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The News Times, 13-11-1995

 

Laura Innes finds fame as ERs queen of mean.

 

By Mike Duffy

 

For millions of ER fans, Dr. Kerry Weaver is the walking, talking

Embodiment of the B-word. You know, thymes with rich and sound

Like witch. The sort of instantly abrasive character we love to loathe.

Weaver, the bossy sawbones portrayed by Laura Innes on Americas

No. 1 show, has become a refreshingly provocative ER newcomer this

Fall. She undercuts the conventional, Innes said. We expect  TV

Characters to be warm and charming and have an identifiable sense of

Humour. Kerry is none of those things. Which is one big reason why

Shes so darn much fun.

 

Especially for Innes, who did a 180 to play Weaver after creating daft

Chucklehead moments during quest appearances on Wings as the

Slutty-but-sweet Bunny, ex-wife of Lowell (Thomas Haden Church).

Go far, Slutty-but-sweet does not exactly define Kerry Weaver.

 

Shes so totally unembellished and to the point, and always very

smart, Innes said during a recent phone interview from her home in

suburban Los Angeles, pondering her frosty alter ego while keeping an

eye on her playful 4-year-old son, Cal. Kerry has a social problem in

dealing with others. Thats the nice way of putting is, Innes added.

Shes someone who just lives her life and does her work and doesnt

care what people think of her.

 

Particularly her Chicago hospital peers at County General, where

Weaver, the brusque Chief resident, has become a prickly source of

Aggravation for everyone from Susan Lewis (Sherry Stringfield) to

Doug Ross (George Clooney). Ross got so riled he even made cruel fun

Of Weavers physical disability, a noticeable limp. Noticeable but, so

Far, unexplained. Its a permanent disability, said Innes, who uses an

Orthopaedic cane when playing Weaver. But its the intention of the

Producers that it not be about that, about her sad story. What were

Trying to do in not focusing on her diability is make it a normal thing.

Its not the stereotype of Oh, Pity me.

 

 

What is your favourite current TV programme?
I'd have to say The West Wing - not that I'm biased or anything! [Innes has directed several episodes of the White House drama, for which she earned an Emmy nomination]. The writing is fantastic. It's so smart and inspiring. President Bartlet [played by Martin Sheen] offers the sort of leadership we're all craving for. He's the president we'd all love to have. We can only dream.

What is your all-time favourite TV programme?

St Elsewhere [the eighties American hospital drama that was a forerunner of ER] - intelligent, eccentric and beautifully made with a marvellous ensemble cast. It was also wonderfully gentle in a way that shows aren't allowed to be nowadays.

Why have medical dramas always been so popular?

Viewers can put themselves in the shoes of every character. They can imagine themselves as a doctor or a patient or a relative. Every episode hinges on a life-or-death situation. The moment people walk into a hospital, their lives are often altered for ever. Medical drama is like Greek tragedy - it's a very basic story about blood and tears and heroes and humanity. All human life is there - in all its glory and all its horror.

Whose job would you like in television?
I'd like to make as much money as Noah Wyle [who plays Carter in ER and who was last year awarded a huge salary increase, making him one of the highest paid actors on television at 280,000 an episode]. I'd like to have his pay cheque, but keep my own job.

Describe yourself in three words.
Without Noah's money.

What would you be doing now if you weren't an actor?

I'd be a school teacher - that's my dream job. I have a fantasy about moulding young minds, but in reality I'd probably be bored to death by the routine of school.

Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?

Not now that I am directing. It gives me the biggest buzz. The crass way of putting it is to say that it gives you complete control, but beyond that it's extremely creative. You're creating something from scratch but you're not alone, you're epart of a community. When it's working well, you feel like a great parent, trying to bring out the best in everybody. But it's hard work - nothing worth while is easy.

Which piece of directing are you most proud of?
The episode of ER where Carter and Lucy got stabbed. I remember planning that for ages. I talked to lots of doctors about what happens when you're stabbed. They told me you start bleeding, you go pale, your lungs fill up with blood and your body goes into shock. I thought depicting that would be far more interesting than seeing a knife swinging through the air, which has been done so many times before.

Do you ever get mistaken for a real doctor?

All the time. I have to be very patient and explain to people that ER is not real.

What do you think of your ER character, Dr Kerry Weaver?

