Laura Dern in ‘Enlightened’

Road to the Emmys 2012: The Actress

Laura Dern’s mascara-streaked meltdown in the series premiere of HBO’s “Enlightened” introduced viewers to Amy Jellicoe, an executive who cracked under personal and professional pressure, recovered in an idyllic Hawaiian treatment center and is now trying to maintain inner peace and create a positive ripple in the real world.

“Amy is a complicated woman who despite her damage or habits has a deep and beautiful longing to be better and to effect change,” says Dern, who won a Golden Globe for the role. “She just often goes about it in a tricky way.”

Complicated characters with tricky storylines are Dern’s specialty. She may be most famous for the “Jurassic Park” blockbusters but she’s made a name for herself in edgier indie films.

“The 2012 version of indie cinema is HBO,” Dern says. “Your job description is flaw, complication, and hilarious sadness. That’s my kind of gig.”

Dern developed the character of Amy with feature screenwriter and TV scribe Mike White, known for his work on “Freaks and Geeks,” “The School of Rock” and other tales of people who don’t fit into the mainstream, and don’t want to. White plays Amy’s office sidekick, Tyler.

“Amy was born from a deep desire to explore someone’s rage toward the injustices in the world, but in a subversive and funny way,” Dern says. “We wondered what it would be like if ‘Lucy’ became ‘Norma Rae.’ ”

To prepare, Dern says, “I got angry and laughed at myself about how angry I got.” She calls Amy’s meltdown, “amazingly fun to do.”

Dern also loves working with her real-life mom, Diane Ladd, who plays Amy’s emotionally distant mother.

“It’s delicious fun to explore this restrained relationship, especially because it’s so unlike our own,” Dern says.

In season two Amy will be more proactive. Says Dern: “She explores how to actually make change in the world, in an overwhelming way at times.”

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