'The Big C': John Benjamin Hickey on Sean's Moment of Clarity

"It was Sean proving to himself that he could actually be still, without medication and help somebody," he says.
"The Big C"

As Cathy (Laura Linney) appears to be finding success with the clinical trial and Paul (Oliver Platt) has found a “solution” to the couple’s financial woes, the Jamisons were due for some bad luck.

[Warning: This post contains spoilers from Monday’s episode of The Big C.]

In Monday’s episode, Sean (John Benjamin Hickey) goes off his bipolar meds and Rebecca (Cynthia Nixon) deals with the death of their unborn child after staging a bizarre funeral.

“It’s safe to say there is a balance for Sean that obviously this character does need some kind of help,” Hickey told THR. “It shouldn’t, as he says, take away the fun Sean, but it shouldn’t be a totally numb thing.”

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For Hickey the episode marks the beginning of a downward spiral for Sean, who so far this season had gotten all his ducks in a row as he prepared for fatherhood and some semblance of a normal life within a committed relationship. And while he becomes unraveled at the funeral for Baby Cathy, the final scene in which he visits a ward for premature babies, offers a sign of hope for Sean.

“It’s a moment of being outside himself and helping somebody else,” he says. “With the idea of a baby, I think it was a fresh start for Sean. In some ways, going to a preemie ward and holding the baby was [Sean] seeing if he could do it.”

Hickey, who researched the effects of bipolar meds for the role, notes the pivotal scene was the moment where Sean finally confronts the fact that he’s losing his sister.

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“I think the idea of losing his sister and his sister being sick is a huge thing for him and [the loss of Baby Cathy] has upset what precarious balance there was in his life that have not even been explored yet,” he says. “I think he’s been in serious denial about it.”

The visit, Hickey says, was both a way of Sean finding his own sanity, sans meds, as well as a metaphor for what he might have to do for his sister.

“It was Sean proving to himself that he could actually be still, without medication and help somebody,” he says. “There’s a lot of selfishness in that family and I think they’ve struggled with how to be there for each other.”

Sean’s moment of clarity, however, won’t last long, especially if Sean’s new tattoo is any indication. Hickey notes that Sean will go head-to-head with his new neighbors and battle to hold on to his grip while struggling with the loss of Baby Cathy as well as Rebecca’s departure.

“I believe that Sean is actually much more in love with Rebecca than he even knows,” he notes. “The loss of the baby is a devastating blow to what was already a tenuous hold on domestic bliss. The road ahead is pretty rocky for them for the rest of the season.”

The Big C airs Mondays at 10:30 p.m. on Showtime.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit

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