Proof’s in the body
SHE may have enjoyed the glitz and glamour of life as a desperate housewife on Wisteria Lane but Dana Delany is relishing exploring the darker side of life in her new role.
Delany, who was surprised to discover she was being written out of Desperate Housewives, stars in Body of Proof as medical examiner Dr Megan Hunt, an ex-surgeon whose job it is to establish the cause of death in suspicious cases.
‘‘ It kind of came out of the blue,’’ Delany says of leaving Desperate Housewives after more than four years as homemaker Katherine Mayfair.
‘‘ I got a call from the head of ABC saying, ‘ We’ve enjoyed having you on the show but we don’t know how much longer you’re going to be on it’.
‘‘ And then he said, ‘ We have this other show we’d like you to think about’.
‘‘ I was kind of taken aback but I’m not stupid: I saw the handwriting on the wall, so I thought, ‘ Why not try it?’.’’ The result is Body of Proof. And the role of career-driven Hunt is something Delany says resonates with her own life.
‘‘ In terms of being driven and work-oriented, I kind of relate to that,’’ she says.
‘‘ My whole life, I’ve loved to act; that’s pretty much all I’ve done. I’ve never been married. I think it’s really hard to have a balance there.’’
Another attraction for Delany was the audience’s potential ambiguity – even dislike – towards her character.
Hunt’s failure to cope with the work-life balance has created a character filled with complexities, which doesn’t make her especially likeable. ‘‘ I’m glad that she’s tough,’’ Delany reveals.
‘‘ I’m glad that you’re kind of like, ‘ Whoa, I don’t know if I like her’.
‘‘ She’s really, really good at the science but really, really bad at her personal life.’’
Hunt’s personal life goes some way to explaining the aggressive aspect of her nature.
A former head of neurosurgery at a prominent Philadelphia university hospital, Hunt’s professional dedication led to a breakdown in her marriage and the loss of a custody battle over her seven-year-old daughter.
Then a car accident left her with a debilitating hand condition that ended her surgical career.
Instead of taking care of the living, Hunt is now tasked with taking care of the dead.
‘‘ Hunt had no regard for people when they were alive, so now she has double regard, probably more than that, for them,’’ Delany explains. ‘‘ I think that this new job is her redemption. ‘‘ At the end of almost every episode, we have her saying goodbye to them, but those people are not covered up until she knows exactly what happened to them.’’ As part of grisly preparations for the role, Delany and her co-stars ( including Australian actor Nicholas Bishop) attended a real-life post mortem.
It may have unsettled other cast members but Delany found it enthralling. ‘‘ It was an honour to get to see these autopsies,’’ she says. ‘‘ I really feel we were given such a gift. When you see that body cut open and you see exactly how that person lived and how they died, you start thinking, ‘ My God, I’ve been given this gift of this body and I want to take care of it. And it’s completely up to me what I do with it’.’’