Q&A Interview with actress Dana Delany, “Body of Proof” (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)
October 3, 2011 by Dennis Amith
With the DVD release of “Body of Proof – The Complete First Season”, we will be featuring Q&A interviews with members of the cast of ABC’s “Body of Proof”.
We begin with actress Dana Delany, well known for her roles on “China Beach” and “Desperate Housewives”. In “Body of Proof”, Delany plays the character of Dr. Megan Hunt, a brilliant neurosurgeon who was a workaholic but was also away from her family most of the time. Unfortunately, that time away from her family and her always at work, led to a divorce and losing custody of her daughter Mary.
One day, while trying to talk on her cell phone, she got into a car accident and now lost full control of her hands to do surgery and thus ended her career as a neurosurgeon.
So, now Dr. Hunt works as a medical examiner and is trying to establish a relationship with her daughter. She also assists Detectives Bud Morris and Samantha Becker on their criminal cases along with her partner Nicholas Bishop, a former police officer now medico-legal investigator.
With season two of “Body of Proof” airing on ABC, Dana Delany reflects on her first season as Dr. Megan Hunt on “Body of Proof”.
What was your biggest challenge in taking on the role of a medical examiner in Body Of Proof?
DANA: My biggest challenge was the words, the medical terminology. You have to say these lines really fast and you have to act like you know what you’re talking about. It’s tough, but thank God for the internet. It has changed an actor’s life completely. I’ve played doctors before where we used Taber’s medical encyclopedia to look up different words all the time. Now, you can just put the word into your smart phone or tablet and the information comes up immediately with pictures, descriptions and the right pronunciation. It’s much easier to be better prepared now.
What makes Body Of Proof different to other forensic shows?
DANA: My character is very different because she doesn’t disconnect from the bodies in every episode. She probably over-connects to the bodies, which is something a normal medical examiner wouldn’t do. I think the show has a different pace because of that. It’s very interesting, we have one episode where there is a child missing that’s still alive – and it changed the nature of the show because we were in pursuit of the child and it made our show much quicker. That’s not our show; it didn’t feel right to me. What I like about the show is the way that the bodies are already dead, so we can take the time to think about everything and take a moment with the body.
How do you see your character on the show: Dr. Megan Hunt?
DANA: I see Megan as a psychopomp, which in Greek mythology was the character Charon; who transported souls of the dead across the River Styx. The job of a psychopomp is to not judge, but to provide safe passage – and I think that’s exactly what she does with these dead people. She feels that if she can cross them over to the other side, then that’s her job done – but she’s not going to finish until she does that in a safe way. And that’s why, at the end of almost every episode, we have her saying goodbye to them. Those people are not covered up until she knows exactly what happened to them.
Is that why Dr. Hunt becomes so dedicated to her work? She’s not just the medical examiner; she almost takes over the police work as well.
DANA: Exactly. She had no regard for people when they were alive, but now she has double regard for them. She looks at her work and she thinks, ‘These are not just bodies, they are human beings. They lived a life, and now they deserve the respect in death.’
Do you admire the actors who play the dead people on the show?
DANA: I’ve got to tell you, they do such a great job because it’s not easy for them. They have to sit in hours of makeup, and then they have to pretend to not breathe for ages. Then, they also have to be really stiff. That’s a difficult job when we’re poking them and prodding them.
When dealing with such a serious subject matter, do you find it difficult to switch off from work at the end of a long day on set?
DANA: There’s a Zen practice of ‘Practice your death before you die’. And it’s very liberating. I think that we all need to really have a better relationship with death.
Are you less scared of death since starting work on this show?
DANA: I think I always had a good relationship with death for whatever strange reason. I’ve never been afraid of dying, but I’ve observed a number of autopsies now and I still feel fine about death. I really feel good about it. It’s like, ‘Okay. That’s it. That’s what happens.’ I think it’s a gift to be a medical examiner. One of the best things about being an actor is that you get to research your role and learn about different occupations. I’ve done a lot of research for this role, and to see what medical examiners do at work has been an honor. It’s been completely eye opening to me.
Were you worried the first time you witnessed an autopsy?
DANA: Everyone warns you to take precautions before you see an autopsy for the first time. They say, “Make sure you have something to eat first and wear flat shoes. If you feel faint, don’t be embarrassed, just sit down.” I had never seen a dead body before this role, but the medical examiners were extremely respectful and reverential towards these bodies. Everybody takes it very seriously.
What part of the autopsies did you find the most difficult?
DANA: The hardest part is the person staring at you. But then, when the medical examiner pulls the face back, it becomes a body. It’s a strange experience, but I found it fascinating. By my fourth autopsy, they were letting me assist. They let me do incisions and I was mesmerized by the whole process. The minute you open up the body and look in there, I’m amazed.
Did you ever feel faint watching these autopsies?
DANA: I just felt fascinated by everything about it. It’s been an honor to witness these autopsies because it’s something that not everybody gets to experience – and I feel extremely grateful that we’ve been allowed to watch. It’s been mind-bending.
What else have you taken away with these experiences?
DANA: I have found it a very reverential experience because the minute you cut that person open, you see that our bodies are a miraculous gift that we’ve all been given. The fact that our show gets it right is very gratifying because it’s true when you consider the way that the body is the proof. When you look into a body and you see the cavity and all their organs, you can see exactly how that person lived – and you can see how they died. It makes you realize, ‘I’ve been given this gift, this machine that works perfectly – and it’s my job to keep it running.” It’s changed my life.
In what way has it changed your life?
DANA: I really want to take care of my machine now. It’s my responsibility to make sure that it runs well – and I’m going to do everything I can to help that.
Body of Proof: The Complete First Season is now available on DVD.
Photo credit: ABC
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