Here’s another inspiring interview from Marg that recently appeared on spryliving.com:
June 1, 2014
by Paulette Cohn
It’s been three decades since Marg Helgenberger landed her first TV gig, on the soap opera Ryan’s Hope, and she’s worked steadily ever since, on series such as China Beach, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and the CBS drama Intelligence. Like all long acting careers, it’s had ups and downs. But the 55-year- old actress says age has definitely brought perspective.
“I remember losing out on roles that were written for women in their 30s to women in their 20s—which is out of my control, but it used to bother me,” she says. “Now I wouldn’t really care. I know something better will come along.”
The native Nebraskan reveals other advantages of having a few more years behind her, how losing her father to multiple sclerosis (MS) gave her a mission and the ways Hollywood has changed since her soap opera days.
There seem to be more great TV roles for women nowadays. Is that a change since your career began in the ’80s?
My experience in television has always been positive—I’ve played a variety of strong and unique roles. What’s changed more is the film business, which makes fewer female-driven films. I think that’s why more traditional film actresses are coming to television. It’s rare for women to find a good film role after age 40.
At 55, do you still feel pressure to look a certain way in order to get work?
In some ways, I feel less pressure than I used to. I felt it in my 30s because that’s a crucial decade for women in the film business. But I’m much more comfortable with myself now. It’s about accepting who you are. I don’t think that means giving up. Acceptance means acknowledging what is, and what goals you have, and taking the necessary steps to achieve those goals.
What’s your key to maintaining good health?
Being disciplined, which most successful actors are, because we have to be in front of a camera. I don’t eat dairy or a lot of processed foods or much dessert. But French fries are my weakness. I do think a buddy system is very helpful for people who are just starting to maintain some sort of a diet or exercise program. A great fitness class and instructor can be really inspirational.
How did you get involved with advocating for multiple sclerosis research?
My dad died of complications from MS when he was quite young—age 50. He had progressive MS, which is tricky, and there were very few medications he could take back then. Mostly, they would just shoot him up with cortisone and hope for the best. Now, there are a lot more medications. People’s lives are extended and dramatically improved—the funding and research pays off. So I’ve recently gotten involved with Race to Erase MS, a Los Angeles-based foundation. It’s been very successful in getting doctors from all over the country to share their research and ideas.
And your mother is a longtime breast cancer survivor.
Yes, it was one right after the other: My mother got breast cancer, then my father got MS when she was still in recovery. I was in college. It was devastating. But they’ve made so many advances in breast cancer research, too. Every year, I do something for that cause, like the Revlon or Susan G. Komen walks.
Any advice for caregivers?
I think it is important that it becomes a family affair. Hopefully, if there is more than one child in the family, everyone can get involved. If not, reach out to volunteers in the community. It’s very challenging to do it alone.
As they prepare for opening night of “The Other Place”, which is less than two weeks away, Marg and her director Christoper Innvar took time of their busy schedules to meet with the media. Here’s an excerpt from their dialogue, which has been posted on wwwberkshirefinearts.com, along with many photos.
Christopher Innvar: The play is about loss. It’s a family situation with a very powerful woman who’s great at her job in a world where mostly men are dominant in the profession. She’s at the top of her profession and suffers a loss. It’s about her family relationships and what she’s lost. At the end of the play she’s found. Through her family and revisiting ghosts in her life she’s able to be found and anchored again. There’s a lot of water imagery in the play. Talking with the set designer, Brian Prather, we kept saying untethered and lost at sea. There’s no anchor for her.
She ends up on Cape Cod surrounded by water on three sides. She ends up being found.
I really don’t want to say much more because it would spoil it for you when you come to see the play.
Marg Helgenberger: That was so well said that I don’t know how to follow up on that. The role that I’m playing, Juliana Smithton, could fall under the category of tour de force. When you get the opportunity to play a role as complex as this woman is, as an actor, why not jump at the chance.
I was available. (Her voice rose emphatically implying irony.) I was familiar with the playwright’s writing. I was very interested in his Annapurna. Someone had suggested it to me. After my run on CSI I had wanted to do a play. It was already snatched up by someone who wanted to produce it in Los Angeles. That’s the production which is now in New York.
