Q&A Interview with actress Jeri Ryan, “Body of Proof” (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)
October 5, 2011 by Dennis Amith
With the DVD release of “Body of Proof – The Complete First Season”, we will be featuring Q&A interviews with the cast of ABC’s “Body of Proof”.
Our next interview is with actress Jeri Ryan, known for her roles as “Seven of Nine” from “Star Trek: Voyager” and Ronnie Cooke from “Boston Public”. She most recently appeared on the drama series “Leverage” and the comedy series “Two and a Half Men”.
In “Body of Proof”, Jeri plays the role of Kate Murphy, the first Chief Medical Examiner in Philadelphia history and also the stern boss of Dr. Megan Hunt (played by Dana Delany).
As both she and Dr. Megan Hunt, are dedicated to their profession, she knows that Dr. Megan Hunt often will ask for medical tests that can easily cost the department quite a bit of money and when she does, it’s up to Kate to step in and remind Dr. Hunt of who is the boss. Thus, sometimes adding a bit of tension to their working relationship.
With season two of “Body of Proof” airing on ABC and the DVD release of “Body of Proof: The Complete First Season”, actress Jeri Ryan took part in a media Q&A and reflected on the first season as Kate Murphy on “Body of Proof”.
How would you describe your character in Body Of Proof?
JERI: Dr. Kate Murphy is the first female chief medical examiner in Philadelphia’s history, so she’s very smart and a bit of a tough cookie in her own right. However, she’s also very human and she’s got a lot of empathy, not just for the victims and their families, but also for the people that work for her and with her. I love the fact that she’s not a stereotypical cold-as-ice, hard-as-nails female boss because that’s not terribly interesting to play. Kate is very different.
Did you base your character on anyone in particular?
JERI: A couple of our technical advisors on the show are women who were chief medical examiners in their own right. One of them was the first female chief medical examiner in the city where she worked and what really blew me away was the fact that you might assume someone in her position of power would be solely focused on work and nothing else. However, that’s not true. These women still live their lives to the full. They are the most fascinating, amazing women. They race cars, they skydive, and they climb mountains. They do everything and anything.
Why do you think they live life to the full?
JERI: Perhaps it’s got something to do with working around death all the time? Working in this field makes you realize how fragile life is and how quickly it can go, so perhaps it entices you to take advantage of every minute you have. I certainly try to bring a little of that to Kate in the show.
How do these medical examiners still care about the victims after seeing so much death in their job?
JERI: That was one of the things I asked when I got to visit a medical examiner’s office. “How do you do this? These are human beings. It’s someone’s loved one. How do you carry on all the time?” I discovered that there’s always a respect and sensitivity that it’s a body, but you have to have a disconnect or you couldn’t do what you have to do in an autopsy. You can’t completely internalize it and emotionalize it.
Did you witness an autopsy at first hand?
JERI: I witnessed two autopsies during my research for this role. I am a huge science geek, so I was waiting six months for the opportunity to present itself where I could finally witness one. It was an amazing honor, and it was incredibly fascinating – but the emotional part of it was hard. I looked at the first guy’s face and thought to myself, ‘Whoa… This is a human being.’ I started thinking about his family who just lost their loved one and for a minute, I didn’t know if I was actually going to be able to carry on. You realize how fragile life is and what a miracle our bodies are. It’s amazing.
What else did you learn from observing the autopsies?
JERI: There was one case that was incredibly difficult. The doctor performing the autopsy told me that it was one of the hardest cases she’d ever had to do because it was an infant. She explained how you have to go home and hug your kids extra tight after doing something like that. It’s a hard job.
Did your observations affect your thoughts on life and death?
Absolutely. I don’t necessarily want to climb mountains, but witnessing these autopsies has made me really appreciate life. The human body is such a miraculous machine and you really realize the fragility of life when you see them opened up in front of you. We are all told to eat right and work out – but when you literally see first hand what happens when you ignore these things, it really does make you think.
How close is your portrayal of medical procedures to the real thing?
JERI: It’s as real and authentic as you can be on a network television show. There’s only so much that you can really show, but we always have our technical advisers on a set and we try our best to make everything as realistic as possible. If you’re doing a medical show and the science is not there, you’ve lost all credibility, so we try to keep it as authentic and as legitimately correct as we can.
Is it a challenge to develop your character when you are unsure where the show is going?
JERI: That’s the challenge of episodic television. You don’t know where it’s going until that script is in front you. You try to drag everything you can out of the writers to give you some sort of information to go on. You get any scrap of back story that you can because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played something one way, and then a script comes in, and you discover a completely out-of-the-blue back story that you never saw coming.
Your character is a very strong-willed woman. Was that part of the appeal of the show?
JERI: Very much so. I don’t have any interest in playing a ditz, especially on a series that could potentially run for seven years. I don’t want to play somebody who’s stupid. I don’t have that interest. I want somebody who is strong and smart; somebody that I can be proud of my daughter watching and using as a role model. My character is very intelligent, strong and smart – and I loved the way she was written. That’s what peaked my interest.
Do you enjoy the fact that there is a strong female cast in Body Of Proof?
JERI: It’s fantastic that we’ve got a female-driven drama. There are three really strong, smart women on the show and I love it. No offense to the guys, but I love that there are so many great roles for women now, and so many great roles for women 40 and over. A new industry has emerged in the last five or 10 years. It’s wonderful.
Did you know your Body Of Proof co-star Dana Delany before you started work on the show?
JERI: I had heard wonderful things about Dana, but we’d never met. Dana is universally loved by everyone she’s ever worked with. She’s amazing and a wonderful actress as well. It’s been a pleasure to work with her – and I very much look forward to working with her some more in Season Two.
Body of Proof: The Complete First Season is now available on DVD.
Photo credit: ABC
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