By LYNN BARKER
Front Row Features
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—In early December 2014, the USA Network was finishing up a multi-country shoot on “Dig,” the murder mystery/conspiracy theory/end-of-days event series thriller.
On set here, a select group of journalists huddled in what is known in the TV/movie industry as video village observing a tense scene in which Anne Heche, playing Lynn Monahan, head of the Jerusalem FBI office, and boss to Paul Connelly, played by Jason Isaacs, enters the FBI offices. Heche says, “I wonder how many of them are in on it.” Isaacs responds, “I don’t know. Maybe one, maybe all.” The group here is hooked. The show’s creators are hoping the same will happen for TV viewers.
The 10-episode event series premieres on the USA Network Thursday, March 5, at 10 p.m./9C.
On a break, Heche, drinking hot tea and wearing UGG boots between scenes this winter day, explains that she and Isaacs’ characters have a “bossmance” going. He was once her boss, now she is his.
It’s evident that Heche, despite the serious tone of the drama series, is quiet funny. She is one of the most resilient actresses in Hollywood, having successfully come through a troubled personal past (her public breakup with talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, wanderings in the California desert) with flair and class. She adores being an action hero for a part of “Dig,” and commented that the event series, limited episode format makes her feel like she is shooting “the longest movie ever.”
The 45-year-old Ohio native refuses to read ahead, preferring to be surprised and make discoveries along with the audience. On entering the interview room, Heche comments, “Hey, there are three Lynns in here: the publicist, you (indicating this reporter) and my character. Weird.” She is still in costume, which accounts for her disheveled appearance.
Q: How’s it going so far?
Heche: It’s a rough show. Every week they tell me that somebody is dying and I say “Is it me? Do I live through the next one?”
Q: On the pilot for “Dig,” you had a female director (S.J. Clarkson). What was that dynamic like?
Heche: She’s fantastic. What I look for in a director is their energy and focus and ability to tell a story in a great way and tell me if I’m doing something wrong. That’s what I like the most. Just tell me. Don’t be intimidated, just spit it out. She’s not intimidated. It’s not a difference between man and woman, it’s just how much a director can keep you as excited and as in the story as you need to be. She’s got that in spades. I think she’s an incredible filmmaker.
Q: Talk about your character.
Heche: I’m Lynn Monahan head of the FBI, legal attaché in Jerusalem whatever that means (She laughs.) That’s smarter than I’ve ever been so let’s start there. And, then I’m Peter’s (Jason Isaac) boss so that’s always good, and she’s having sex with the lead. I’m glad they are still hiring me to do that. So, that’s my character. They write me some really smart stuff and all I say is, “I want to be an action hero,” and they’re like “Fine.” Finally, in episode 8, 9 and 10, I get to be one. They don’t call me a hero but I do. She gets into some fights, (and) then Peter saves the day. Stuff like that.
Q: There is the psychological drama, the action and the mysticism of the location. Which one of those excites you the most?
Heche: I’m just so confused that they all come together. When I first read (the script) I thought, “How do these three worlds we are looking at; the murder of an American and a psychological, emotional, religious conspiracy and, of course, these stolen stones that everybody’s searching for? How do these things go together?”
That mystery is obviously what drives the plot of the show. How do these things come together and why? That’s fascinating to me. I don’t read ahead so I know as much as the audience will be seeing. I think Lynn is in the moment. She’s not a person who gets emotionally involved in the work so it’s been as interesting for me to read each week as I’m sure it will be for the audience.
Q: So you don’t know how it ends?
Heche: I don’t know the end, but (spoiler alert) I’m told I live. They handed me some shoes with the heels broken off the other day and said, “We’re shooting ahead so you’ll have broken heels.” I’m like, “Whoa, what happens there? Who’s stealing my heels?” When we went to Croatia, I got a call from one of the producers saying, “I hate to tell you this but we’re shooting one through five exteriors, and you have to read ahead.” I hate that; don’t tell me that. But, it’s been really great. I have been as surprised as everyone else will be for sure.
Q: What was it like shooting the pilot on location in Jerusalem?
Heche: It was a life-changing experience. Certainly, when I thought of family vacations, I never said, “We’ll go to the Middle East,” but I got to because of this incredible opportunity. It was marvelous. My family came over. From the moment I got on the plane I was embraced by this (“Dig”) family that is welcoming you into their home and it was quite magical. My family and I went everywhere: Bethlehem (and) the Sea of Galilee. We went through Jerusalem and had a gorgeous time. We went swimming in the Mediterranean in Tel Aviv, a beautiful city. Our hearts are changed because of it. It’s rooted in my being to hope for peace there.
Q: Did they give you and Jason Isaacs any time to meet and bond before shooting?
Heche: They never give us time to bond. And what if we didn’t? I think the whole reason is if we didn’t, then what? We’re under contract. They’d be like, “Whoops.” They don’t care about our opinion. They just want us to work together. Fortunately, we really get along. He told me a couple of weeks ago that he met me a long time ago and I didn’t remember that. We love working together. They have a very adult relationship. It’s not a romance. It’s not a bromance but I am his boss. It’s a “bossmance.” Let’s coin that phrase, a “bossmance”.
Q: When you are doing a project with a definite ending after several episodes, does it feel more like the movies you’ve done?
Heche: It’s like the longest movie on earth. My husband is like, “What is up with this? You’ve been shooting since May.” What is this epic? But, I think that’s the extraordinary thing about “Dig.” It’s an epic story on a scale that I don’t think I’ve participated in.
I’ve never done a “Da Vinci Code”-esque movie. You somehow allow yourself to work longer when you are in episodic television, but it feels like a movie because of the scope of it for sure. Although, yesterday I did 10 scenes and I started singing to Gideon (Raff, director/creator/producer) “It’s a Hard-Knock Life.” (I said) “What are you doing to me? This is a movie. I’m only supposed to do five pages a day. I’m not on a soap opera anymore. Why am I talking all the time? Get me out of this room. I can’t do another scene. It’s not two pages a day. I don’t know how Jason is still standing.”
Q: Do you sometimes walk onto a set in one country and then later walk out in another country, because you’ve shot in so many places? Is that ever confusing?
Heche: Totally. They keep telling me I’m in Albuquerque. I didn’t ask to come here. Why am I here? Then I walk on set and see where I am. Most shows don’t have that much unexpected movement. I’ve actually never been so happy to hear the words “Albuquerque, New Mexico,” when Gideon called me and said we’re not going to be in Israel. I told my husband and we fell on the floor laughing, “Hurray!” Not that it wasn’t amazing to shoot in Jerusalem, but we didn’t know how we were going to figure it out for six months. It was going to be very difficult. So, I love it. I commute here—Albuquerque for Jerusalem. I love it. I’m in.
Q: What is Lynn’s relationship with the U.S. Ambassador to Israel Ruth Ridell (played by Regina Taylor)?
Heche: Regina’s awesome. We’ve had so much fun working together. She’s my boss. We don’t have the same “bossmance” I have with Jason. I think Lynn’s incredibly intimidated by her. She scares the pants off of me and I don’t like being in that situation. My bosses aren’t like that in real life so she makes it hard.