The Emmy-nominated actress and co-star of the hit series Criminal Minds describes her role in the new indie feature drama, Morning.
Actress Jeanne Tripplehorn
Tavis: Jeanne Tripplehorn has made her mark costarring in movies with Michael Douglas and Tom Cruise, and on television in the award-winning series “Big Love,” and on CBS’s long-running “Criminal Minds,” of course.
Her latest movie, though, is called “Morning,” and it deals with the most heart-wrenching experience I suspect a parent could ever go through – the death of a child.
The movie was written and directed and costars her husband, Leland Orser. Let’s take a look at a scene now from “Morning.”
Tavis: So I was teasing Jeanne while the clip was running that this movie had its premiere, it opened in New York, L.A., San Francisco, and Tulsa. (Laughter) That’s just funny to read – New York, L.A., San Francisco, and Tulsa.
Jeanne Tripplehorn: Tulsa – yeah.
Tavis: And it opened in Tulsa because?
Tripplehorn: That is where I was born and raised, and Leland, when he made the movie, my family and friends and everybody said, “Well, how are we going to see this movie?” (Laughter) Because they knew it was going to be independent.
He said, “I promise you I will bring it back, I will bring it home,” and he kept his word (unintelligible).
Tavis: So how was the world premiere in Tulsa?
Tripplehorn: It was great. I got a medallion in the cement in front of the theater.
Tripplehorn: It was –
Tavis: It was like Jeanne Tripplehorn Day.
Tripplehorn: It was great. It was kind of like getting married all over again. It was kind of half-marriage, half high school reunion. I haven’t seen a lot of people in a long time, so that’s good.
Tavis: Speaking of getting married all over again, did I read this correctly, that while the two of you, you and your husband, Leland, while the two of you were working on this film that you slept, stayed separately?
Tripplehorn: I think it was – I think it was really smart. We didn’t want to talk about the movie at home. We just really wanted to keep it separate. And he was directing. So we were wearing two different hats, and it just kind of made sense to just keep it separate. It was only three weeks. It was only a 21-day shoot, so it wasn’t like –
Tavis: Twenty-one days is a long time to be away from you, though, Jeanne.
Tripplehorn: Well, victim.
Tavis: That’s a long time. (Laughter)
Tripplehorn: Thank you.
Tavis: That’s three weeks. Poor Leland.
Tripplehorn: You could do a lot of things.
Tavis: So what is it like when you are starring in a project that is written and directed by your husband?
Tripplehorn: It’s really good. It was really comforting. He, at the beginning, we were driving home one night and he said, about a week before, I thought now you’re starting to get cold feet.
He said, “I’m really concerned that we’re not going to be able to do this,” and he didn’t want any tension. I was really calm by that point, and I said, “It’s going to be fine.” It helps when you really respect your director.
It just so happened he was my husband, but I really – his script was stellar. It was a perfect, beautiful script, and I knew he knew what he wanted. So I knew as a director that there would be no tension, because all any actor wants from their director is for them to steer that ship, to lead them. I knew he knew what he wanted, so it was easy. It was pretty flawless.
Tavis: You’re obviously part of a cast on a TV show that goes to some dark places, but this is the darkest of places, I suspect, when a parent loses a child. I don’t want to ask how you researched the part, because that sounds a little strange, but how do you get into the mental space required to play a parent losing a child?
Tripplehorn: Well –
Tavis: You have a child. You and Leland have a child, yeah.
Tripplehorn: I do. I have one son, and I was never, ever going to pull from my own life, as a lot of times you do as an actor. You’ll kind of pull from your memory banks or whatever, and I just didn’t do that on this one.
I really built this character from the ground up. I made her own history; I made her own memories to pull from. I in no way – and it felt like a gamble, because I think half of acting is relaxation and confidence.
For a while, I thought oh, I don’t know if this is going to come across as sort of a three-dimensional character, simply because I’m not bringing any of myself to help me out here.
So it’s kind of strange sometimes when I watch it, because I’m not – there’s nothing familiar for me.
Tavis: This, to your point, is an indie film.
Tavis: Do you appreciate the opportunity to do indie stuffy?
Tripplehorn: I do, more than ever.
Tavis: They’re short shoots, but not a whole lot of money, necessarily.
Tripplehorn: No, no, and I’m really lucky right now, because I’m on “Criminal Minds,” and so that’s sort of the – it’s a nice balance between (unintelligible).
