EXCLUSIVE: Dana Delany Talks New Show Hand Of God, Wants Desperate Housewives Musical
If you’re a fan of biting, psychological drama then you’re in luck. Amazon has just released the full season of the Hand of God, the stand out from last year’s Amazon pilot season.
We sat down with the wonderful Dana Delany (Desperate Housewives, Body of Proof) for a quick chat about the fantastic new series.
How did you get involved in Hand of God?
I was interested in the whole Amazon thing. I’d been on network television for a long time and I just knew Amazon and streaming was the future of television so I wanted to get in early. At that point Amazon really was not on the map, Transparent had not become the hit that it is, so I was just curious about what that was about. And when I found our Marc Forster was directing and producing, and I was a fan of his. And Ron [Perlman] who I kind of knew but I’d never worked with. I didn’t know Ben Watkins the writer but when I met with him he was so passionate about this I thought yeah this will be interesting.
And what did you like about the character, Crystal, specifically?
At first people were like, “you don’t play the wife, why did you take that role?” But she’s so much more than that once you get into the show. She’s kind of like the woman behind the man but she’s got her own agenda. She’s watching all the time and looking for the angle all the time to work out how to get what she wants.
Reading the summary, I thought she was going to be like Skyler from Breaking Bad.
Oh, no. She’s closer to manipulating the whole thing – pulling the puppet strings.
How have you found working with Amazon compared to traditional television networks?
They’re great. They give you total creative freedom, which is sort of their mandate. Roy Price, whose the head of the studios, says we just want to hire talented people and let them do their thing, which they have and you know, kind of like HBO, they want it to be darker and twisted and something you wouldn’t see on network television. So there’s the obvious – you can swear and smoke pot and be naked and all those things that are fun for an actor. But after a while you realise it’s just storytelling and you need to tell a good story. That’s what it came down to.
There’s a lot of issues right at the forefront of the pilot – rape, attempted suicide, mental instability – how can you prepare for that as an actor?
I said that to Ben, I said there’s a lot of back story here. I think as an actor you have to play what’s happening at that moment, because that’s all you can do anyway. I just decided with Crystal that she’s such a realist and a survivor that even though her son has attempted suicide and is in a coma – which sounds like a soap opera – I think because she is a survivor she has to be a realist about it. Especially when Pernell is flipping out and hearing voices from God. She’s like no, that’s not happening, we’re gonna stay on course because we cannot go back. So I think she’s the one who keeps the train moving.
There’s quite a lot of shows right now about vigilantes and the difference between justice and revenge. How do you think Hand of God is different?
I think it’s the God aspect. It’s Ben playing with the idea of vigilanteism. People think they’re doing this of the basis of faith and it’s righteous and it’s Ben questioning that. Is it truly righteous or is it you wanting revenge? I think he is questioning whether people will use religion to get what they want and that’s a bigger issue with what’s going on in the world today.
How does Crystal respond to Pernell’s deterioration?
I think she thinks its ridiculous. She’s like get your act together.
Is she aware of the escort?
That’s another one of things I like about the show. It’s an adult relationship that you don’t see often, they’ve been married 20 years, they respect each other, they support each other, they don’t always like each other, and I think that she does know. She doesn’t want to know the details though. And I think he knows that she’s had her affairs too.
How did you find working with Ron?
Great. I knew him slightly but we’d never worked together and we’ve both been doing this for a long time. I think the reason we’re still working is because we really love to act and we really love what we do and all the rest is just bullshit. When I’m in a scene with him, it’s just pure joy. We just love doing it, it’s fun. One time I finished a scene and said, I love acting with you Ron, and he said, me too. I know it’s gonna be real and honest and just fun to do.
There’s a really great scene in the pilot where you threatened the “reverend.” What can you tell us about that and will see more of that side of Crystal?
It’s interesting, that scene in particular. You know when I grabbed his crotch at the end of the scene? That was not in the script. I said to Ben, “what do you think if I grab his balls? Just to threaten him. I just think she would do that.” And Ben said, “go for it.” Welcome to the internet Dana. That kind of thing is a nice Crystal insight. You gotta watch the full show because when we get to the 10th episode that comes full circle.
What was your favourite scene to film?
I really liked my scenes with Erykah Badu who plays my pot dealer, because she is a performer. She’s not an actor per say and she’ll say that herself. She’s such a unique human being that it’s like playing jazz with her, you never know where she’s gonna come from and you just have to play with her and and go where she goes and as an actor I found that really interesting to do.
Would you describe Crystal as a strong female character?
I would, I would say she’s an archetype in that she’s the woman behind the man archetype. I would also say I like the rough edges to her. She’s not refined. She might seem refined but she’s not underneath it all. I always like contrast in a character, and even though she’s put together on the outside I think on the inside she’s very rough.
How is she different from the other roles you’ve played?
Probably [her] background. She’s not from a good family. She’s somebody who comes from a very small town, was a waitress, maybe dated a biker, and decides I’m getting out of this town, gets herself to college, meets Pernell. In a later episode she accuses Pernell of being a member of the lucky sperm kid, which basically means he’s a rich kid, and she’s the one that that’s focused.
And what will your next role be like?
This role is a little tight, it’s controlled. The next role I’d like to be messy.
Have you got any plans in the immediate pipeline?
I have a character that I want to play that I’ve been thinking about for a while so I’d like to try to create a show around that character.
Any hints on what that show would be about or what that character would be like?
It’s a combination of several women I’ve known over the years. It’s a good character and one I haven’t seen on TV yet.
Would that be a drama?
Yes, drama with comedy. I think Desperate Housewives was really smart that way. It had everything. Even Breaking Bad has comedy in it, it’s life. Life is funny and sad and serious.
What do you personally like watching on TV?
I like the weird shows. I love Transparent, not just because it’s on Amazon, but I like any show that has a strong point of view and I think Jill Soloway who created that is really good. I like Girls, I think Lena Dunham has a great point of view. Hannibal, which sadly just ended. I think that it is a work of art, just gorgeous.
Have any of the shows you’ve been in spoken to you about revivals? As revivals are all the rage right now.
I know, what is up with that! It’s kinda like, what about new ideas? People are asking about a Desperate Housewives revival and it only ended in 2011. I’ve said, I’ve always said this: it should be a musical. So I think they should bring it back as a musical. I mean, can’t you see people breaking into song in that show?
Would you star in it?
I would love to. I would absolutely love it.
How are your singing skills?
I could get by. I think everyone on that show sings. I know Teri sings. Did you ever see the French movie 8 Women? Check it out, it’s very similar, it’s got Catherine Deneuve and Isabelle Huppert, it’s very much like Desperate Housewives and they break into song. If you like Desperate Housewives you’ll like 8 Women.
Would you do a second series of Hand of God?
Oh yeah, it’s a really good group of people. It’s not confirmed yet. We’ll probably know in a couple of weeks, I’d say.