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