“What Happens Next?” is the title of this Thursday’s ‘Private Practice‘ episode (ABC, 10/9c) and surely the question weighing heavily on Charlotte King’s mind, having barely survived a brutal rape at the hands of disturbed patient Lee McHenry. Will Charlotte ever cop to what really happened during the attack? Can Addison keep the secret that she compiled a rape kit on the sly? And how will this traumatic event affect the ABC serial’s canvas as a whole?
KaDee Strickland, who wowed the TV-watching crowd last week with a bravura, Emmy-caliber performance, shared with us a look at the messy aftermath that still – and perhaps forever – is to come.
I simply must start off by saying that you did some extraordinary work last week. (Watch the full episode here.)
Oh, honey – thank you. I’m very proud of the family of actors on this show, I can say that much.
What sort of feedback have you gotten since that episode aired?
I was most blown away by the response from Gail Abarbanel, who works at the Rape Treatment Center here in Santa Monica. She told me she’d never seen it depicted it so realistically, and she’s been so gracious to [series creator] Shonda [Rhimes] and myself. And of course, the outreach that happened after the PSA and the episode was extraordinary. There have been a lot of survivors sharing, and it’s a remarkable feeling. I take such pride in what Shonda created [as the episode's writer] and what [director] Allison Liddi Brown and the cast and I were able to execute. To be of service in this way while doing what you love… there’s nothing like it.
As rape storylines go, was there anything Shonda specifically wanted to address? To avoid?
She wanted specifically to legitimize the experience of a survivor, what that is and how it affects the co-survivors in that person’s life. She wanted to explore it not from the standpoint of the police and solving the crime so much as how it has impacted this person’s entire being.
Pete had that line, “What hurts most?” and Charlotte answered, “My soul.”
Yeah. I’ll tell you, in my research I took great responsibility in understanding what was ahead of me. I’m just very blessed that Shonda was allowed to write what she wrote, and to do it in such a very humane way. Her humanity is just remarkable to me, the way she’s able to walk in a person’s shoes as a writer. The only thing she wanted to stay away from anything that seemed indulgent, and I really don’t believe the episode indulged in any way in anything that wasn’t pure to a survivor’s journey.
For all its praiseworthiness, how do we reconcile the storyline’s message thus far to “keep quiet”?
R.A.I.N.N. (the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) helped us, and if you’re going to tell a truthful depiction, that is reality. Some people don’t speak for 20 years, and every survivor has a different story. There are common behaviors you can analyze – things like post-traumatic stress disorder and shame – but the way people deal with it is so specific to who they are, and it’s absolutely correct that Charlotte King would have this response. As the story unfolds, you will see that the truth comes out, and ultimately the truth sets you free. Charlotte will never be free from the reality that this happened to her, but she can come to grips with the truth of her life as she’s going to have to live it now. Just because you don’t immediately report [a rape] doesn’t mean you can’t get help, that’s important to note. And the other important thing is that Addison does not keep the secret and she performed a rape kit against my wishes, knowing that I was in shock and in denial and knowing that I would [eventually] want that option.
But is Charlotte going to look at Addison’s decision so rationally?
Charlotte, like anyone who has been traumatized, is going to go through different ebbs and flows. She’s going to try to keep the façade up. But this is a very messy, delicate state we’ve decided to explore. There is absolutely no circumstance where a person should be allowed to do this to another human being, so if we can promote a conservation about that, so people get help, we’ve done something special.
Will Charlotte be acting out?
Oh yeah. This is Charlotte, she’s going to act out! She’s not going to sit around and pout, trust me. She wants to survive this. Again, it’s messy, not clean, but she will eventually allow people to help her.
Outside of Charlotte, who will this storyline have the biggest impact on?
Everybody. Honestly, everyone is affected, and that’s another beautiful thing Shonda and the writers have done. You see Addison and then Sam struggling with this secret; there’s no way around the way this is going to affect Cooper; Violet is a survivor [of assault] herself, so it provokes things in her; Sheldon certainly is go to be very affected; and with Amelia, it’s a new development in our relationship. And of course Naomi does eventually come back to us, as the one person who hasn’t seen the worst of it.
Thus far Cooper has tried to be Charlotte’s rock, and she’s been OK with that. But are there bumps ahead for them?
Absolutely. You’re going to see this thing take many, many appropriate shapes.
Having unwittingly met with Charlotte’s attacker, will Sheldon put together the pieces?
Yeah, he’s no dummy. He’s very good at his job and adding up the circumstances.
I imagine he is going to explode once the dots are connected, since he has the unique perspective of having witnessed Lee McHenry’s unrepentant state.
Yeah…. Sheldon is a very elevated consciousness, and it’s beautifully played by Brian Benben. I just love that character, and Brian was extraordinarily good in that episode.
In the end, will this be a story about justice served?
[Sighs heavily] That’s a very good question… that I can’t fully answer right now.
Well, will Charlotte at some point want justice?
I think every survivor wants a sense of justice – and Charlotte has not seen the last of Lee McHenry.