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Julianne Nicholson on ‘Digging Deep’ Into Her ‘Eyewitness’ Role

Julianne Nicholson stars as Helen Torrance, a small-town sheriff married to a veterinarian (Gil Bellows) in USA Network’s “Eyewitness.” Nicholson spoke with Variety about the love stories at the center of the show, which is based on a Norwegian series, as well as what she learned from another role, in Maggie Greenwald’s upcoming film “Sophie and the Rising Sun.”

What drew you to “Eyewitness”?

I loved the story. I thought Helen Torrance was a really fascinating and fleshed-out character. I loved digging deep into her life and her marriage. Plus, it’s paired with the story of two boys falling in love, which I thought was portrayed in a beautiful way that I hadn’t seen on television.

How is it different?

It begins more as a straight-up love story than necessarily a “gay love story,” and I liked that. It doesn’t have to do with sexuality, and I feel like that’s important.

How did you prepare for the exploration of Helen’s marriage?

I’ve been married for 12 years, and I recognize the act of coming together with someone in your mid- to late-30s, when you’ve had this whole life before you’ve met that person. The question comes up of how much do you share or reveal about what came before them. … I find that very interesting.

Is it true that you met your husband on the set of an unaired pilot called “Marriage”? 

It’s true. It seems like fate, but also at the time it felt like, No, you can’t meet your husband on a show called “Marriage” and have it actually work. But so far, so good.

A Variety reviewer compared the hostility of American-Japanese relations in “Sophie and the Rising Sun” to modern-day Islamophobia. 

Yes. We keep seeing it again and again with different races, and it’s tragic that this continues…. I didn’t know to what extent Japanese-American people were thrown into internment camps and the hard time they were having. I don’t remember learning that in school. So that was a shock to me as a grown woman.

“Eyewitness” is about small-town prejudices. “Sophie and the Rising Sun” touches on similar ideas. 

I have another film coming out in the beginning of next year called “From Nowhere,” which won an audience award at SXSW this year, and that’s about four undocumented high-school students in the Bronx, so there’s prejudice there as well. Prejudice is out there, and if I can be a part of shining a light on those stories, then that makes me feel good.

What you didn’t know about Julianne Nicholson
AGE: 45; Born: Medford, Mass.; Spouse: English actor Jonathan Cake; Best Audition: “The Love Letter”; Worst Audition: “The Love Letter”; Favorite Role: Sheriff Helen Torrance on “Eyewitness”

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