With two days of shooting followed by eight days off to create nine weeks’ worth of “In Treatment” episodes, Embeth Davidtz fell in love with a filming schedule.
“The rhythm was brilliant,” says Davidtz, who plays the regal and contemptuous Amy, one half of a troubled married couple (with Josh Charles) in session with Gabriel Byrne’s therapist character Paul. “I spent a lot of my eight days off learning lines. It was like the old days of doing theater. But then it was also terrifyingly new, in that with the camera there was nowhere to hide.”
The challenge, says Davidtz, was turning 25 minutes of talk into something sneakily illuminating.
“You’re both revealing through all the babble, which of course isn’t really what you’re saying, and then underneath it choosing things,” she explains. “In retrospect you analyze it and go, ‘Wow, she’s so damaged, she had to make so much trouble in order to feel loved or alive,’ but during it we tried not to, because it was about analysis.”
Davidtz’s Amy is one of a handful of complex women on the five-episodes-a-week show, from Dianne Wiest as the therapist Paul sees (and spars with) to Michelle Forbes as Paul’s increasingly estranged wife, to Melissa George as the attractive patient whose flirtations spark much of the series’ weaving drama.
Another of Byrne’s female patients is Sophie, an acerbic teenage gymnast with suicidal tendencies, played in a spot-on American accent by Aussie adolescent Mia Wasikowska.
“It gets very intense when it’s just two people,” she says of the series’ format. “Sophie just leapt off the page and was so beautifully written. I could see every shift in emotion and every thought as I read it. I couldn’t believe my luck.”
Wasikowska drew on her experiences as a former full-time dancer in shaping Sophie’s relation to the pressures of her life.
“It gave me a lot of empathy for her, because it’s so physically draining. You’re working your body all the time, and if it’s not right, you’re not right.”
In all, Davidtz says the show’s women are a uniquely talented lot.
“Mia is some sort of strange genius kid,” she says, “but everybody: Dianne? Fantastic. Michelle had amazing range, and Melissa turned out colors I never knew she had.”
Favorite scene: “I had the most fun when Amy comes in before Jake, starts to flirt with Paul and then when he gave it back, going, ‘I don’t want to play this game anymore.'”
What you like most about your character: “How vulnerable she was underneath all that nonsense, that there was a broken soul.”
TV guilty pleasure: “Oh, ‘American Idol.’ I’m obsessed with it. It’s pure escapism, just a great antidote to the day. There’s a weird catharsis in watching somebody else put through that.”
Favorite scene: “The episode with Sophie’s mother. I liked the humor of their relationship, and the sadness as well. You felt sorry for Sophie for quite a while, and then you see another side of her.”
What you like most about your character: “Her honesty. I’m confronted with issues that, as a teenager, many of my friends and I are facing. She was a really true character, not a sexy prop or girlfriend role.”
TV guilty pleasure: “I guess it would be ‘Blue Heelers.’ That’s an Australian copshow. That was fun. Have you ever heard of that?”