Sometimes, a role finds the person who’s ready to play it.That’s what happened with Laura Linney and the Showtime comedy “The Big C,” the story of Cathy Jamison, a reserved, suburban high-school teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“When this job came to me, I was pondering time and mortality — of the people I love and my own,” Linney says.

Cancer and comedy are not two words not ordinarily found in the same sentence, but Linney points out that the humor comes from the way Cathy reacts to discovering she’s ill.

“It’s a wake-up call. You’re dealing with lack of control,” she says. “There is something that can be very funny with lack of control. That’s where a lot of comedy comes from.”

Linney certainly understands how the disease affects people.

“My mother was a nurse at Memorial Sloan-Kettering when I was growing up,” she says. “I was aware of cancer my whole life. I’ve lost people to cancer. I’ve been a caretaker to people who have cancer.”

In her work, Linney embraces life. “You’ve got to stay present and open to what the writers bring you, the other actors provide, and the designers do, and then respond and be as alive as you can be.”

She won a Golden Globe for the role, and has received three Emmys for her work in television.

Linney enjoys the path Cathy has travelled.

“She’s gone from denial to accepting that she has a terminal disease. People expect me to say it’s depressing or difficult to play someone with cancer. It’s life-affirming.”

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Lead Actress
Laura Linney | Martha Plimpton | Kathy Bates | Mireille Enos | Alexander & Harmon | Emmy Rossum | Sarah Shahi | Melissa McCarthy