Q&A with Burn Notice's Gabrielle Anwar
Gabrielle chats with Screening Room about Season 3, why she loves playing Fiona and how she balances work and family.
Screening Room: How is Season 3 compared to one and two? Do you feel like you're in a groove?
Gabrielle Anwar: I'm feeling pretty groovy. There seems to be a shorthand we've established between crew members and cast members, which does make for a smoother day, and it's really good to be back. It's such a pleasurable experience, the entire show, everything about it. So I couldn't be happier.
SR: Are there any tidbits you can give us about the new season?
GA: It's a lot of the same and better than before.
SR: Any developments in Fiona and Michael's relationship that we can look forward to?
GA: It's definitely developing. I'm not absolutely certain what it's developing into, but there's certainly some shifts in various directions that are really quite fabulous to play from an actor's standpoint. There's lots of doors opening, some into her history, some into their future, and their present is always very tumultuous, which is also tremendously fun to play.
SR: You and actor Jeffrey Donovan have a great chemistry, which is part of the reason this show is so fun. Does chemistry like that just happen, or is it something you really have to work at?
GA: To me, it's always kind comparable to real-life relationships. Hopefully there's that sort of electric chemistry that one experiences when you first meet somebody that you're very attracted to. That's the kind of chemistry that audiences always seem to gravitate toward in romances on the screen, be it small or big screen.
Oftentimes, the dynamic between an actor and oneself is like a marriage after a few years. Where the chemistry isn't quite as exciting as it may have once been, but you can work at those moments. They can exist. I often find that it's more in that vein than that sort of electrifying, sexual, sensual, hormonal explosion that happens. That's rare for me. I'm sure if you were to ask other actresses, they'd have lots of other tales to tell, but I must have a very discerning chemical need.
SR: Fiona is fearless and complicated. There are not many characters like her out there.
GA: And yet there's a world full of women like her out there. That's what I find astounding is that there aren't many Fionas portrayed, and yet she's in all of us. She may be a slight dramatization, but I say slight seriously. I think that there's a dormant Fiona in every woman.
SR: Was that something that really attracted you to the role? Her strength?
GA: It's a little bit of everything. I'm feeling tremendously fortunate to be playing a woman as I approach my 40s that I respect. I can't say that for most of the women that I've played in my career. I'm very much aware of what I'm hoping to become as I mature, and that does include character choices that I make, so I'm really grateful to be able to honestly say that I'm excited to be portraying a woman that I like, I respect, that intrigues me, that I want to succeed. I want her to succeed.
SR: Fiona is a fairly physical role. Do you do your own stunts, and how do you stay in shape?
GA: I do tend to do my own stunts because I'm quite petite, so it's very difficult to find a capable stunt woman who resembles my sort of pre-pubescent figure. And I don't think you can employ an adolescent in a stunt role, as far as I know.
I quite enjoy that adrenaline rush. If I do feel intuitively that it's not my place, that it's way beyond my means, I'll willingly back down and hand the baton over to a woman who knows what she's doing.
I do a lot of yoga, but exercise is not my friend. I don't like exercise at all. It takes a tremendous amount of willpower to move my body in any shape or form. There's a class that I take in Los Angeles that's been very inspiring because it involves loud music that's a lot of fabulous tempo and rhythm—and Mary J. Blige singing, "Get off your butt," basically. I like that sort of nightclub feel without the cigarette smoke, the alcohol and the lurid looks. If I can do that and tighten my buttocks at the same time, I'm a happy camper.
SR: It seems like the character of Fiona sends a positive message to women, whether they're 15 or 50.
GA: I hate to classify myself as anything that would guide anyone anywhere, God forbid, but I do think anytime a woman gets to be in the public eye and not be a victim and not be subservient in any shape or form is a coup. It's a bit of a sham, really, how we're portrayed and how we've been portrayed historically for so very long, but I'm quite thrilled to be approached by other women, which is quite a new phenomenon for me.
I'm not particularly fond of violence in any shape or form—I'm a bit of a pacifist at heart—but I have to say that expressing one's anger does have a place. I think perhaps if it is expressed more articulately, then it wouldn't turn into something aggressive and violent. So I'm all for that. And if I'm maybe walking along that path, then I'm quite happy to be strolling in that direction. I'm sure I'm stepping off the trodden path and going off the beaten trail—beaten meaning multiple definitions—but that's okay because nothing has a linear perfection to it, which I'm also learning as I age.
SR: Have your daughters seen the show?
GA: My older daughter, my teen has. I think it's a little too much information for my 5-year-old. My 15-year-old, I think she might think that I'm quite cool, but I don't think she would admit that. I'm either hoping she's thinking that or she's not horrified at the skimpy costumes I'm wearing and just sticking her head in the sand in the hopes that when she pulls it out that I won't actually be living in Miami in a bikini any longer. It's hard to tell, it could go any way.
SR: How do you balance filming a series and your acting roles with motherhood? Is it difficult? Is it striking a balance?
GA: It's impossible, it's absolutely impossible. I don't know who these women are who can do that balancing act. It's not me. I find acting to be quite possibly the most narcissistic profession there is and motherhood to be the most selfless, so I'm a total schizophrenic at the moment. I think I'm probably failing miserably at either to the extent at which I could be succeeding. I honestly don't know how to do it. I strive for that every single day. It's very difficult. It's so difficult to maintain one's self as a mother, period, let alone have a career, no matter what that career is. I don't know how women do it. My hat is off to every single mother who can function in multiple directions, truly.
SR: Fiona is such a strong woman. Are there any women in your life that made a huge impact on you?
GA: I think every woman in my life has made an impact on me to some degree or another. I've had some very intense female relationships and continue to. I think that probably the most influential has been that between myself and my mother, which is probably the most powerful relationship any woman and daughter have.
I know I'm experiencing it on the other end of the spectrum with my own girls, and I think that there's such a tremendous amount of unspoken complexities in that dynamic, some of which are very taboo in our society, but that doesn't mean that one isn't actually experiencing them on an emotional, spiritual or even intellectual level. So I think that there's a tremendous amount of affection and possibly an equal amount of consternation in my relationship with my mother, so I think that's probably shaped a lot of certainly who I am as a woman and I suspect how I'm playing Fiona.
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