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James Hibberd

Anne Heche No Longer Crazy

July 19, 2006 7:03 PM

The critic that broached the question at the "Men in Trees" press tour session Wednesday afternoon was a little bit more delicate than I was in my headline, but series lead Anne Heche had no problem stepping up and answering the tough questions.

He started gently, asking for a "status report" on how Ms. Heche was "doing."

"It seems like you're totally … ," he paused, searching for the most respectful word.

"Sane?" Heche suggested.

"Sane," he confirmed, with more than a little relief that Heche herself had said it.

"I'll let myself speak for myself," she said confidently. "Obviously I'm sitting up here with a group of incredible people.

"I've worked very hard to get here," she said. Clearly, Heche is a long way from the place she was in 2001, when her alien language skills and penchant for skulking around California's Central Valley waiting for galactic visitors was making international headlines.

Besides Heche's improved mental status, a klatch of male critics couldn't let go from asking about the appearance of a raccoon in the pilot, which profiles a New York self-help book writer (Heche) who finds herself in a male-dominated small town in Alaska after she breaks up with her fiancé.

"Trees" creator Jenny Bicks confirmed that it was a real raccoon and not a CGI creation. The raccoon, Elvis, got rave reviews from Bicks for his professionalism.

"If anyone wants to hire a raccoon call me," Bicks said.

"Best actor I have ever worked with," Heche added.

But Elvis also had a double for a scene where his character had to run quickly. A terrier, Boomer, was a double for Elvis, complete with raccoon suit.

"He was local hire," Bicks said of the Canadian Boomer.

Bicks quickly realized she had missed an opportunity with the session.

"It's a mistake they are not here," she said of Boomer and Elvis.

Another critic asked co-star John Amos, who has seen his character killed on several series, if he was nervous that might happen again now that he's playing the owner of a local puddle-jumper airline.
When Amos protested, the critic said "Well, you do fly a small plane."

Amos said he thought the plane might shake in the third season when it's time to renegotiate his contract, but Bicks assured Amos his plane would be flying safely for a long time.


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