Interviews - Movies

Constance Zimmer – Playing Fair

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Q) What are the current projects that you are working on?

A) I am working on the show “In Justice” for ABC. I will be in the process of shooting a movie in Vancouver in February called Chaos Theory and that’s with Ryan Reynolds and Emily Mortimer. Then, I am also going to be doing a short film in February, as well, called Damaged Goods.

Q) You’re on the new show “In Justice.” Please tell us about your character and the show.

A) The show is about a group of lawyers and law grads (people who are not lawyers yet) that work at an organization called The National Justice Project, which is specifically about reopening cases and reading appeals for people who are in jail that claim they are innocent. We are trying to get these people out of jail because they don’t belong there, which the sad reality is that there are so many people in jail that are innocent who have been wrongly convicted. We’re trying to shed light on that because there are a lot of people that don’t even realize how many people who are locked up that should not be there. What the show is mostly about is trying to get those people out, to find out what went wrong and to put the right people in jail. As far as my character, her name is Brianna and I am not a lawyer yet. I am just a law grad and a lot of what I do for the organization is to work as an investigation team with my partner, played by Daniel Cosgrove. We’re the ones that go out, speak to witnesses again and try and figure out what went wrong and how this person ended up there or wasn’t there. It’s a lot of time spent on location and trying to figure out very clever ways to get people to maybe admit to something where they might of lied, but didn’t mean to lie or those that bent the truth. In the meantime, I try to keep it funny because I can’t be serious all the time.

Q) The first episode of “In Justice” just came out. Do you know how it was received?

A) We did really really well! Friday night was our pilot premiere. That’s really what they were judging because on Sunday night was a sneak preview. How they did it was to show episode three on Sunday night, so it was already into the series, and Friday night was actually our pilot. We kind of went a little bit backwards, but we did really well. I believe we did really well in the 18-49 years old category, which is what everyone really cares about the most. I think we tied for second, over all, and for ABC we did really really well. I think we closed the gap between CBS and ABC because they are fighting on those Friday nights. I think they are very happy with what we did and now we just have to hold on to it.

Q) What made you want to be a part of the show?

A) It was definitely the pilot episode, which is all we get to read as actors. You really only get the pilot and you just have to go based on the character and the show. It’s really hard for me coming from sitcoms because I’ve always been very anti-one hour drama since I like to be funny. I like to be sure that if I am on a drama that I can be funny. When I did “Joan of Arcadia,” it was a great mix because I was on a drama, but I was being very funny, very sarcastic and very lighthearted. Reading the pilot of “In Justice,” that’s how I felt. I felt Brianna was very smart, sarcastic and strong and you love to be able to play that as an actor. I, also, loved the premise of the show. I felt it was something that people really needed to be aware of.

Q) What is it like working on “In Justice” with people like Kyle MacLachlan and Daniel Cosgrove?

A) It’s great! I feel very lucky because Kyle, Jason O’Mara (who plays Conti), Daniel and I have such a great time! What I really love is that we’ve all become a close family in such a short amount of time. Everyone is always asking for advice from one another and I think that is why we’ve become so close so fast. Nobody has any egos on our show and we’re all just there to make the best show we can make. That doesn’t happen very often because a lot of times you have people competing with wanting this and wanting that. They are amazing guys and I feel so lucky to be on a show with them.

Q) What is your most memorable moment from filming “In Justice?”

A) My moment probably be wouldn’t necessarily be filming, but it would be when the show was picked up and going back to work on that first day of having the thirteen episodes to shoot. That first day back was such an exciting day doing our table read and all of us being there almost six months later! We had shot the pilot in March of last year and then we went back to work in October. So, I guess going back to work that first day and realizing, “Wow! This is it! We’re making a show! People are going to watch it!” That was probably one of the most exciting moments. Also, we had a day where we got shot at while we were working in not a very good part of LA, but I don’t know if that would be exciting. That was probably more scary than exciting!

Q) Why should people tune in to the show?

A) For one, I think it’s really something that people should be aware of, just how the smallest little thing can put somebody away. I think it holds true in life because a lot of times we make assumptions and we live our lives on assuming. A lot of times I think that gets us into more trouble and that’s a lot of why people end up in bad situations, by going on doubt and going on assumptions. Also, I think that we’ve got some really great characters on the show! It’s not just this serious “we’re chasing down criminals” because there is a lot of background into our characters, a lot of comedy and a lot of heart. The show has a lot of heart! I, also, hope that it is going to help re-instill in people that if you fight for something long and hard enough that it will come true. We can all, hopefully, have our dreams and our hopes fulfilled.