I never heard of Sharr White before. In fact I did know that The Other Place was on Broadway. I think at the same time when I became familiar with Annapurna. So when the play came to me in February or March I was eager to read it because he’s so talented. When I read it or give it to other people to read, the one word that always comes out of them is Wow. (soft laugh). For so many reasons. She’s such a highly, highly intelligent woman. To a fault. She’s smarter than most. She’s a woman in a man’s profession dominated by men. She has to be stronger and tougher to assert herself. Because of her intelligence she has an impatience with everyone. She has cut herself off a little bit from her emotional side. And because of something that happens but I’m not going to give it away. A family situation that was quite devastating and dramatic to her.
In order to continue with her life she has to bury those feelings very, very deep. That allows for all these different sides of her to come out in odd ways. Unpredictable ways. It’s probably the most challenging role I’ve played. (nervous laugh) It’s interesting to play such a complicated role at my age rather then when you’re younger. You don’t have the energy to bounce back. It’s mid week in the rehearsal process and already I’m like, oh shit, there’s three more days of this.
Question Are you the only actor?
CI: No there’s three other actors (Katya Campbell, woman, Adam Donshik, man, and Brent Langdon, Ian.) I was doing a Sharr White play in Manhattan The Snow Geese. Julie (Ann Boyd artistic director) talked about this slot being open for me to direct a play. We all read the play and thought it was fantastic. We went into casting in New York. Our casting director Pat Mc Corkle said that Marg Helgenberger wants to do theatre. (Incedulously) OMG we thought she would be prefect. (Marg laughs) We all looked at each other, oh my goodness, she would be absolutely perfect. We did a skype session. Then I went to LA and we talked. Yeah, this character who is brilliant, sharp, funny, sexy has all of these strengths. At the top of her profession and we were all just such fans of hers.
MH: Gee Chris. (laughing)
CI: Absolutely. The way we talked about this play made me feel that we could help each other out and make this play come to life. Marg was excited about doing it.
MH: Yeah. Very much so. You sent me an e mail with an interview that Sharr had done about the genesis of this play. His father being a scientist and his brother or brother in law also being a scientist. He just wanted to floor someone who seemed to always have an answer for everything. Somethings are (emphasis) unexplainable. Things of the heart.
CI: What happens to someone who all their lives have all the answers. What happens when they start not having the answers? What does that do to someone? That metaphor of being lost at sea. For the first time not knowing where you are or what direction to go in. That’s a challenge.
MH: Sure is.
Charles Giuliano Doing research for this interview I was astonished by the depth of your resume including film and television. Also I was intrigued that early on you deboned meat in your father’s butchery. That would seem to presage CSI. I am interested in how artists evolve.
MH: Yeah. I did that.
CG: I’m also interested in Chris’s evolution from leading man and actor now to director. So the question is about how you evolve as artists. Why for example are you stepping out of the national spotlight of television and film to come to a small, regional theatre and perform in a play? How are you guys staying alive as artists by doing these kinds of things?
MH: I have been wanting to do a play for a very, very long time. For various reasons it just didn’t quite work out. For CSI I was tied up for twelve years and the hiatus is two months. That doesn’t leave you a whole lot of time to do a play. Also I was raising my son in LA. So I just really didn’t want to be away. But, having said that, since I left the show in December of 2011, I went around and met with producers in New York. Of course Los Angeles too and Chicago. I expressed my interest in it. (Theatre) They were all eager to meet with me. They would say let’s find something, let’s find something. (exasperated gasp and self amusement) A few things came along but nothing I really wanted to do. So, I don’t know, it really kindah has to do with the part. It was one of these roles that I really couldn’t not do. It was so amazing. It is amazing. I felt if not now when? I felt once I’ve done with this I’ll be so proud of myself. (soft laugh of relief then outburst of laughter)
To read the rest of the dialogue and view more photos, please visit wwwberkshirefinearts.com.
Before I jump into my recap and review of the Intelligence season one finale, I just want to take a moment and say a huge thank you to everyone involved with Intelligence, but especially to those who are active on social media: Michael Seitzman, PJ Byrne, Michael Rady, Aaron Ginsburg, John Dixon, Lance Reddick, Tomas Arana, Faye Kingslee, Octvavius J. Johnson, and last but most certainly not least, my favorite leading lady, Marg Helgenberger. The social media tie-in, the sharing of behind-the-scenes photos and script pages, and the interaction with the fans through live tweets really enhanced my viewing experience — it’s, by far, the most fun I have ever had watching a television series. Thank you so much for all of your efforts. And now on to the recap…
If you’ve come to expect heart pounding action and plot twists galore, you will not be disappointed with the Intelligence Season 1 finale. “Being Human” delivers a full order of both as Lillian and her team set out to clear Gabriel’s name by finding who is really responsible for the murders that he has been framed for.
