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Although she didn’t realize it at the time, Kyra Sedgwick has been preparing for her role as a troubled mom whose daughter goes missing in the new ABC series Ten Days In the Valley from the moment her kids were born.
“As a woman and as a mother, I felt tremendous guilt every time I would go to work when my kids were young,” she says of her two children, Travis and Sosie. “That happened even if I only worked while they were at school and made it home when they got home. That’s such a hard thing to reconcile, the sense that daddies are supposed to work and mommies aren’t. I think that’s why the parenting part of this show was the hardest on me emotionally but also the most interesting because I could unpack my own feelings a bit.”
In the series, which premieres Oct. 1, Sedgwick plays Jane Sadler, a documentary filmmaker whose daughter mysteriously vanishes from Jane’s home one night while she is there working. Add the fact that Jane has a secret drug problem, is in over her head with the TV series she’s working on and is locked in a battle of wills with her ex-husband and the result is a character whose glamorous life isn’t quite what it might appear to outsiders.
Not unlike the actress herself.
“I thought she was a fascinating, very flawed and complicated person — mother, writer, artist, seeker, a passionate person who is very tricky with her truth-telling,” Sedgwick explains. “So many aspects of this show intrigue me, especially how we tell stories about ourselves. Like right now in this interview, I’m pretending I have it all together and that I didn’t wake up two hours ago sobbing. We all walk around with the face we show the world and the face we show ourselves.”
Ten Days is the first time Sedgwick’s face has appeared on a series of her own since her Emmy-winning turn as Brenda Leigh Johnson for seven seasons on TNT’s The Closer. It wasn’t just the opportunity to enjoy “that familial thing that happens when a great bunch of people get together to do a show” that brought her back, though. It was also the chance to not only play a female showrunner in the series, but to actually be a female executive producer in real life.
The series was created by Canadian screenwriter Tassie Cameron, best known for the cop drama Rookie Blue that aired stateside on ABC. Sedgwick says she specifically sought to work with someone like Cameron because “I was very interested in working with a female writer/creator. If I am going to talk the talk about women not being represented enough behind the camera, I really need to walk that walk. That was very important to me in deciding to do this show.”
According to Cameron, the two women clicked immediately despite the reality that “having your lead actor as an EP can sometimes be complicated. But in the case of Kyra, having her as the shining example of how to be was amazing. Certainly she led the charge on how to behave as an actor but she also worked with the directors and writers from the ground up — shaping her character, contributing to the casting, bringing her own insights to the table as a working mother and helping us all see the deep, real moments that we needed to mine and explore along the way.”
For her part, Sedgwick believes getting to be a boss afforded her the chance to “pick people to work with who have the same sensibilities and priorities that I do. I love deep-sea diving into a character in a shorter period of time, over 10 or 12 episodes in a season. Also, I love the idea that there are eight other characters we deep-sea dive into as well. I don’t want to be in every scene so I appreciated the fact that the show is as much about the other stories as it is about Jane.”
Ten Days is also giving the actress the freedom to act in a way she hasn’t done before. She’s been working with the coach who has also helped Amy Adams and Ryan Reynolds, learning to use her imagination rather than just her life experiences in order to slip into the skin of this new person she’s supposed to become.
“I always start from scratch when playing a brand-new character,” Sedgwick says. “But I’m not a huge fan of the method approach the way I used to be. I really am more a fan these days of using my imagination and building a whole history for a character that is really not me. I can use all these creative parts of my brain. I always used to write long, rambling books about characters while saying to myself, ‘These are the things that happened to me.’ This new approach is different, more about talking and imagining. It’s been very revelatory to me.”
It’s probably a good thing she didn’t take the method approach to play drug-addled, parentally challenged Jane. That would have meant studying up by snorting a lot of cocaine. “I could never be method that way,” Segdwick says with a laugh. “I know people who sometimes get loaded for a scene and I think, ‘Good for you but I could never go there.’”
The addiction aspect of Jane’s personality might have been make-believe for the actress but the poor parenting piece of her character was something that definitely got under Sedgwick’s skin because it’s very different from her real life. For instance, when it comes to watching over Sosie, she has a much better parenting resume.
Sedgwick recently made her directorial debut not only with Sosie but also husband Kevin Bacon in the Lifetime movie Story of a Girl. It was a task that provided her with all sorts of new challenges. In particular, according to Sedgwick, it was tough because “you don’t want to have your mom saying anything critical to you. Not that I’d do that but still, as a director she knows I have to watch her critically.”
As for working with her husband, that was a much less stressful process. “We have an easy, collaborative relationship,” she explains, noting that he’d directed her a few times on The Closer so they already had a director-actor rhythm to fall back on. “He and I talk about our work all the time so this was really no different. To be honest, we’re pretty boring so there’s no drama.”
Still, that doesn’t mean family life has always been bright and sunny for her. Dig deep into Jane’s maternal instincts and you find a dark side. Dig deep into Sedgwick’s history with her own mother and you find things were, well, at least a little overcast. That similarity may not have been her motivation to take on Ten Days In the Valley but it certainly has helped her connect with the character.
“I was not a good girl growing up,” she says, laughing again. “I got a lot past my mom. She was a therapist and when something would happen, I’d notice her shifting into shrink mode so I’d go, ‘I see what you’re doing there!’ So I admit I was really bad back then but, frankly, wouldn’t it be boring otherwise?”
Based on the compelling intrigue surrounding Jane in Ten Days In the Valley, the answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes!”
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