Tak­ing on a new role


The Gulf Today - Panorama - - CONTENTS - By Rick Bent­ley

The ini­tial re­ac­tion by Heather Gra­ham to the con­cept of the se­ries Bliss was any­thing but bliss­ful. She thought the idea of a man try­ing to jug­gle two fam­i­lies sounded so sex­ist she got mad that some­one — David Cross of Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment fame — was go­ing to make such a pro­gramme.

“Then when I started read­ing the script, I thought David Cross’ style of writ­ing is so smart and so funny.

The way he presents his char­ac­ters is re­ally com­pli­cated and in­ter­est­ing,” Gra­ham says. “The fe­male roles are both in­ter­est­ing as well.

“I loved that my char­ac­ter is this flawed soul. I loved that she can’t speak in pub­lic and has this de­bil­i­tat­ing lack of con­fi­dence and that’s fun to play. But, she also grows.”

Need­less to say, Gra­ham signed on to the com­edy se­ries that de­buted in Eng­land and is now avail­able to view­ers through stream­ing ser­vice Brit­box.

Travel writer An­drew

(Stephen Man­gan) uses his job to hide that he has two fam­i­lies. Nei­ther knows the ex­is­tence of the other, but keep­ing that se­cret gets more dif­fi­cult ev­ery day. Gra­ham plays Kim, who has a teenage daugh­ter with An­drew, while Jo Har­ley por­trays Denise, the mother of An­drew’s teenage son.

Al­though Gra­ham ap­peared in a 2004 episode of Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment, she didn’t meet Cross at that time. She has been a fan of his work for years and was ex­cited when he of­fered her the chance to be in Bliss. Cross had a wealth of work by Gra­ham on which to base his de­ci­sion, rang­ing from the creepy Twin Peaks to the whacky Austin Pow­ers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

Be­tween movie ap­pear­ances, Gra­ham has guest-starred on nu­mer­ous TV se­ries and starred in her own short-lived Emily’s Rea­sons Why Not on ABC. There’s no word whether a se­cond batch of Bliss will be made but if that hap­pens, Gra­ham would want there to be only a hand­ful of episodes, as in the ini­tial sea­son.

“I think cre­atively it is cool to do only six be­cause you are not hav­ing to do so many episodes, (which) makes it more dif­fi­cult to make the qual­ity as good,” Gra­ham says. “There are a lot of cre­ative things hap­pen­ing on TV right now and it’s ex­cit­ing be­cause peo­ple aren’t think­ing they have to churn out like 22 or 24 episodes.”

Gra­ham’s speak­ing about this lim­ited quan­tity both as an actor and a writer.

The Mil­wau­kee na­tive wrote, di­rected and starred in the re­cent fea­ture film Half Magic, which took a deep look at fe­male em­pow­er­ment through friend­ship and work. She found it em­pow­er­ing to write some­thing and then see it be re­leased dur­ing the #Metoo move­ment, when women were speak­ing out.

While Gra­ham would not au­to­mat­i­cally re­ject an of­fer to be on a tele­vi­sion se­ries that fea­tured 20-plus episodes a year, her in­ter­ests lean more to­ward cre­at­ing her own projects. She has just op­tioned a book and wrote two orig­i­nal scripts — Cho­sen Fam­ily and Business of Medicine — that she would love to turn into TV shows.

The in­ter­est in writ­ing is a re­cent de­vel­op­ment in Gra­ham’s life. What prompted her was what looked to her like a lack of good roles for women. Much of what she sees on-screen and in scripts is noth­ing that in­ter­ests her, so she de­cided to write about things she would like to see. Un­til one of her own projects gets a green light, Gra­ham will con­tinue to go for the wide di­ver­sity of roles she has played in her ca­reer.

“I am so grate­ful that I get to keep work­ing with cool peo­ple,” Gra­ham says. “You don’t want to be al­ways play­ing the same role. Some­times you can think that it is all a mas­ter plan, but most of the time I am just happy I got a job that was good enough I wanted to do it.”

Bliss comes via Brit­box, a stream­ing sub­scrip­tion on-de­mand ser­vice owned by BBC Stu­dios and ITV plc that fo­cuses pri­mar­ily on Bri­tish tele­vi­sion se­ries. The ser­vice launched in March 2017 and cur­rently of­fers 4,600 hours of pro­gram­ming.

David Cross plays Gra­ham’s hus­band in the show.

The Hang­over ac­tress played Dr. Molly Clock on the TV show Scrubs (2001-10).

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