In the HBO series "Hung," now in its second season, Anne Heche plays Jessica, the dotty ex-wife of Ray, a football coach ( Thomas Jane) who turns to prostitution so he can afford to rebuild his home after a fire. For Heche, 41, the role caps a career comeback a decade after her much-publicized breakdown and breakup with Ellen DeGeneres. She shares her new life with James Tupper, her former "Men in Trees" co-star, and sons Homer, 8, and Atlas, about a year and a half, in a Mediterranean-style home in Hollywood.
FOR THE RECORD:
'Hung': The Sunday Conversation column with Anne Heche in Sunday's Calendar section said that the character of Ray on HBO's series "Hung" was a football coach. He coaches baseball. —
I read on a fan site that you auditioned for "Hung" because you fell in love with your character.
Actually, I tested for Tanya, the pimp role, more for fun than anything else, but I loved the script. I think I did a completely different take on it, which wasn't right for the show. The show explores some really lost souls in a very desperate place. I did it in a more positive, energetic, enthusiastic way rather than exploring the searching-for-myself poetry seeker that is the beauty of Tanya. But what was more right for me was Jessica, and she really to me was the heartbeat, the dream, this notion of being in a life that was lost but holding onto it still.
You mean her first marriage to Ray.
The first marriage. We fell in love when we were teenagers, and we had everything in front of us. I think there's a sadness to losing that, when you have a first love and you lose it, and I think Ray and Jessica both hold onto what was. And yet she loves her children, and she loves the man who is taking care of her and her kids — her new husband — and she loves the big house. That was a different dream that wasn't maybe based on innocent love but more the choice you make as an adult which is, I have to find a way to live.
They hired Jane Adams [to play Tanya], and they went off to shoot the pilot and I got pregnant and I thought, "Too bad, I wasn't part of that show." And I got a movie, and off I went. Then I got a call from my manager saying, "'Hung' called to see if you'd be interested in Jessica, but of course we said no; you're nine months pregnant."
And I said, "Absolutely don't say no." I went and met with [Executive Producers] Colette [Burson] and Dmitry [Lipkin] again, waddling in nine months pregnant, no kidding. And I said, "I think I can do it." Literally the table reading for the new show of the first season was the day before I gave birth. I gave birth on a Saturday morning. And eight days later I shot my first shot.
You've done practically everything – soaps, dramas, thrillers, action-adventure. But in recent years you've moved into comedy. Is that a late-blooming interest?
I've always loved comedy. I think that good comedy is born of pain, and I've certainly had a sense of humor about my life and the things I went through. Probably the first real comedy I did was "Wag the Dog." And that comedy resonated with me because it wasn't jokey. I was never a person who told jokes. I created characters out of the funniness of life. And I also loved physical comedy, not over the top, but born of what I thought was true in life, fumbling over the journey through life, which is so complicated and painful.
Your book tour for "Call Me Crazy: A Memoir" was aborted by 9/11, so you never got a chance to tell people why you wrote it. Here's your chance.
I had a story to tell, and I think it's very important to at some point in your life to share your story so you can move on. That was the bottom line.
At the time, did it have any impact on your career?
Of course! I was shut out and shut down. Certainly confusion makes it difficult for people to hire people, which I've learned in retrospect. You want to have a clean mystery to embrace the characters that people want you to embrace. And to be so exposed in your personal life makes it very difficult for you to disappear into character.
How long did it take for the industry to accept you again?
I took some time off because I had my first son. And Homer is 8 years old. And to get people refocused back on who I was going to be creatively, I decided to go to Broadway, and I did "Proof," which was an extraordinary experience. Then a year later I went back and did "Twentieth Century." Not too many people see Broadway, but my dedication to "Proof," which was a drama, going back to do "Twentieth Century" and getting a Tony nomination for doing a comedy, things just started opening up. It's not something that happened overnight.
You've talked about the fact that you're anti-marriage. Why is that?
We're eternally engaged and I say if I make it to 60, we can get married on my 60th birthday. A component of marriage is a business relationship, and I don't need to function in a business relationship in marriage. I need to be the best girlfriend I can be not only to the man I'm in love with but the father of my second child.
What's your life like with James these days?
Somebody said your home is like a reflection of your life. And this home that we have, if it can reflect what our life is to be open, to be spacious, to be in love, to be in light, to be happy, and I think this reflects who we are. To have our children be a part of our life with us, to be engaged in everything that happens, that's who we are, and that's the best place I can imagine being. I'm very lucky to be here.