Looking forward to the Fields of grey
IN THE lead-up to its 2007 premiere, Brothers & Sisters could not find a friend among TV critics.
The series had a difficult birth, leading many to assume its debut episode would be a stinker and that the show would disappear quickly from our screens.
The original Brothers & Sisters pilot had been a failure. The plot, revolving around the death of a family patriarch, played by Tom Skerritt, was too dark.
Producers decided the show required a major rewrite and a bold injection of humour.
Betty Buckley was forced to vacate the pivotal role of widow Nora Walker. Twotime Oscar winner Sally Field was rushed in to play Nora in a new pilot and has shone in the role since.
That’s not to say Field is enamored by Nora.
‘‘ What do I love best about Nora? Oh, God, I don’t know,’’ Field says, stumbling for words.
‘‘ Her cooking . . . oh, I don’t know. Her flower arrangements . . . are really awful. I can’t answer what I like about Nora.
‘‘ I’m too close to Nora to be able to answer that. And besides that, I don’t want to answer that because it feels like I’m commenting on her. I mean, the minute I start embracing Nora, eww. It’s already borderline eww.’’
There was a time when it was unthinkable that Field would commit to a longrunning TV role. However, like many of her Hollywood contemporaries, she has discovered the standard of writing in TV has risen at a time when it’s near impossible to score a decent movie role.
Field, 64, says Brothers & Sisters has helped dismiss the notion that it’s impossible for TV soap to reach high artistic ideals.
‘‘ It is a melodrama, a continuing melodrama,’’ she says of the show.
‘‘ That’s an OK thing. What our show has that most serialised melodramas usually doesn’t have is comedy. So we are a serialised melodrama with comedy.
‘‘ Life is very eventful, and when you are doing it in serialised mainstream television, it’s heightened.’’
Field is filming the role of May Parker in the feature The Amazing Spider Man.
Her hope is that she will continue to work and grow old gracefully in the process.
‘‘ I’m a hungry actor,’’ she once said.
‘‘ I always will be. I’m dying to know what characters are there for me when I’m older. And I won’t be doing those characters if I don’t look older.
‘‘ Unfortunately, I live in a society that doesn’t welcome or embrace ageing. I don’t care because there are these wonderful plays out there and things I want to do in my life where ageing is part of it.
‘‘ I want to be, you know, Lillian Gish, for God’s sake. I mean, she was just staggering. The choices between ageing and not ageing are death, and that’s really grim.’’ Brothers& Sisters, Channel 7, Monday, 9.30pm