Why 'Gracepoint' Made Anna Gunn Cry

"I actually would love to do more comedy," says the Emmy-winning actress
Anna Gunn

Anna Gunn is in the trenches of another somber show.

While the Breaking Bad alum’s new Fox series Gracepoint has her catching murderers instead of sleeping in the same bed as one, it’s hardly a more cheerful tale.

Read more 'Gracepoint': TV Review

The Broadchurch remake stars Gunn as Ellie Miller, a detective tasked with investigating the murder of 12-year-old Danny Solano alongside partner Emmett Carver (David Tennant, also the British version's lead). Working together isn’t without its challenges though, as Ellie’s innocent-until-proven-guilty approach to the case (and the world) doesn’t quite jive with Carver’s skeptical disposition. That the mystery is set in a small coastal town with the very people Ellie grew up with doesn’t help matters either.

The tension is amplified when Carver insists on talking to Ellie’s son, Danny’s best friend, as part of the investigation. "She's a really good cop ... but she's a human being and a deep-feeling person," Gunn said of her character during a recent conference call. "There’s this constant push and pull between what she’s experiencing emotionally internally and what she has to do simply to continue with her job."

It’s a balancing act she discovered in real life when she met with two women cops, who are also mothers, in preparation for the role. "[These women] train themselves to run right towards danger … and then go home and try to have a good, balanced family life," she said, acknowledging that she's experienced a similar duality in her own life after getting so immersed in the storytelling of Gracepoint and previously Breaking Bad. The actress had to learn to compartmentalize in order to do her job and maintain the other parts of her life, she said. Gunn also found that music helps her with that transition in and out of character.

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Another tip she learned from the policewomen? Don’t cry in front of your coworkers. But some scenes prove more emotionally draining than others, like the one shot on the beach where Ellie approaches Danny’s body. "That was just truly heartbreaking," she recalled, acknowledging that she cried in between takes. "You can't help but think of your own kids. It's something that really gets at your heart."

Such intensely dramatic scenes have readied Gunn for a little comic relief. "I actually would love to do more comedy," she said. Barring a part in the summer play Sex With Strangers and a recent guest spot in an episode of Portlandia, she hasn’t had as many opportunities to be funny as she’d like. Her dad agrees, too. "Would you please do something with a little more levity to it?" he begged her recently. "It’s very hard to watch you going through all that."