‘X-Files’ Alum Annabeth Gish Gets Ghostly in ‘Stephen King’s Bag of Bones’

by | December 12, 2011 at 1:59 PM | Interviews

Horror is all the rage on TV right now and A&E is joining the party with “Stephen King’s Bag of Bones,” a four-hour epic miniseries based on the New York Times’ No. 1 bestselling novel.

Concluding tonight, the ghost story marks Pierce Brosnan’s return to television as bestselling novelist Mike Noonan, who loses his wife (Annabeth Gish as Jo) in a terrible accident that leaves him unable to write a single word. Distraught, he heads out to the lake house he inherited from Jo, where events quickly lead him to believe he is losing his mind.

At the lake house, Mike experiences ever-escalating nightmares and mysterious ghostly visitations from Sara Tidwell (Anika Noni Rose), a blues singer whose spirit lingers in the house. As he is haunted by the many secrets, Mike comes to realize that his late wife still has something to tell him in this story of grief and lost love’s never-ending bond – and it just could save a life.

Despite the fact that Jo dies in the first few scenes in the movie, her presence is definitely felt throughout, albeit in ghostly fashion. This is one of the reasons that Gish, who had previously starred in Stephen King’s “Desperation,” agreed to take the role.

“Of course, every actress yearns to be featured throughout to fulfill her storyline, but I feel like the character of Jo was so clearly drawn – sort of her essence is throughout the film — so in that sense she resonates,” Gish says of her decision. “And while I was, ‘Really? No more?’ I was automatically drawn to say yes.”

In the following interview, the former “The X-Files” star talks about why she is attracted to horror projects, what scares her, working with the former James Bond, and her personal paranormal experience.

Can you talk about what it was like to work with Pierce Brosnan?

Here is the thing about Pierce Brosnan that I can’t say enough: He is a consummate professional and an actor, so what he would bring to each scene… he was so prepared and had so many diverse options and choices. We are enacting real life, but we are actors. We didn’t have to go … we took a little rowboat ride together. But he is such an impeccable actor and a great human being. What he brought was fantastic.

Was there anything physical in there that was tough for you?
Definitely. Oddly, this project has probably been one of the most physically challenging for me in the sense of the prosthetic. Three times I had to do a four-hour makeup job to become the zombie … the ghost of Jo. That was for me personally very scary because it was claustrophobic and you have to wear all of this gunk all over your body. That was challenging. Also, the scene under the bed was challenging. We would get under the bed when we were children, but I don’t remember when I have been under my bed recently. It was a tight-quartered stunt where they had to pull me with velocity from under the bed. That scene was scary to me. I couldn’t sleep that night. I thought, “Wow, the wife reaching out to her husband from beyond the living world. It is pretty scary.”

There is a resurgence of horror on TV these days. Is that something you like to do?
I would say yes, but not horror for horror’s sake. I think the difference between “The X-Files” and my two Stephen King projects is it is not just horror for horror’s sake. It is not just to scare the bejesus out of somebody. It is really all wrapped very intricately in a story about real drama and real heart and real mystery. I think that is what delineates this project. This isn’t just about zombies. It is about three love affairs. This is about solving a mystery. This is about rape. It spans a lot of things that people will be drawn to.

Were you a fan of Stephen King before doing the two projects?
I actually came to him after doing “Desperation.” And then a seminal book of his that is on my bedside table is the book On Writing, which is obviously very different, but I am also currently reading Lisey’s Story, which is phenomenal.

Is there something that scares you?
Yes. I am pretty scare-able. I guess that is why I like doing horror because my imagination can take me places. What scares me? I kind of believe in ghosts. I believe they can wander around, so that scares me. But the stuff that really scares me are the catastrophic events like my husband or children or my family being harmed, or something like that.

You said you believe in ghosts. Have you ever had a paranormal experience?
I would say I have met some ghosts before. Let’s just put it that way. I have danced with a few ghosts. I don’t know how you can’t, especially when you work — even when you are on a set and you are inviting this world in, you can’t help but be sensitive to it, I think. Maybe it is just what I am drawn to, but I am not opposed to believing in it.

Do you have trouble falling asleep with roles like Jo?
I find that I am one of those performers who when I immerse myself and it kind of overtakes it and then I put it away, so maybe I didn’t sleep for a couple of nights after [the scene under the bed] but after the movie, it is gone. It hasn’t affected my life.

Do you find as an actor it is harder to do your work when so much of your representation as a character is ghostly? You are a photograph or a flashback?
It is. That was a difficult aspect for me in this project in the sense that you have a limited amount of time to convey a certain amount of feeling. [Director] Mick Garris and I particularly talked a lot about Jo’s essence and what needed to come as a feeling without words over the screen, which is really amorphous and difficult to execute. I found that the sets were so great and I was able to hang out in Jo’s studio before I filmed so I could get into her vibe and what they’d created there and her paintings.

Of all the scenes, do you have a particular favorite?
I find the end with Mike reuniting with his long-lost daughter such a poignant moment in the film, but, in terms of the scene that I shot, that is a hard question. Every scene … lying on the dock with Pierce was a personal highlight because he is an amazing gentleman and actor. Probably under the bed from a physical, visceral experience of filming that was one of my favorites.

“Stephen King’s Bag of Bones” concludes on Monday, December 12 at 9PM ET/PT.

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