feel natural, both for the audience, because I’d played Addison for so long, and for me. I didn’t want to play something that had the possibility of going for a long time. They were like, “What do you want to do?,” and I was like, “Something that ends. I want something with a beginning, middle and end.” It was a great ride, but I really wanted to do something else. Part of the appeal for this was Neil’s writing, and that it was just three episodes. I love this new format of six to 13 episodes. You can really get in there and commit and kill it. It’s impossible to commit that intensely, creatively, to something that’s 22 episodes, every year.
WALSH: I’m developing stuff. I did three little movies, and I’ve got another couple of them coming up. I’m trying to develop something for TV that’s a single-camera half-hour pilot. We’ll see if that happens. The development process is different and long. So, I don’t know. There’s just such great content out there that it’s a very exciting time. It’s a really exciting time for this business.
Are you looking to do more comedy?
WALSH: I have been wanting to, yeah. It’s a strength of mine, and I haven’t really been able to explore it. Shonda [Rhimes] is a genius at having those moments in her dramas. She has that magical ability to be able to sucker punch you with pathos one moment, and then make you laugh the next, which is great and rare. I’ve been spoiled. I love good writing. My standards are really high. It’s awesome that I get to do that and look for that. But, I do love comedy. I just did two comedies, so I’m excited about that.
Full Circle airs on Wednesday nights on DirecTV, or you can watch online through their website.