Laura Linney Talks ‘The Big C,’ Premiere Sets Record

by | August 18, 2010 at 8:24 AM | Fall TV Preview 2010, Show & Tell, TV News

Laura Linney Stars in 'The Big C' (Photo: Showtime)

Laura Linney Stars in 'The Big C' (Photo: Showtime)

“Cancer comedy.”

Those two words don’t exactly go together and that’s just what Academy-Award nominee Laura Linney found so appealing about the new Showtime series that brings her back to the small screen.

Viewers were certainly intrigued by the notion; Monday night’s series premiere set a ratings record for Showtime. ‘The Big C’ drew the largest audience for an original series debut for the network in eight years, with 1.2 million viewers, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

On ‘The Big C,’ Linney plays Cathy Jamison, a repressed school teacher whose world is profoundly turned upside down when she’s diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma skin cancer.

Keeping her diagnosis a secret from her nearest and dearest, Cathy decides to let it rip … and live a little. And it’s her sudden liberation that leads to laughs since Cathy’s new perspective on life has those around her wondering if she’s losing her grip.

It’s easy to argue that the Showtime stable is becoming overrun with quirky, strong female characters, in the vein of ‘Weeds,’ ‘Nurse Jackie’ and ‘The United States of Tara,’ but Linney’s performance is powerfully compelling and worth adding to your DVR line-up.

I recently spoke with Linney about the challenges facing such a dark comedy, where she insists navigating the uneasy emotional territory has been “a lot of fun.”

“It’s dealing with everything I had been thinking about in my brain anyway,” Linney explained of her interest in the pilot script, “about time and life and how you spend your time … the fact that we all have a limited amount of time. And what choices are we making about how you deal with your own time?”

“Is it a blessing to know you have a limited amount of time left, or is it a curse?” Linney went on to say. “Like what does that do to a person? So there were all of those things that I found moving and exciting and challenging to deal with.”

Coping with ‘The Big C’ is indeed a big deal, but Linney says she didn’t have trouble finding subtle humor in the grim subject matter.

“Well, what I liked is that it was taken from the viewpoint of striping away humanity to the bare bones … and that’s where real comedy, for me, comes from. When things are so challenging, so frightening, so absurdist, when life becomes absurd–because it’s so enormous, yet so primal–for me, that’s where the funny really comes from.”

But is she worried some viewers may find it hard to watch?

“It’s all different kinds of humor – humor out of surrender, humor out of fear, humor out of anxiety, humor out of joy and love – it comes from many different places,” and that’s something we all can relate to, the actress says.

As for the life expectancy of the series, a show about dying doesn’t necessarily mean there’s an implied expiration date.

“We’ll see what happens…” a coy Linney said, staying mum on her character’s fate. “But we’re having a really good time figuring it out.”

The strong supporting cast includes Oliver Platt as Cathy’s immature husband; Reid Scott (‘My Boys’) as her physician; and ‘Precious’ star Gabourey Sidibe as one of Cathy’s sassy students.

‘The Big C’ airs Mondays at 10:30 p.m. on Showtime.

Watch the Debut Episode of Showtime’s ‘The Big C’ on Fancast

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