TNT has been bringing the drama hard over the last few years. Their newest original series, Heartland, takes viewers into the the high-stress, high-stakes world of heart transplant surgery. Set at the fictional St. Jude Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Heartland has already aired two highly acclaimed episodes, with the third airing tonight. Danielle Nicolet (of Family Matters and Second Time Around fame) plays Mary Singletary on the show. Danielle took some time to talk with us recently about her career and the show.
Below you will find both the written transcript and the full mp3 audio of the interview.
Danielle, maybe you could just start off by giving us a little bit of background about yourself and how you got started in the whole acting business.
Wow. It’s a long story. Basically when I was a kid, I lived in a very, very small town in Ohio, and I always wanted to be an actor but kind of hard to do from Ashtabula so it turned out I was really good at gymnastics, so that was something I spent most of my childhood doing and as I got a little bit older, I got recruited to a gym out in Southern California so that’s what actually moved my family out of there. And at some point my knees blew out and I realized that gymnastics wasn’t gonna keep going so I finally broke down and told me mother what it was that I actually wanted to do and thank God she was supportive. So that’s how I got my start and I got really, really lucky and I actually booked my very first audition so I think my mother thought maybe it was a phase and when I got the first job she realized she was stuck with it.
So, what was your first job?
My first job was a guest star that turned into a recurring role for a couple of seasons on a show called Family Matters.
You’ve done a lot of work since then in television, in your career and you know you’ve had a number of starring roles as well as supporting roles. What are some of your highlights?
A really neat thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago, I got a call from the Museum of Television History saying that I was in one of the fifty funniest moments in the history of television and it was from Third Rock From the Sun which was a show that was on for a long time and so I have to say the years that I spent on Third Rock were probably one of my biggest highlights just as an actor, it was a clinic for learning and as a kid being so young on that show it kinda grew up on me, but it really let me know what the whole business was all about cause I worked with the most amazing people in the world. So I have to say Third Rock comes above and beyond anything else.
In addition to television you’ve also done several films. Given your experience do you prefer one medium over the other?
You know, it’s hard to say. I will say this. I have definitely done my share of sitcom, you know, TV comedy. So it’s not that I really don’t have a preference for it anymore, I just sort of feel like it’s an arena that I’ve kind of—it’s a rodeo that I’ve been to a couple of times so I’m happy to explore other places and in that sense doing one hour drama is definitely something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I’m really, really enjoying it and any actor you talk to is gonna say no matter what they wanna be doing film, so I got own up to that.
How did you land your role on Heartland as Mary Singletary?
I went in and took a meeting with David Hollander, who’s the creator and honestly, I would say ninety percent of the meeting was, you know, was just kind of talking and connecting mostly about football, which was something we definitely have in common. I don’t know, I think it was just sort of a matter of…with each of the roles in the show, he’s extremely picky personally when it comes to casting. I think he kind of has an attitude that, “When the person I wrote this for walks into the room, then it’s gonna be their job.” And I think I was just really, really fortunate, just kinda walked in and we connected and we kinda got around working the character a little bit but I think it was just one of those things where it was just my job and I’m so grateful for that. But yeah I have to say that out of all the jobs I’ve ever gotten, this one was the most pleasant sort of effortless experience. Everybody at Warner Brothers, everybody at TNT just walked in, said hi, next thing I knew I had this job.
What were your initial thoughts when you first read the script?
Let’s see. My initial thoughts when I read the script were, first of all, that I loved it and it was something I always—the type of show that I always wanted to be on. And then my second thought was that they were never gonna want me. Because I really thought they were gonna go sort of…and it just goes to show it’s not my place to cast myself in things cause I assumed that I was gonna walk in there and they were gonna watch me with the more stereotypical look for the type of character that I play and a little more of a sort of stereotypical casting of the smart ass, you know, sassy nurse in the hospital and that’s not really…it wasn’t something I felt I could bring too strongly. I could only bring my strong points and I was very wrong cause as soon as I got in the room and that would be with Hollander, I found out that that wasn’t what he was looking for at all. Thank God he was looking for me, basically. Something much more like me.
Can you give us a little bit of background on Heartland? What’s the premise of the show?
Well, let’s see. Heartland is sort of a non-typical hospital drama in that it takes place in the transplant ward of a hospital ICU which it really ends up being about life and death and how one person’s death can really save another person’s life. And all of the people that are involved in the process of facilitating that. It’s definitely compelling and interesting and it’s one of those shows that you’ll definitely laugh and you’ll cry in every single episode.
Do you have any other projects that you’re working on outside of Heartland at the moment?
At the moment, the only project I am working on, because I’ve just wrapped work yesterday, is catching up in about four months worth of lack of sleep, so I plan on sleeping for a few days then I’m gonna go see my family for a few days and I get to come right back home and jump into it. I’ve got a movie I’ve got to promote that’s coming out in a few months. It’s a remake of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. So I gotta go take care of that and then once I get done with that, I don’t know. I’m gonna find out what my next project is.
Do you have any final thoughts for your fans out there?
Just, you know, come see us and stay with us and literally, I do not think that there’s a television fan out there who doesn’t have somebody on this show that they like and love that they might wanna see. You know, everybody knows and loves Treat Williams, Everwood fans, you know you get to come back and see the guy that you missed and 24 fans get to come see Kari Matchett and Prison Break fans get to come see Rockmond Dunbar and Third Rock and Second Time Around fans get to see me and then last, but not leas,t Firefly and Serenity, you get to come see Morena Baccarin. So…you kinda can’t go wrong no matter what you’ve loved on TV in the past, I guarantee one of us was on it.
(Interview Conducted by Royce Yuen)
(Image Courtesy of TNT)