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BIOGRAPHY CHANNEL: Exclusive to TIWWA: Interview with Tracy Middendorf

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Tracy Lynn Middendorf (born January 26, 1970) is an American television, movie, and stage actress who broke into television as Carrie Brady on the daytime soap opera Days of our Lives from 1990-1993. Since then, she has made a career as a supporting actress in several movies and frequent episodic appearances on television, notably out-of-work actress Tina on the first episode of Angel, unfaithful fiancée Risa Helms in two episodes of Ally McBeal, broke young widow Adele in episode 1.2 of Six Feet Under, Steve-stalker Laura Kingman in six episodes of Beverly Hills, 90210, and abused wife Carla Matheson in four episodes of 24. To fans of Millennium, Tracy will always be fondly remembered for her portrayal of Cass Doyle in Millennium's "Darwin's Eye". Tracy kindly agreed to talk to us about that experience as part of our ongoing Easter celebrations.

TIWWA: Where you at all aware of "Millennium" and its often dark and controversial reputation before you joined the cast and how would you describe the experience of working with the shows cast and crew? Was there a stand out moment for you either in front of the lens or behind it?

TRACY MIDDENDORF: Sadly, I had never seen Millennium before joining the cast. In fact most shows that I've worked on in the past I had never seen prior to working on them. When I was cast on Lost I had to rent the series to understand my role and the circumstances surrounding my scenes.


I think, like many actors, I have a difficult time losing myself in a television series. Even the really good ones. It must come from working on so many of them. I notice too much of the technical and fail to get caught up in the story. Having said that, I thought Millennium was beautifully done. The script, the acting and the look of the show was something new, different. The cast and crew had an excitement and vitality about them, maybe because they knew they were part of something special.

The funny thing about my part was that because Cass was "on the run", I didn't really work with any of the series regulars. Just the one scene with Lance in the motel room. Though it was the end of the episode it was shot early in the shooting schedule. It was a cold, rainy day which I think was typical for that area. In fact, I think the weather served their show well. The gray, wet weather seemed to give the show an added darkness. Lance and I had some nice long conversations in the parking lot of the motel about just that. He seemed very down to earth and personable. A very rare quality in a television star.

The director of that episode was Ken Fink (who is now a producer on CSI). He was wonderful to work with. Very insightful and creative. I've been fortunate enough to have worked with him a few times since the Millennium episode.

My stand out moment was watching the art director create the collage of words on my cell wall. I thought that was especially well done.


TIWWA: "Darwin's Eye" is a particularly perplexing episode, even seasoned fans debate the true meaning of the narrative. Were you given an explanation as to what was at the heart of the story and what it set out to achieve and do you recall your own thoughts and reaction to story and your role in it?

TM: "Darwin's Eye" is perplexing and I think the writers meant it to be. I'm not sure if we are truly meant to understand it. I believe they wanted it to be open to interpretation. What the narrative did give me was some insight into her mind, her intellect. She's brilliant in an almost scary way. Always a step ahead of anyone else.

For the most part I didn't concern myself too much with the meaning of the show. I knew it was my job just to bring Cass to life. And to try my best to make her a real, sympathetic character. No easy task given her history.

TIWWA: "Cass Doyle" is a superb character, enigmatic, intense, dangerous but often vulnerable. As she was designed to keep viewers guessing as to her involvement in the episode was it hard to create and maintain that sense of ambiguity when playing the character considering you evidently knew the character was guilty of all charges?

TM: It was definitely a challenge playing a character as complex as Cass. But also truly exciting and fulfilling as an actor. It was a great challenge.

When I was piecing Cass together I chose to make her innocent of all wrong doing. She wasn't playing scared, she really was. She was running for her life because the FBI really did want to kill her. I made that her truth in every moment. The fact that she really did kill those men didn't concern me because it didn't register to her. The truth comes out in the end regardless. Even after she kills Peter's character, holding his severed head, she claims to be innocent. She believes she is and that truly makes her disturbed.

