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On TV, Dana Delany is well known for portraying a desperate housewife. In her new film, Multiple Sarcasms, she’s still playing a housewife, but her character, Annie, is far from desperate. In fact, she’s quite the opposite; sensible and strong.
Those traits come in handy because thanks to her husband’s midlife crisis, her marriage is unraveling. Gabriel was a skilled architect and loving family man, but now he’s entirely consumed by unwarranted sadness as well as his new obsession, writing a play. While Gabriel is busy searching for a new sense of self and toiling away at his typewriter, Annie is left to care for their daughter and try to hold the family together.
Not only was Delany on hand to enlighten us on her character in Multiple Sarcasms, but on her Desperate Housewives character as well. Constantly switching from TV to film is no easy task, but Delany has the details down to a science and is able to embrace the best of both worlds.
So tell us what you like about your character.
Oh gosh. I grew up in the ‘70s so I, first of all, loved that the whole movie had that feeling, that kind of ‘70s, Paul Mazursky movie. I remember An Unmarried Woman just had a huge impact on me when I was getting out of college. What I loved about the movie was a similarity in terms of the way Mazursky’s movies used to go from screaming to laughing to crying; it would take emotional left-turns all the time. So I think my favorite moment in the movie is when Tim [Hutton] and I are fighting and then I just start laughing. And I really fought for that because I thought this is what we do in life but we don’t see that in movies anymore.
How was it working with Brooks Branch as a first time director?
Obviously you don’t know going into it what it’s going to be like, and you are thinking, ‘Wow, he’s never made a movie before,’ but it was so relaxed. What I really like about Brooks and why we’ve remained friends is he’s very collaborative and he’s got a great sense of humor. He likes the messiness of life and I do too, so he accepts that things are odd or weird, and I like that. He mixes odd choices and he goes with it and I think it’s funny, it’s good, it’s human.
Since you’ve had your stint on Desperate Housewives, what do you look for now when it comes to projects? TV is such a huge commitment.
Whether I can fit it in my schedule. That’s the main thing right now. For instance, I think I’m really only going to get two weeks to myself this year. I’m not complaining, it’s been fantastic, but my agent keeps saying, ‘I want to find you a movie,’ and I keep saying, ‘No. No, I’m going on vacation. I’m taking two weeks and doing nothing.’ I think once all this TV stuff is done I’ll be back to it.
Different people have ways of contrasting the experience of doing TV and movies; how would you describe them for you?
Everything has its own tone. Desperate Housewives is such a beast unto itself. There’s nothing like it. I don’t even know how to describe it; that takes on a whole other life of its own. I feel like this movie is a little more real and smaller. It’s not so over the top. For me, every project, it’s finding the tone, which is hard.
It’s funny because your characters in this and that are so similar in ways, but the show and the movie are so drastically different. This was a problem you’d except to see on Desperate Housewives.
Yeah, but on Desperate Housewives it would have been about the woman having the midlife crisis. [Laughs] So that’s what’s nice about it, it’s about women because we often see the man having the midlife crisis.
Timeline wise, where did this film and starting Desperate Housewives fall?
I owe it all to Tim Hutton. We had just finished working together on Kidnapped and that got canceled, and then this came up and he suggested me to Brooks and I think I left two days later to start shooting. And then Desperate Housewives came up I think a month later.
Was this at all good preparation for that?
Was it? No, I don’t think so. [Laughs] No. Very different.
What do you like about your character, Katherine, on Housewives? Do you relate to her?
Oh god no. I always have to find something, but on the outside, no. I think I’ve been lucky on Housewives because I wasn’t one of the original four women and so because of that, my character is not so iconic. I get to do all the weird stuff that Marc Cherry wouldn’t let any of the other women do, like have a nervous breakdown, stab herself and become a lesbian. If that happened to any of the other women I think people would be very upset.
I imagine Desperate Housewives is heavily scripted as compared to this film. Did you get much freedom to improvise here?
Yes, which I loved. I would like to say, when I’m allowed to improvise, I don’t take it lightly and I know what a privilege that is, so I’m very serious about it and I think that I help when I do it. It’s not about me looking better; it’s about helping the story. Brooks was great with that.
You seem like a really self-possessed person who likes to get to know yourself. How does that affect your attitude towards the industry?
I think I’m at a place in my life now where I know none of it really matters, so I always remind myself of that. I don’t take anything personally. I feel like I’m on my own path, and whether that involves acting, great, if it doesn’t, fine, because there are so many other things I’m interested in – just living, traveling, being – that I have a certain healthy sense of detachment from all of it.