Tavis: It pays the bills too, doesn’t it? (Laughter)
Tripplehorn: Yes, it does. Yeah. It’s really close to home; I don’t have to leave home. Most indie shoots, or any kind of film shooting, even TV, it’s out of Los Angeles, unfortunately. I wish that would change, that people could work where their families are, across the board – crew, cast. I wish we could all stay here. So I’m really lucky that –
Tavis: Toronto and Vancouver has everything now.
Tripplehorn: I mean, enough. Enough.
Tavis: I ain’t hating on them, I’m just saying, yeah.
Tripplehorn: I like those cities, but we should be working (unintelligible) here.
Tavis: That’s kind of inside baseball, but what do you make of that, though? L.A. used to be a town where everything was shot.
Tavis: I don’t know – you tell me, but why –
Tripplehorn: I don’t understand.
Tavis: Why is it that Toronto and Vancouver have everything?
Tripplehorn: Well, it’s not just Canada anymore. There are states – every few years, a state becomes sort of the state that’s offering more incentives. New Mexico. You hear a lot of New Mexico, Louisiana.
Tavis: Is L.A. not being competitive enough?
Tripplehorn: I think so. No, I don’t think we’re offering any kind of –
Tavis: Like we used to.
Tripplehorn: No. So I’m really, really lucky to have a job where I’m 10 minutes away from my son’s school.
Tavis: I was mentioning when you walked on set, only because one of my favorite films, and it seems like it’s on somewhere every night, but does it feel like 20 years t you since “Basic Instincts?”
Tripplehorn: It feels 75 years (unintelligible).
Tavis: Wow. (Laughter) Okay, how am I supposed to read that, that it feels like – how am I supposed to read that, Jeanne, that it feels like 75 years to you?
Tripplehorn: It feels a long time ago. It feels like “Star Trek.” It was – or “Star Wars,” in a galaxy far, far away, yeah. It was a long time ago.
Tavis: Have you seen it recently?
Tripplehorn: No, I haven’t.
Tripplehorn: I figure at this point if anybody recognizes me from that, it’s good. (Laughter) It’s been so long ago.
Tavis: Hey, I see you all the time in it, and I recognize you. Are there things now at this point – since it seems like 75 years ago, you’ve got some, as they say, some distance now in the rearview mirror.
You mentioned “Big Love” earlier. Is there some stuff that you look back on now that you are extremely proud of?
Tavis: Do you look back now, you think you know what, I’m so glad I did that? That was really good work that I did there. Set your modesty aside for a second.
Tripplehorn: No, there are a lot. I’m really proud of “Big Love.” I was proud of “Basic Instinct.” That was my first film, and so to be able to kind of rise to that occasion without any kind of real experience at all.
“The Firm.” They’re all so different. But even “Waterworld,” just the experience of getting, physically getting through that movie, you have to follow your dream and your gut and your heart always.
It’s not going to be status quo, and not everybody’s going to agree with you. Just this movie that I did with Leland, it was a real labor of love. It was Leland’s first movie. It was kind of his film school.
He’d never – he didn’t go to film school. This was his learning project. He met obstacles at every single step of the way, and the fact that it was in a movie theater, that it had its world premiere in Tulsa, Oklahoma, (laughter) is huge.
They said it couldn’t be done, and he said, “I believe in this film and I believe in this story,” and now it’s out in the world. So you just – you do.
Tavis: So the Leland that she’s talking about, in case you tuned in late, would be her husband, who wrote and directed this thing, and the movie that she’s talking about is called “Morning,” and she, Jeanne Tripplehorn, stars in it. A good casting too. We saw Laura Linney on the –
Tripplehorn: Incredible cast. Laura Linney, Kyle Chandler, Elliott Gould.
Tavis: Elliott Gould is in it, yeah.
Tripplehorn: Jason Ritter, who’s lovely, Julie White, it just goes on and on. Everybody, he was mixing the sound, and the woman who sort of was running the sound department there said, “I’ve never seen so many talented people in front of and behind the camera come together for a script because they just believe in it.”
He wrote such an incredible story, and it’s – if you build it they will come kind of moment, and it shows.
Tavis: Well, it’s a good movie, and Leland survived being kicked out of the bedroom for 21 days by his wife.
Tripplehorn: (Laughter) He did. It made him stronger. It made him stronger.
Tavis: You my man, Leland. My heart goes out to you, but I’m glad you got through that 21-day shoot. Jeanne, good to see you again.
Tripplehorn: Good to see you.
Tavis: The movie, once again, is called “Morning.” That’s our show for tonight, and we’ll see you tomorrow night. Until then, thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith.
“Announcer:” For more information on today’s show, visit Tavis Smiley at PBS.org.
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