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Opening Up With ‘Big Love’

June 5, 2008 12:17 PM

Big Love

Creators Will Scheffer and Mark V. Olsen and actors Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloë Sevigny, Ginnifer Goodwin and Bill Paxton.

The Los Angeles Times’ Envelope kicked off its Emmy screening series Wednesday with a screening and discussion of HBO’s “Big Love” at Hollywood’s ArcLight Cinemas. In attendance were creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer and actors Bill Paxton (Bill Henrickson), Jeanne Tripplehorn (Barb Henrickson), Chloë Sevigny (Nicki Henrickson) and Ginnifer Goodwin (Margene Henrickson).

It was a night of firsts, marking both the Envelope’s first Emmy screening series and the first year that the show is eligible for an Emmy nomination, due to timing issues.

The evening began with a “fun-reel” montage summarizing the past two seasons, which made the polygamist family drama look like an edgy comedy. Describing young Rhonda’s betrothal to the much older prophet Roman, the snarky young-sounding voice-over declared, “She’s 15-ish and he’s, like, old. That’s creepy,” before moving at lightning speed through the rest of the montage.

“Bill’s a very busy man,” the deadpan voice-over reminded the audience repeatedly over scenes of Bill having sex with his three wives. “Bill pops a pill.”

Bill’s going to need many more pills if the closing of that “fun reel” (“There’s no fourth wife…yet.”) is any indication.

Video after the cut.

The discussion got serious as soon as it started, as the creators and cast discussed the ongoing trial of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs and the removal of more than 400 children from their homes in Texas. Ms. Tripplehorn said she felt bad for the children who had been taken away from their mothers and that she sympathized with the polygamist families because the show has allowed her to see through their eyes.

“Big Love” has always mirrored the heartbeat of real-life polygamist culture, something Mr. Olsen and Mr. Scheffer plan to continue doing in season three as Roman Grant goes on trial following his arrest in last season’s finale. Real figures often serve as inspiration for characters. Hollis Green and his transgendered partner in crime, whose identity is “to be revealed,” are based on a real murdering polygamist and his sister wives, who are still out there today with guns and a hit list. One sister wife was recently arrested for trying to cross a state border, the creators said.

The show so closely resembles real life that the two creators have even received requests to appear on news shows as polygamist experts.

Ms. Sevigny happily declared that current events have justified her character’s bouffant hairdo. She also expressed affection for her buttoned-up blouses and ankle-length skirts, being a fan of “Little House on the Prairie.”

With so many talented actresses in one show, one has to wonder how they all came to the project.

Ms. Tripplehorn didn’t think she was right for the part, although she loved the pilot script. Ms. Sevigny, meanwhile, was desperately lobbying HBO for a part on “Deadwood,” while Ms. Goodwin, who didn’t think the subject matter of “Big Love” was real until she went to the library armed with her pilot script, wanted to be on “Six Feet Under.”

Each actress expressed gratitude for the caliber of writing and the opportunities for character growth, with Ms. Goodwin calling it the “most masturbatory of actor roller-coasters.” Yeah, the Daily Blink isn’t sure what that means, either.

With so many wives, it’s hard to remember Bill, but that’s OK because he’s just fine as is.

“He’s one happy bumblebee,” Mr. Paxton said, smiling. “There’s a lot of flowers out there. The show is called ‘Big Love.’”

It sounds like Bill will be getting more love in season three, but he’s not the only one who’s going to get to have some fun. Margene will find her calling in Weber Gaming, while Lois, who is based on Mr. Scheffer’s pistol-in-purse mother, will get her revenge on husband Frank, the creators said. Elsewhere on the Juniper Creek front, Nicki’s mother, Adaleen, will be writing her memoir.

The teen storylines also will continue to play a prominent role, with Sarah and Heather’s relationship deepening, although not in the way viewers may expect. Sarah’s boyfriend Scott (“Breaking Bad’s” Aaron Paul) will be back in one episode to wrap up his storyline, which the creators said was necessary for a new story to progress. Add that and a new teen joining the cast next season, and it sounds like Sarah’s getting a new love interest.

But all those storylines could be held up by the potential actors strike. If there is a strike, Mr. Olsen and Mr. Scheffer said they hope to have three episodes in post-production while they wait for a resolution. At the time of the writers strike, they were just getting started on filming the second episode, but had six or seven episodes written.

Strike or no strike, the wait will be long. “Big Love” returns for its third season on Jan. 11.

Vlada Gelman

(Edited 6/19/08 to add video as it became available.)

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