Show's grounded characters enhance fantasy
After 100 episodes playing psychic/mother/wife/paralegal Allison Dubois on the drama “Medium,” Patricia Arquette admits certain things are easy to foretell about the show.
“She’s always going to have a bad dream,” jokes Arquette, referring to the spooky visions that usually kick off each episode. “Human beings will do horrible things to each other. And the kids will keep growing. Those things hold true.”
However, what the Emmy-winning actress is modestly omitting in laying out the hallmarks of this one-hour survivor of schedule changes, shortened seasons and a recent network switch (from NBC to CBS) is the series’ refreshingly grounded portrayal of a middle-class household.
“What struck me when I first read it was that while the psychic phenomena was really interesting, within that was mixed this family dynamic,” says Arquette. “The reality of the family and the marriage made this difficult-to-believe premise seem possible, gave it credence.”
She points to a key acting choice she made with creator-exec producer Glenn Gordon Caron early on after meeting the real-life Allison, a Phoenix-based medium whose experiences inspired the show.
“She had this survival mechanism that was very intense, very ‘I’m right and that’s the way it is!’ But if I’d played her that way, it wouldn’t have been easy to appeal to people.”
Instead, Allison struggles with interpreting her grim, emotionally charged visions about ongoing criminal cases, often making decisions that have personal ramifications for her family.
Arquette cherishes her scenes of marital discord with Jake Weber (as husband Joe) because they aren’t cheaply threatening.
“They fight hard, and they make up easily,” says Arquette. “The way they break things down, problem-solve, (is) totally different. She’s a psychic and he’s a scientist. But their interiors are similar. They love each other, they love their children and they love spending time with each other.”
Arquette also fought to retain her more womanly, post-childbirth frame, to give viewers a reassuring normalcy.
“I think women really responded to that initially,” she says. “This is a marriage that’s faithful, not in danger. They’ll bring me new outfits, and I’m like, ‘No, I need to repeat those pajamas again. And again.’ ”
There is one item she’d like replaced, though. After having to shoot hundreds of scenes in bed — jarring awakenings, expositional chitchat with hubby, goodnight rituals and all-is-well snuggling — Arquette has a request for the prop department: “I’m not one for spending a lot of money on this show, but these people need a new comforter!”