Q) A few years ago you reprised your role in the play Mousy Brown. What made you decide to return to the role?

A) I did that play for the Young Playwrights Festival over a weekend and we ended up doing it for six weeks at a theater called The Blank Theater. The writer, who is actually eighteen years old, ended up getting signed with William Morris and it ended up being a really great thing for her. I know there was talk about them wanting to make it into a pilot and I am not quite sure what happened to it in the meantime, but I love doing theater. I try doing theater every year. I will probably do another play in June. I always do a play with the Young Playwrights Festival because I think it is really important. All the playwrights are under the age of eighteen and I think it really gives them the boost that they need to continue to be creative. If you’re successful, why not go and do it for six weeks somewhere else because then even more people can go and see it!

Q) How do you prepare for your roles?

A) The biggest thing that I did for “In Justice” was watching a special on Showtime called “After Innocence.” It’s actually what our organization is loosely based on. There is an organization called the Innocence Project that two lawyers, Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld, started. They actually do what we do, obviously in the real world. This documentary is about what happens to the people when they get out of jail and when they have been exonerated. I think, more than anything, the preparation that I do is more trying to make my character more real and as relatable as possible. You would never want to be on a show, see a character and not be able to relate. That’s the whole reason you actually enjoy a show or why you want to go back and watch it, because you feel that you too could be in that same situation. I really wanted to make sure that Brianna is someone that people would want to come and see every week, based on feeling like, “Wow, she reminds me of my sister,” or “Wow, she reminds me of me!”  Those, a lot of times, are hard things to be done. The preparing is not so much going to libraries and investigating this and that. It’s really more about trying to make it relatable and make sure we’re relaying a good story.

Q) You studied acting with such renowned teachers as Stella Adler and Arthur Mendoza. What are some of the important aspects of acting that you were taught?

A) I think that it is a tough thing, as an actor, but there is something that we’ve all been told and taught which is, “you either have it or you don’t.” I think that being an actor is not necessarily something that can be taught. I think that it is ingrained in you and it needs to be nourished. I think that in doing actual acting classes, the things that you get taught are more about keeping it real. So, it’s kind of like what I was talking about as far as preparation, always trying to make sure you are a real person. There are times when I do big characters, that’s when there is more research that needs to be done because I am playing somebody so outside of myself. In acting, it’s just about making anything, whatever you are doing, real. No matter what! No matter if you are playing someone who is completely off in Never Never Land, it’s got to be completely real. So, I think that it becomes really about strengthening who you are. I’ve had acting teachers say, “You are enough.” That’s a huge thing to hear as a person, let alone an actor. We’re always trying to wear certain clothes to be perceived a certain way or adding jewelry just to make ourselves feel good. When you are constantly told over and over again that, “You are enough,” you just kind of have to settle into that and say, “Ok.” I’ve got to work off to what I already have as a base and go from there.

Q) You are heavily involved as an AIDS activist and you attend a lot of celebrity benefits for charity. Why is this cause so important to you?

A) I, actually, have a lot of causes that I support because I feel as actors, or anyone in the limelight, if there is anything we can do to bring awareness to situations it is one of the important things that we should do. I am a supporter of Heifer International, which is an organization that gives livestock, trees and other things to underprivileged families all over the country. I support St. John’s Medical Center, which involves children with cancer. I, also, support Much Love Animal Rescue, which is about rescuing animals that people either leave on the side of the road and they try and get people to adopt animals, as opposed to buying them in pet stores or ordering them over the Internet. There are far too many animals already out there that need homes. I just think it is one thing that is the least we can do. NRDC is also a good organization that tries to make sure that we are not killing our ozone, that we’re recycling and involves environmental issues. There is a reason why we’re in the limelight and we’ve got to do something besides acting. It’s also so we can use the fact that people recognize and know our names to attach it to organizations that people might not hear about everyday. I do it because I feel I have to, it’s part of an important circle of life.

Q) What do you do in your spare time?

A) I try and read. I work in my yard a lot and hike. I, really (more than anything), try and catch up with my friends. I don’t have a lot of spare time anymore, being on a one-hour show, the hours are pretty crazy. My days off I tend to sleep in and try and get stuff done at my house. I do the usual, like going to the movies, going to lunch with friends and try and get in some exercise in there somewhere, even if it’s just walking around a shopping mall.

Q) What would you like to say to your fans and supporters?

A) I would just like to say thank you! If I didn’t have fans and didn’t have people who supported me, I wouldn’t really be working. It’s because of the fans and supporters that it kind of causes the commotion and allows us to continue to work and do our job. I would just say, thank you, thank you. I hope to continue to work for a very very long time. I’ll try and keep my characters interesting!

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