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Adding Up the ‘Damages’

March 25, 2008 3:47 PM

Glenn Close is a killer psychopath.

At least, that’s the opinion of the fans who turned out Monday for the PaleyFest’s tribute to “Damages,” the hyper-Machiavellian legal thriller renewed for both a second and third season last fall by FX.

Moderator Stuart Levine cross-examined the panel on the depravity of Ms. Close (or rather, her character, Patty Hewes) while the audience salivated in the gallery.

Appearing for the defense: Stars Ted Danson, Tate Donovan, Anastasia Griffith, Noah Bean, Zeljko Ivanek and Ms. Close herself, with co-creators/producers Daniel Zelman and brothers Todd and Glenn Kessler.

Mr. Zelman and the Kesslers argued that the show studies the results of very human people—specifically women—gaining near-superhuman power. In the case of “Damages,” these results include blackmail, induced suicide, murder (both attempted and successful) and—a specialty of Ms. Close’s—the execution of a beloved pet.

Their expertise in this kind of heartlessness, they said, was hard-earned from their early work experience with entertainment industry executives.

“Like who?” quipped Mr. Donovan.

For his part, Mr. Danson claimed he and Ms. Close, who play a corrupt billionaire and an unscrupulous attorney, respectively, are actually nice people and not soulless narcissists. In a humble admission, he argued that they worked extensively with an acting coach who had to leaven their narcissistic characters with humanity.

“And yet I keep using the word ‘narcissism,’” he said of his own defense, then deadpanned, “More questions for me.”

The panelists may have felt that their characters weren’t all delicious maleficence, but the “Damages” highlight reel that accompanied the panel showed less “nuanced humanity” than “highly amoral legal malpractice,” featuring back stabbings both literal and figurative, Mr. Danson saltily ordering a hit and Ms. Close acting suspiciously close to unhinged.

Smiling beatifically from the dais, Ms. Close insisted that her character was more than a garden-variety lunatic. “I didn’t want to play a psychopath,” she said. After a pause, she added (to the audible delight of the audience), “I’ve already done that.”

As if they needed reminding.

Julieanne Smolinski


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