Television

CRAZY BRENDA, & A BABY

SHANDA DEZIEL June 14 2004
Television

CRAZY BRENDA, & A BABY

SHANDA DEZIEL June 14 2004

CRAZY BRENDA, & A BABY

Television

A star of Six Feet Under reflects on art and life

SHANDA DEZIEL

RACHEL GRIFFITHS plays one of the most fascinating, complex women on TV—on a show that surpasses almost all others for depth, dark humour and emotional impact. But just try getting her to talk about that. Not that she’s difficult. Sitting in the leafy courtyard of Hollywood’s famous Chateau Marmont, eating a salad and what she calls the “best fries in America,” the 36-year-old Australian is chatty and forthcoming about life in general. It’s just that after three years of playing the slightly psycho, intimidatingly frank Brenda Chenowith on Six Feet Under, she’d rather reflect on newer, more exciting subjects. Such as her recent marriage to Andrew Taylor, a painter she’s known since high school, and their baby boy, Banjonamed after Australian legend Banjo Patterson, whom she describes as “not a particularly good poet, but a dearly loved one.”

For most of the world, and especially Canada, Six Feet Under is still very fresh. While the critically acclaimed, much-loved series starts its fourth season on the Movie Network and Movie Central on June 13, many Canadians have seen only the first 13 episodes on the Showcase network or on DVD (season two is being released on July 6). Those relying on the latter two be warned: a few spoilers are printed below.

When pushed, Griffiths gives a thoughtful description of the overriding theme for this year’s episodes, though she admits to stealing it from co-star Lauren Ambrose (Claire Fisher): “She said that season three was kind of like things falling apart, the family unit fracturing and everybody with their own issues going a different way. This season is about the repairing and rebuilding on much stronger, real roots of the family.”

Griffiths also credits 26-yearold Ambrose with inspiring the cast to plant some roots offscreen. Since the series began,

Ambrose, Michael C. Hall (David Fisher) and Griffiths have all gotten married, while Peter Krause (Nate Fisher) and Griffiths have both had children. “Lauren started it all,” says Griffiths. “She embarrassed us Generation Xers into commitment—she’s that next generation, much cooler about the fact that she can get married and still have a career. It helps us, playing often confused and tormented characters, to go home to these gorgeous people.” Although Griffiths won a Golden Globe for playing Brenda in 2002, and was nominated again in 2003, last season the actress was given time off to be a newlywed, and her character was absent for many episodes. This year she fully returns to the fold: Brenda’s becoming a shrink, dating a new guy, forming a friendship with Nate and even thinking about children. So six weeks after having Banjo, Griffiths was back in character-even if she wasn’t back to her pre-baby weight. “I couldn’t imagine dealing with the

stress of a new baby and that I had to make some sort of Liz Hurley appearance, thinner than I was before. The fat is there to nourish the child—you’re an agricultural producer.”

Griffiths knows this kind of thinking sets her apart from many of her Hollywood peers. “When I first came to America, I thought, ‘They are never going to want me because I’m never going to subscribe to the ideal.’ But by living here I’ve gotten to know so many wonderful actresses outside that ideal—like Allison Janney, Patricia Clarkson and Stockard Channing. There’s a certain ideal promoted, but diversity does exist.” Griffiths finds British and Canadian cultures, and their concepts of women, more “comprehensible” than American. She even prefers Canuck men. “They’re hot,” she declares. “Often I’ll meet what I think is an American and think, ‘Wow, I’m really getting on with this person.’ And they turn out to be Canadian. They’re more inclined to order a drink at lunch, and they’re more outdoorsy and less narcissistic.” In other words, down-to-earth—just like Griffiths, ÎÎÏÏ