Part 2 picks up immediately where we left off last week — with Gabriel, Riley, and Mei Chen fleeing from their would-be assassin. They have no idea who they can trust at this point so they’re trying to stay off the grid, but at the same time, they also know Gabriel needs medical attention. Gabriel knows one person he can definitely trust and directs Riley to drive to his mother’s house. Mary Vaughn, played by the fabulous Debra Mooney, is a retired Army field nurse who is full of spitfire and vinegar and knows her way around an operating room. As Mary and Riley prep Gabriel for surgery, he loses consciousness and Mei Chen seizes the opportunity to get into Gabriel’s head and cyber-render with him.
Mei Chen has decided that she needs to educate Gabriel about the truth, specifically the truth about the people he works for. In their cyber-render, she tells Gabriel that a potential candidate for the Presidency, Governor Christy Cameron, is being targeted for assassination. According to Mei Chen, the conspirators are the same people who hired her to kill those men and frame Gabriel and who then tried to murder both Gabriel and Mei Chen. She knows that they are U.S. government employees but says she doesn’t know specifically who because whoever it is has been very careful. After telling Gabriel she doesn’t care if he believes her or not, Mei Chen exits both the render and Mary Vaughn’s house.
Back at CyberCom, while trading barbs about who is responsible for what happened at the park, Lillian and Jeff Tetazoo brief the Director of National Intelligence Adam Weatherly about the attempt on Gabriel’s life and the fact that he is now on the run with both Riley and Mei Chen. Tetazoo vows that he will find them and reiterates to the CyberCom staff that they are to find and bring in Gabriel, Riley, and Mei Chen dead or alive. Lillian questions the logic of Tetazoo’s orders, especially now that they know there’s an unknown shooter out there who could prove Gabriel’s innocence. She says that we shouldn’t be killing our own people and looks to Weatherly for support. To her dismay, Weatherly sides with Tetazoo and says that Gabriel is a threat due to those vulnerabilities in the chip that were documented by Dr. Cassidy. They all must be brought down.
While recovering from surgery, Gabriel asks Riley if she thinks one of their own is behind the shooting. They immediately rule out Lillian but say they wouldn’t put it past Tetazoo. As they discuss the possibilities Mama Vaughn points out the obvious — that someone should warn Governor Cameron that her life may be in danger. Riley’s ex, played by Michael Trucco, is in charge of Governor Cameron’s security detail and Riley convinces him to give her an audience with the Governor.
Lillian convenes a second secret meeting with Jameson, Nelson, and Dr. Cassidy to relay to them everything she knows about ‘The Flood’, an Iranian program designed to recruit high ranking U.S. Government officials and turn them into sleeper agents for Iran. Lillian shares her belief that Colonel Hatcher discovered the identity of one or more of these sleeper agents and was turning their names over to the FBI when he and the FBI Deputy Director were murdered. Dr. Cassidy pieces together that they then framed Gabriel to get him out of the way because they knew that Gabriel and the chip would be the best way to find and stop the sleeper agents. The team concludes that Gabriel and Riley’s lives depend on them finding out the identities of the sleeper agents and to do that, they first need to find Gabriel and Riley. Jameson thinks this will be nearly impossible considering that since he wiped Gabriel’s hacking of the minivan computer off the grid, the entire Intelligence apparatus has been tracking Gabriel with no success. Nelson reminds them that Gabriel needs medical assistance and Dr. Cassidy and Lillian remember that Gabriel’s mom is a former Army nurse. They surmise that Gabriel very likely would have sought her help.
Lillian and her team, however, aren’t the only ones who come to this conclusion. The assassin also figures it out and before Riley returns from the governor’s office, makes another attempt on Gabriel’s life. With a little help from Mom in the form of a can of hairspray and a ‘cannon’ of a gun that she keeps in her nightstand, Gabriel takes out the assailant and using facial recognition technology, he identifies the man as Thomas Olivier.
