Melinda Page Hamilton – Damnation
By: Jamie Steinberg
Q) What are the recent projects that you are working on?
A) I’ve just finished filming a new show “Damnation” for USA (Tuesdays 9/10pm). It’s a story set in depression era Iowa about the conflict between big money and hardworking farmers. In it I play a ruthless detective and strike-breaker named Connie Nunn hell-bent on finding the man who killed my husband and exacting my revenge.
Q) Please tell us the premise for the series “Damnation” and about your character.
A) When I read the script I just got unbelievably excited. It’s a story I haven’t seen before, set in a period of our country’s history that I think is so ripe for a deeper exploration. The look and feel of the show may feel familiar to some, but the conversation it’s having about America is, I think, tremendously ambitious. I am very proud to be part of it.
Q) What made you want to be a part of the series?
A) What appealed to me most about the story was that it’s peopled with characters, especially female characters who are incredibly powerful. There’s not a shrinking violet in the mix. I’d never seen a character like Connie before – she’s almost archetypal, mythical in her destructive abilities. At the very start of the show, she’s not really operating in the same reality as the rest of the characters. Being able to go on that journey and over time find out why she is the way she is and whether she can actually be able to integrate as a human being and as a character into the world of the story was an exciting opportunity. And, I must add, she provided a rare opportunity for an actress over forty to display some serious gun slinging skills.
Q) What have you found challenging about your role?
A) The most challenging part of working on Connie was finding a kind of white-hot coldness in her attention to whatever comes across her path…as an actor it was a very specific energy to tap into…That combined with her protean ability to appear as different things to different people made her very fun to work on. I was helped enormously by our extraordinary costumer, Jeriana San Juan, and amazing hair and makeup team.
Q) Was there anything you added to the character that wasn’t originally scripted for you?
A) It’s hard to say what one may or may not have added to a character because any character speaks to an actor differently from the page…Connie spoke to me very specifically and I consider myself beyond lucky to have been entrusted by Tony [Tost] to translate her into the story.
Q) Was there instant cast chemistry when everyone began working together or did you spend some time to gel?
A) I cannot say enough wonderful things about our cast and production team. It was hands down the most hard-working, creatively ambitious, generous of spirit group of people. Everyone, including our guest cast, was just folded into the family and did extraordinary work. The chemistry was instantaneous. I became especially close to Sarah [Jones] and Chasten [Harmon] (who play Amelia and Bessie). Being out of town for that long, away from my family and all that’s familiar and having those ladies at my back made such a difference.
Q) What have been some of your most memorable moments from filming “Damnation?”
A) My most memorable moments from filming are the probably the night shoots, which while physically grueling provided some great opportunities for cast bonding. Falling asleep in the van on the way home from work, as the sun rises after a hard days night…an experience that feels pretty tough in the moment but I already look back on with great fondness…
Q) What do you hope viewers take away from watching the series?
A) I sincerely hope viewers are gripped by the story and go for the ride. At the end of the day, I think it’s a great story and hopefully we’ve told it well.
Q) You are a part of social media. Are you looking forward to the fan feedback you’ll be receiving to episodes?
A) I have a Twitter account and certainly welcome any fan feedback. I am very interested in what people take away from the story. I think it’s a pretty rich investigation of our country’s past, which seems quite relevant given what’s going on today.