SIS­TER ACT

A FRAG­ILE CAL­ISTA FLOCK­HART FACES A CHAL­LENG­ING CAN­CER STO­RY­LINE ON BROTH­ERS & SIS­TERS

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

C ALISTA Flock­hart is whip­pet-thin, with a pal­lor that sug­gests any­thing but good health. Cyn­ics might ar­gue it’s any old day in the life of the ac­tor, but the re­al­ity is that the make-up depart­ment on

Broth­ers & Sis­ters has done a mirac­u­lous job of mak­ing Flock­hart, in the role of Kitty, look as though she’s in a life­and-death bat­tle with can­cer.

The grav­ity of the sto­ry­line hits home when Kitty, tears stream­ing down her face, re­alises clumps of hair are fall­ing into her hands.

Hav­ing to por­tray the fact Kitty might die from nonHodgkin’s lym­phoma has weighed heav­ily on Flock­hart and the ac­tor who plays her screen hus­band, Rob Lowe.

‘‘ It’s so heavy play­ing this theme that there are times when both of us turn to each other and say, ‘ OK, I don’t have can­cer’,’’ says 45-year-old Lowe, who plays se­na­tor Robert McCal­lis­ter on the US drama.

‘‘ You’re (Flock­hart) play­ing some­one who has can­cer, you’re not my wife, it’s all just a job,’’ Lowe says. ‘‘ It re­ally gets that sort of over­whelm­ing.’’

In her first ma­jor role since leav­ing Ally McBeal in 2002, Flock­hart ad­mits the can­cer plot came as a shock.

In fact, the 45-year-old Flock­hart, who has been dat­ing Hol­ly­wood film star Har­ri­son Ford for the past seven years, had been beg­ging pro- duc­ers to in­ject more hu­mour into Kitty’s sto­ry­lines.

In­stead of more hu­mour, Flock­hart ended up with one of the most gut-wrench­ing tales Broth­ers & Sis­ters has ex­plored in its four sea­sons.

‘‘ I went to the pro­duc­ers this year and I said, ‘ Funny, I want funny. I want funny, I want com­edy. Please let’s be funny this year’,’’ mother-ofone Flock­hart re­calls.

‘‘ Two days later they called and told me I was go­ing to have can­cer.

‘‘ It is chal­leng­ing and I have to say at first I was a bit in­tim­i­dated by it. I thought, ‘ how will I ever pull this off in a unique way?’ I was a lit­tle shocked (by the sto­ry­line).

‘‘ It has been done so many times and we all know what it is. I’ve done a lot of re­search. I’ve talked to a lot of peo­ple. I’ve read books. It’s a very scary thing to deal with — con­fronted with the pos­si­bil­ity that you might die.

‘‘ The word can­cer is a very ter­ri­fy­ing word that no­body ever wants to hear. Kitty is go­ing through myr­iad things. She’s feel­ing pos­i­tive, she’s feel­ing neg­a­tive; she’s terri-fied, she’s hope­ful.’’

Mul­ti­ple Golden Globe­win­ning ac­tor Sally Field, who plays Kitty’s mother Nora Walker, doesn’t mince words when asked about the can­cer plot. She hated ev­ery mo­ment of watch­ing Flock­hart delve deep into her psy­che to play the part.

‘‘ I hate play­ing this, I re­ally do,’’ Field, 63, says.

‘‘ I told them (pro­duc­ers) when they said they were go­ing to do it that I hate it, hate it, hate it. I hate the word can­cer. I hate it.

‘‘ It’s painful, it’s aw­ful, just aw­ful and I know Cal­ista feels the same way.

‘‘ It’s just tor­ture. It’s been

gru­elling and it’s very, very hard to play.

‘‘ I’m a mother so play­ing that your child is sick is just the worst thing on earth.’’

It’s not the first time Field has had to dig deep. Can­cer was a ma­jor part of 1989 film

Steel Mag­no­lias.

‘‘ I hated it then and I hate it now,’’ she says. ‘‘ To play this as an ac­tor is re­ally tough.’’

The ac­tors agree there has to be hu­mour in such a sto­ry­line: ‘‘ There is huge room for com­edy un­der­neath it,’’ Lowe says. ‘‘ That’s what makes it so in­ter­est­ing be­cause the stakes are so high.’’

Last sea­son, fans watched Kitty and Robert’s mar­riage fall apart. This year Kitty and Robert re­con­nect.

It’s a very scary thing to deal with — con­fronted with the pos­si­bil­ity that you might die

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