With a season that has been filled with heart pounding twists and turns, it should come as no surprise that part 1 of the Intelligence season finale, “The Event Horizon” delivers even more thrills than ever before. This action-packed episode features not only a crime scene cyber-render that points to Gabriel as the prime suspect of a multiple homicide, but also another fierce head-to-head match-up between Lillian and her old ‘friends’ Adam Weatherly and Jeffrey Tetazoo. And as if those highlights weren’t enough to guarantee a thrilling and suspenseful episode, we also have the return of both Mei Chen and Leland Strand to add a few more twists and turns. What has become the central theme of this first season of “Intelligence” – trust – also comes to a head as the CyberCom team works to clear Gabriel’s name and discover who is actually behind the murders. With each passing scene, it becomes more and more difficult to determine who can be trusted and who cannot.
The episode opens with three men being murdered in a hotel room – the Deputy Director of the FBI for domestic ops, the former head of Intelligence for the U.S. Central Command in the Middle East, and a security guard. When CyberCom starts investigating the murders, they learn that someone was working behind-the-scenes to clear the assassin’s path, wipe the hotel’s key card system clean, and otherwise remove any trace of who committed the crime. As Nelson quips, this was someone ‘with mad skills’. Gabriel then enters the hotel’s computer system in order cyber-render the crime scene. In an unexpected turn of events, it is actually Gabriel who appears in the cyber-render as the potential assassin.
As Lillian questions Gabriel about his whereabouts so as to make sure he does have his alibi in order before Director of National Intelligence Adam Weatherly arrives, his visit being protocol for this type of investigation, Gabriel reveals an unsettling fact – he woke up that morning with a raging headache and has no memory of the previous night’s events other than that he had a couple of beers with Riley. Lillian and her team, of course, trust Gabriel implicitly and know he couldn’t possibly have committed such a crime so they begin to look for clues as to what has really happened and who is responsible. Weatherly and his cohort CIA Director Jeff Tetazoo, however, apparently do not share a similar trust of Gabriel and, again, per the protocol required for such an investigation, they storm into CyberCom headquarters and place Gabriel into “protective custody” or what Weatherly refers to as “keeping our asset safe.”
Lillian then has a very tense meeting with Weatherly and Tetazoo. Protocol or no protocol, she clearly doesn’t trust either of them, especially Tetazoo, whom she accuses of spying on her agency again. Lillian and Tetazoo trade a few barbs about common courtesy and information sharing before they finally get down to the business at hand. Weatherly and Tetazoo then inform Lillian that the meeting in the hotel room was an ‘off book’ meeting, definitely not protocol for men in their positions. Tetazoo, however, seems more interested in focusing on Gabriel. He tells Lillian he has two theories to explain Gabriel’s involvement with the murders: 1) One of the men killed was in command of the mission in Mumbai that ultimately led to the death of Gabriel’s wife so it could be Gabriel seeking revenge; or 2) Someone has hacked into Gabriel’s chip and is controlling him remotely. Tetazoo is leaning towards the second theory and presents Lillian with the details of a classified report written by none other than Dr. Shenandoah Cassidy more than a decade ago. Cassidy outlines what he feels could be a vulnerability in the Clockwork program – that it is possible that someone could hack into the chip and cause a “dissociated cerebral action” and basically operate the asset (i.e. Gabriel) remotely. Again, more questions of trust arise: Who would have had access to this classified information and want to use it against CyberCom in such a manner?
Once Lillian is briefed, Weatherly and Tetazoo then separate and interrogate both Gabriel and Riley. Weatherly questions Riley as to how far she would actually go to protect Gabriel, implying that she could be considered Gabriel’s accomplice in the murders. Tetazoo and Gabriel have a similarly contentious meeting and when Gabriel takes a cyber-peek at Tetazoo’s files and remarks “Judging from your files, you’re more likely to have committed these murders that I am”, Tetazoo is none too pleased. Gabriel then tries to plead his case, saying that he should be out there searching for whoever has framed him, but Tetazoo informs Gabriel that he isn’t going anywhere because he is “a dangerous weapon that can’t be controlled” and then rather viciously states that as far as he’s concerned, he’ll have the chip ripped out of Gabriel’s head before Gabriel is allowed to leave CyberCom. Feeling that he is being threatened, Gabriel punches Tetazoo and, with Riley’s help, escapes from custody.
