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LAist Interview: Anastasia Griffith from "Damages"

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Anastasia Griffith plays the hot, and somewhat indiscreet drug-using and slutty restauranteur Katie Connor in "Damages" (FX, Tuesdays, 10:00pm) - you might also remember her from "Alfie" and "Dirty Rotten Love". The story so far as we know it shows Katie getting played by both corporate scumbag Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson) and no-holds barred harpie lawyer Patty Hewes (Glenn Close). Sorry about the pigeonholing stereotypes - everybody plays there characters well beyond those cookie-cutter images I put there - especially Griffith, who plays Katie as a resilient and determined woman who may have made a few mistakes that wouldn't matter anywhere else except in the highly charged world of multi-million-dollar lawsuits.

Next time you watch "Damages" and see Griffith playing Connor, bear in mind that she has a strong, if not charming, English accent in 'real life'. You won't find a trace of it in the show as she took Noah Bean, who plays brother David Connor on the show, along with her to a diction coach so that they would sound like siblings.

LAist had the chance to talk to Griffith a week or so ago. Check it out:

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LAist: So your character, Katie, is complex and she’s not necessarily a “bad girl” as far as we know so far, but she’s obviously going to be exploited for what anybody might call a bit of an indiscretion here and there. We know that she’s intelligent and she’s made some mistakes, but as of the episode a couple weeks ago she’s still fooling around with a guy wearing a wedding ring and looks like, from the previews, that’s going to continue for at least another episode.

So, obviously, everybody is complex and it’s refreshing to have a character that’s not just well, the "bad girl". What are you drawing from to present somebody like this? Is there anybody in the real world that you personally know?

Anastasia Griffith: No, I don’t think so. What the writers of "Damages" have done brilliantly is get the fact that people are not black and white, that people can do bad things for good reasons or good things for bad reasons and people have their certain fears and their certain things that they have to protect and their certain insecurities and tensions and all these things drive us. And we are all built up of light and dark.

And I think Katie, and most of the characters in the show are like this: it’s very difficult to draw a line of good and bad in any of them, apart from maybe David and Ellen who are kind of the moral lynchpins of the thing and even Ellen is beginning to waiver, and certainly David. I think with Katie, she’s just like anyone.

She’s like any one of my friends who, myself included, who has done things that I’m not proud of and don’t really want the world to know about. I’ve treated people maybe on occasion in a way that I’m not proud of or girlfriends of mine have treated guys in a way that they’re not proud of or been treated in a way that they’re not proud of.

And people have secrets. People have things that they don’t want to share with the rest of the world, or at least it’s not how they want to be perceived and I don’t think anything Katie is doing, you know, she’s maybe foolish and living by her gut. But I think she’s a very impulsive girl and I guess that’s something, yes, that’s something I can relate to. I’m generally described as kind of impulsive.

Although I certainly cannot relate to everything that’s going on in Katie’s life, there are parts of her which are pulled from me and my friends and people around me. But as I say, I just think she’s written in a way, which is actually real and I think sometimes in television or in movies these characters are created too much two dimensional.

[interview with Anastasia Griffith continues after the jump...]

Anastasia Griffith: So suddenly Katie is getting slated as a liar or a cheat or being manipulative, when actually really you're just getting inside the mind of a complex individual who's got her insecurities and her fears and her issues. And she does have issues; don't get me wrong, she does have issues, but I don't think anyone is black and white and I think the writers have really nailed that actually.

LAist: Especially since her vulnerabilities are getting exploited by both sides in the case, so they're not black and white and so the writers have hit on that I think really well. What's funny is that I think that "Robot Chicken" is going to do "Law & Order" in nothing but chicken voices by puppet chickens because you can do that with "Law & Order". That's how the characters are and they're literally not going to say anything in English. You wouldn't be able to do that with "Damages".

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Anastasia Griffith: {Laughs] No, you wouldn't be able to do that with "Damages". And I think they're well observed characters that are being brought to life by I hope good acting. Even if you just take Frobisher and Patty Hewes, I mean you can't hate Frobisher in a way and you can't love Patty Hewes, nor can you hate her. There is so much gradation going on with these characters and I think that is where the success of the show lies essentially. For us as actors, that's where the interest comes in, the fact that you can't absolutely guess or kind of know where these characters are going and what they're about and what's driving them.

And that's real life, you know, actually however much we love to try and put people in boxes it's next to impossible and you know the interesting thing about being a human being is this kind of dichotomy between good and bad and the light and the dark and I think all of these characters, to a certain extent, have got that fight going on within them, and Katie no less.

And, yes, she gets pulled into a situation that she is out of her depth basically, but there's much more to come out and much more to be heard on that matter and I don't want to go into it really. I think after next episode people will understand a lot better as to where she's coming from.

LAist: You know LAist talked with Noah [Bean] a week or so ago about some upcoming things he might or might not be doing. Maybe you could let us know about other projects on either theater or other mediums that you're doing.

Anastasia Griffith: Well, literally this week I'm filming an episode for a Fox TV show called "New Amsterdam". I'm doing a guest star role in their first episode after the pilot and playing a Brit, actually, which has been really nice. And other than that, I have nothing lined up right now, although I'm looking very much into doing some theater. I would love to do something in New York City when we've got some down time. I'm traditionally trained. I was trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and I'm really keen to sort of put my theatrical training back into use.

So we're in discussions about that right now and, obviously, film. I'm delighted to be involved with "Damages" and it really was a dream come true. A year ago if someone had asked me what I would like to be doing in a year's time it would be playing an American in a well written, well directed TV show out here, I wouldn't have believed it.

So that really was my kind of first dream and now I've achieved that and hopefully will gain some longevity from that. I would like very much to explore film and theater in more depth. But at the moment, there's nothing that I can really speak about.

LAist: We'll look for you in the "New Amsterdam" show as well as the rest of this season of "Damages".

"Damages" is on FX on Tuesdays at 10:00pm