Veteran TV actress Melinda McGraw joins TNT's Men of a Certain Age in next Monday's episode (December 13). Before she does, however, she sat down with me Wednesday to talk about her appearance on the show, as well as her previous TV stints and what she's figured out along the way.
What can you tell us about your character, Erin? How long are you going to be on the show?
Her name's Erin Riley. She used to be an actress and she did a TV commercial with Terry like 20 years ago. It becomes a YouTube phenomenon with people making fun of it. The guys start teasing Terry and he's so mortified. I look him up and I go drop in on him. We kind of reconnect. I don't want to give away too much, but I'll be around for awhile.
When you're coming into a show for a guest role, how do you approach it? How much preparation do you do?
Every show is different. Some shows, if you overprepare, it kills it. This is a very real show and kind of celebrates the mundane. In that case, my preparation has to do with being familiar with the character and not overworking the words. I do the character work; I kind of work from the outside in.
What was it like working with that trio of big names in Scott Bakula, Andre Braugher and Ray Romano?
It's great. Most of my scenes are with Scott Bakula; the first job I ever had in the US was Quantum Leap. He taught me everything. That was nineteen years ago. It was really nice to work with him again. He hasn't changed at all. I've been a fan of the other two as well for a few years. It's definitely a guy's show.
One of the things I've loved about the show is that it gives a home to not just characters, but actors of that age demographic. A lot of people have said that actresses in Hollywood have an expiration date. What are your thoughts on the age situation?
I really think that's kind of not true anymore. It certainly hasn't been true for me. As a society, I think older women are marginalized, but I think that has changed so much in the last twenty years. There are some great roles for women over 35.
You went to school in Europe and began your career in the legendary West End theater scene. For people who haven't had the chance to see that part of the entertainment world for themselves, can you talk about what that experience is like?
Amazing. I decided that I should get classically trained, so I auditioned for the Royal Academy [of Dramatic Arts]. It was incredible with some incredibly talented actors. I stayed and I started working. I never thought I would come back, [but] I got the movie bug, so I moved back. At the time, there wasn't a lot of film going on in England. I feel incredibly lucky that I got to do that.
To an entire group of people - myself included - you're probably best known as Melissa Scully from The X-Files. I have to ask what it's like being immortalized as a character who is most memorable for being killed off.
I was doing another show that was supposed to be successful, so they killed me off, but then it only lasted a couple of episodes. I think it was really weird because Nick Lea's character killed me and we were dating. Then they brought me back as a ghost.
You went on to do Millenium the next year. Was that because of The X-Files?
I was on The Commish first, and that's where James Wong and his partner were, and I met them. And they went over to X-Files and then they got involved with Millenium.
You've done a lot of big-name shows (CSI, Ally McBeal, Desperate Housewives, The West Wing). With all that on your resume, is there a series you'd like to appear on?
I really love Dexter. I'd like to be on Curb Your Enthusiasm or Breaking Bad.
When I did my interview with Sarah Drew, she said the one difficulty of consistent guest-starring roles is that you don't really get to know a lot of people. How has that been for you in your career?
What happens is it's intense. You get close, but then you're gone. But I know if I run into one of those people, it's awesome. When you're a regular on your show, that's your family. When people come in and out, it doesn't mean that you don't embrace them, but they have to leave. You'll always remember that time with a very specific fondness, and that includes the relationships you make.
What shows are you watching?
I still haven't seen the next Harry Potter and I'm dying to see it. I can't wait for Narnia to come out. I'm definitely looking forward to the finale of Dexter.
My thanks to Melinda McGraw for this interview. You can catch her when Men of a Certain Age returns to TNT on December 13.