Tensions further escalate after Gabriel escapes when Tetazoo confronts Lillian about her refusal to believe that Gabriel cannot be controlled. Lillian thinks Tetazoo is just mad because his ego got bruised and chides him: “You took a punch, Jeff. Get over it!”. Weatherly steps in, however, and tells her that this incident has caused the President to doubt her ability to control and contain her asset. Weatherly then orders Lillian removed from the command of CyberCommand until further notice, names Tetazoo as Acting Head of CyberCommand, and orders everyone to give Tetazoo their complete loyalty. To the dismay of Lillian and her team, Tetazoo chooses not to presume that they are innocent until proven guilty and launches a full scale manhunt for Gabriel and Riley, ordering that they be brought in dead or alive.
‘The Grey Hat’, this week’s installment of Intelligence, written by Heidi Cole McAdams and directed by Tim Hunter, focuses on two very real threats that we face in modern society, hackers and nuclear disasters, and what happens when the two threats merged into one potentially deadly attack.
The episode opens with Lillian telling her team about blackouts that have suddenly started plunging the U.S. West Coast into darkness. When Riley questions what this has to do with CyberCom, Nelson explains that the Cyber Defense Division has determined that the blackouts are being caused by a sophisticated and destructive cyber worm that a hacker has unleashed inside of the power grid.
All signs seemingly point to Cortez, a legend in the hacker community who specializes in ‘hostage ware’ or ‘grey hat’ scams, where he installs a destructive worm into a corporation’s systems and then blackmails the corporation into paying him to stop the worm. Riley questions how attacking a power grid would fit Cortez’s usual M.O. and Nelson chalks it up to ego, the desire to prove he’s the best high-level hacker out there. Nelson quickly realizes, however, that Cortez has made an error — the security system for the power grid only allows access to local IP addresses; therefore the worm had to have originated in Los Angeles. Lillian has heard enough and, taking charge, dispatches Gabriel, Riley, and Nelson to L.A. to find this Cortez and stop the worm: “Everyone, this is the cyber attack we’ve all been afraid of. Millions of lives are affected and we may not have seen the worst yet.”
When Gabriel, Riley, and Nelson track down “Cortez”, aka Troy Ricksen, and show him what they believe to be his handiwork, we are presented with our first major plot twist. Troy informs them that it’s not his worm — someone has cloned it and the design is such that he can’t stop it. In fact, it won’t stop until it has found and attacked its target. Ready to “bust some heads” because someone has stolen his worm, Troy tells Gabriel, Nelson, and Riley that the power grid is not the worm’s actual target. Using a vivid analogy, he explains that the worm to a kitten playing with a ball of string while it’s roaming the power grid. Once it finds its true target, the worm will transform from a kitten to a tiger and attack. With assistance from Troy and Nelson, who make quite a team, I must say, Gabriel determines that a nuclear power plant in California is the worm’s target. Whoever cloned Troy’s worm has sold it to terrorists.
Back at CyberCommand, Lillian meets with the heads of the other DOJ agencies to decide the best course of action. While they are discussing their options, they receive a video broadcast from Torbin Salvi, the leader of the anti-nuclear terrorist organization, NSR. He is willing to abort their attack if his brother, Dominic Salvi, was arrested by the FBI for bombing a nuclear research facility in Moscow and killing 52 people, is released from U.S. custody rather than being extradited to Russia where he is expected to be executed for his crimes. If Dominic is not released, the NSR will unleash a nuclear disaster on the U.S. West Coast that will rival Chernobyl.
Once Gabriel and Riley realize how dire the situation is, they seek Troy’s help in doing whatever it takes to stop the worm. Troy, however, realizing who has stolen his worm, gives Gabriel and the team the slip and goes to confront the thief. Rather than “bust some heads”, he tells the thief that the two of them are going to do the right thing — they’re going to work together to stop that worm before anyone else gets killed. Troy sees just how high the stakes are when the terrorists show up and start shooting. Thankfully Gabriel has tracked the vehicle Troy stole and he and Riley are able to stop the attackers before they can harm Troy, although his friend isn’t so lucky. When Riley and Gabriel tell him that he has the ability to stop the worm with a biometric ‘kill switch’ of his that was also cloned, Troy tells them that he can stop the worm but he needs the “mother ship,” the computer that was used to originally launch the worm, to do so.