I love the fact that she is so different. She is a woman completely without vanity. Also, she always speaks her mind - she's an absolute straight shooter. The producers brought Kerry in to the show because it needed someone edgy and abrasive. And although she has subsequently been allowed to show different sides, her core purpose remains to charge down the corridor screaming at the other doctors, "Do your job." It's not the way women are supposed to behave and it's very refreshing.

Why has she taken so long to come out?
Kerry has put her passion very much on the backburner. She has deeply repressed herself to achieve her goals. Also, someone who is disabled is hardly going to run out and say, "By the way, I'm also a lesbian." That would be two strikes against her. She has buried her sexuality for so long, it's interesting now to uncork that bottle.

What would be your first act as world leader?
I would get rid of all nuclear weapons. I know that it would be more complex than that, but what's wrong with being idealistic?

What one possession would you rescue from a fire?
My photo album. Does everyone give that answer?

Who is your all-time hero?
I know it's boring, but I'm going to say my mum. She's the kindest person I know. She's hard-working, decent and very funny.

What one thing would you change about yourself?
My hair. It's too fine. I want a big, thick mane!

What was your least enjoyable job?
I was once a pooper scooper at a vet's clinic. jobs don't come much more horrible than that.

What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?

When I'd just moved to New York and was sending my resume all over trying to get an agent, the playwright David Mamet told me: "They'll break your heart a million times, but it will only make you stronger." He was absolutely right.


From the Radio Times 2-8 March 2002


An interview with "E.R.'s" Laura Innes


By Christine Champagne

Gay.com Network

When "ER's" Dr. Kerry Weaver embarked on a love affair with a woman last season, you couldn't help but root for the lonely doctor to find some happiness. But, alas, her relationship with Dr. Kim Legaspi (Elizabeth Mitchell) ended, and it ended badly.

Gay and lesbian viewers in particular loved this dramatic storyline, at least according to the mail we get at Gaywatch. For her part, Laura Innes, who has played Dr. Weaver since 1994, found the story exciting and challenging to play. "It's great to have a character who is so controlled and then unhinge her," the actress says. "We've done that -- or tried to do that -- with the storyline last year."

Getting involved in a relationship -- not to mention her first lesbian affair -- proved to be difficult for Dr. Weaver. She wanted to keep it a secret, and that's what ultimately caused its demise. Still, we finally got a chance to see Dr. Weaver's personal side.

As we've learned over the years, Dr. Weaver is a private, controlling woman who finds it difficult to be intimate with other human beings. But it looks like the relationship with Dr. Legaspi has at least made her realize it's time to explore her sexuality. In a recent episode, she got up the courage to ask out a female firefighter (played by Lisa Vidal of "Third Watch").

Hopefully we'll see some sort of romance blossom. Thus far this season, Dr. Weaver has been obsessed with work. "She went through this thing last year with this love affair that ended badly, and I think in response to that she has been fully focused on work in the hospital again, but it's slightly different in that she's making some mistakes," Innes says.

Dr. Weaver made a huge mistake when she recently left the hospital grounds and didn't bring her pager, leaving Dr. Chen (Ming-Na) and Dr. Malucci (Erik Palladino) unable to reach their superior during an emergency. The patient the young doctors were treating died, but Dr. Weaver avoided trouble with the hospital brass by letting Dr. Chen shoulder the blame for the incident. Not long afterward, she fired Malucci.

While she has always been known to protect herself at all costs, this all-out cover-up came as a shock to many viewers. "It's fun for the audience to go, 'Oh my God! I can't believe what she just did," Innes says. "I love the fact that Kerry can be a total ball-buster, and I love the fact that she's unedited, and I love the fact that she can be baldly ambitious."

Innes admits it is hard for her to be objective about her alter-ego's actions. "When you play a character, it's almost like they are your child," she says.

As for the audience, fans seem to either love or loathe Dr. Weaver. "The reactions I get from people are completely across the board," Innes says. "I have people coming up to me who just want to belt me. They're so angry. Then, I can walk across the street and go into another store, and somebody can come up to me with tears in their eyes and say, 'Oh, I love the character so much.' I love this broad spectrum of reaction to her."

Dr. Weaver has become an integral part of "ER," but the character was only slated for a six-episode run when she made her debut back in 1994. The producers saw something special in Innes' portrayal of the physically disabled yet incredibly independent physician, and Dr. Weaver became a regular.