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Sunday January 24, 2010

Walsh’s world

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Kate Walsh relates her cathartic experience working on the end-of-the-world thriller Legion.

KATE Walsh is looking for a role in a good, romantic comedy, she says.

“It’s funny that I end up in these things that are really intense,” says the American actress during an interview with the international press to plug her new movie, Legion, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles.

While her former co-stars from the medical drama series Grey’s Anatomy, Patrick Dempsey and Katherine Heigl, have gone on to become leads in romantic comedies, the 42-year-old star of medical soap opera Private Practice is battling demonic angels in the new movie, Legion.

In the film directed and written by Scott Stewart, Walsh plays Sandra Anderson, a suburban yuppie and exasperated mother stuck in Paradise Falls, a diner in the middle of a desert. While she waits for her car to be fixed with her rebellious daughter and patient but suffering husband – played by Willa Holland and John Tenney respectively – things start going downhill rapidly in the diner when the world ends in a hail of angels.

“It’s all about fears, nightmares and the end of the world,” says Walsh. “Not only is there death, there’s no God – God has left us, He doesn’t care, so it’s a very dark, dark place to come from!” she laughs ruefully.

The movie, which also stars Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid and Lucas Black, is the latest apocalyptic offering from Hollywood, and as Sandra, Walsh gets to be as un-Addison-like (her character in Private Practice) as possible.

“It was a cathartic experience,” she notes. “It was like being in an opera – everything was heightened. You go from your trailer and you go in and you’re in a high state of anger, fear or sadness – that was just a fun exercise,” she says.

Legion is a fun, campy movie, says Walsh, who is a big fan of horror movies. Movies like Legion tap into the fear people grapple with every day as they read the headlines in the newspapers.

“I try to live each day, but that fear is always there,” says Walsh philosophically. “It terrifies me that it’s -1°C in Florida and iguanas are falling out (of trees) and dying. It’s never been -1°C in Florida. So, there’s a part of me that says, ‘Maybe this is it.’ Every day there’s fear everywhere.”

Sandra, her character, doesn’t deal with fear very well, however.

A tightly wound up woman, Sandra is destroyed by the spiritual world, Walsh points out.

In a way, Sandra’s struggle between the material and spiritual worlds is something Walsh identifies with – though, of course, not in the same literal way Sandra experiences in Legion.

“We live in a culture that is based on money and is largely spiritually devoid in many ways,” she says.

In real life, Walsh seems very much like her Private Practice character, Dr Addison Montgomery. She’s sophisticated, put together, and seems to have a practical approach to life, even when it comes to the crazier side of her job as an actress and celebrity.

Walsh, who divorced her husband of 14 months, film and TV producer Alex Young, last May, has to put up with paparazzi scrutiny on every detail of her life, from people speculating why her marriage ended to what she bought at the supermarket during the weekend.

“I’m used to it now,” she says with a small sigh. “Wouldn’t it be great if we have all that energy on international politics, in the war in Afghanistan, Somalia ... wouldn’t it be awesome to send paparazzi over there to chronicle what’s going on?”

She flashes a sly smile as she utters that.

But life goes on, she adds.

Even when someone pretends to be you on Facebook.

“We really, truly live in some weird Blade Runner world now,” Walsh says of her Facebook impostor. “Everybody can assume everybody’s identity and be them.”

Perhaps it is no surprise why she seems ambivalent about the Internet, saying that it’s like the “wild West”. Yet, she keeps a blog at www.katewalsh.com.

This is where her very practical side emerges. She talks about how she needed to do the blog because “it’s good for business” and great for promoting her show and business – a fragrance that she’s developing.

“The seductive part is that the sky’s the limit. It’s like a gold mining town – everybody wants to come here because anyone can be rich,” she says. “On the Internet anyone can do anything. The potential for business and developing something creative is incredible but at the same time, where does it stop?”

“People who work with me have to remind me to go blog,” confesses the lady who has mixed feelings about her blog.

“I think it’s emblematic of this incredibly narcissistic culture we have. I mean, what are we? Do we really think we’re so important? Why not just keep a diary?” she says.

Well, judging from the hundreds of comments left at each blog post, her fans certainly think that she’s important.

But sometimes it’s just good to leave the celebrity world behind and just “get into bed, put on my flannel pyjamas, lie there and read.”

Unsurprisingly, our conversation veers towards her hit TV show, Private Practice.

“I’m thrilled, blessed and grateful to have success in Grey’s and Private Practice that enabled me to do Legion and getting more work. As an actor you always want to do other things,” she says.

Walsh describes the third season of Private Practice as “the strongest ever”.

“The ratings are really good,” she happily shares. “Sometimes being on Private Practice is like being on eight different movies. Each episode is a different movie, in a way.”

People weren’t really sure if the spin-off of Grey’s Anatomy would survive initially, and some fans grumbled that the Addison Montgomery that they knew on Grey’s Anatomy seemed like a different character in the show.

“It was like a pendulum,” says Walsh, nodding. “When we first started Private Practice, the character was all over wacky and all over the place.”

However, she believes that Addison has “landed again”.

“When the character was first established in Grey’s Anatomy, it was in relation to Derek and Meredith,” says Walsh of the two pivotal characters in Grey’s played by Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo. “Now it’s this whole other thing.”

The “other thing” being her dysfunctional family – her promiscuous brother (who’s also a surgeon) was introduced in Season Two, and now viewers will get to see Addison’s WASPish (WASP stands for “white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant”) parents.

“There’s all this other facet to explore. It’s much more different,” she concludes.

‘Legion’ is currently showing in cinemas nationwide. ‘Private Practice’ (second season) airs on Ntv7 on Saturdays at 10pm.

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