TIWWA: In "Darwin's Eye" you had a fantastic monologue which bookends the opening and closing of the episode. For those of us not in the know, how are these things constructed? Is the audio recorded initially around which the scenes are built or vice versa?

TM: We recorded that opening and closing monologue one day on set when we had a break between scenes. I basically read it into a microphone. Then they added the soundtrack of that dialogue when the editor pieced the scenes together. That way they can time the dialogue out to the visual exactly how they want.

TIWWA: You had some amazing scenes with Peter Simmons in which you lured his character, siren like, into believing Cass' innocence before ultimately killing him. Do you find it an easy task to create the on-screen chemistry between two characters in order to sell the narrative to the viewers and how much time is spent in rehearsal with another actor in order to achieve this?

TM: I have found actors to be, for the most part, pretty amazing people. Very kind, brave and fun. So finding chemistry onscreen hasn't really been too difficult. What is difficult is the situation I found myself in on my first day of shooting. Our first scene that we shot on that first day after Peter and I were introduced was our scene in bed in the motel room. That was very awkward at first. But thankfully Peter and Ken were very sensitive and had a good sense of humour about the difficulty of it. Ken made it a closed set (only cameraman and boom operator on set) and we just sort of dove in so to speak.

Typically in television actors don't get any rehearsal time. Once the lights and cameras are set you've got to shoot. That's just one of the many reasons I have great respect for actors on television who make it look so effortless.


TIWWA: You've had a stellar career to date, one which has seen you feature in a number of notable franchises such as the X-Files, Lost, House, Shark and so on. Do you enjoy passing through a number of projects or have you ever happened upon a particular cast, crew or show that you would have liked to had made a permanent aspect of your career?

TM: I'm probably no different from other actors in that I love to work. And I've been fortunate enough to have worked on some great shows with some amazing actors. A couple of the shows that I would loved to have stayed on for a while, aside from Millennium, were Six Feet Under (because of the cast and writing) and Lost (because of the location).

I'm currently working on a show that I hope has a long life. It's the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. It's set in the 1920's in Atlantic City and has a stellar cast. And a nice little perk is that it films within walking distance from our home in Brooklyn.

TIWWA: I noted with interest that you won an Ovation Award for your interpretation of Alma in Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke. Having achieved success in the disciplines of film, television and theatre do you have a particular preference for any acting medium or do you gain satisfaction from all in different ways?

TM: I truly love all mediums for different reasons. My preference as an actor will probably always be theatre. You get a chance to build a character through rehearsal and perform and grow in each performance. You also get that electric energy that only seems to come in a live performance. But the challenges of film and television can be very fulfilling. I love going on location and meeting new actors and directors and bringing something to life in such a condensed amount of time. Plus, I love hanging with the crew. They can be some of the friendliest and fun people around in an environment ripe with egos.

TIWWA: What can fans of yours look forward to with regards to the continuing career of Tracy Middendorf?

TM: I did a film this summer called Boy Wonder that hopefully will be out soon and as I mentioned in question 6 I'm currently working on a series. And I hope for a lifetime of interesting and joyful work.

TIWWA: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us this Easter and may we wish you and yours a very happy holiday.

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Guest SpooktalkGiGi

What a great interview and really good questions. :0 Thanks Tracy for taking the time to answer our questions, and I knew i knew you from somewhere else besides Millennium, Days of Our Lives is my favorite soap opera and of course i remember you as Carrie. :) Thanks once again and take care, i will be looking forward to seeing your other endeavours in the future. :)

Laura :)

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I had forgotten about Steve having a stalker, LOL! And, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that season 2 of 24? I'm pretty sure of it. And Lost as well...I must have a look at that.

I pretty much fall for Cass every time, sort of like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. But there is still a sense there is some shadow conspiracy when you think of it.

As I was doing the music video I was wondering what triggered Cass into killing the orderly, who had been in the army and had worked there only for less than a week.

Was there a connection between him and her father, did he wear something, a war medal that jogged her memory of her father.

But then again, as Frank Black said, it only means something to her, and that is probably the case. But I can't help but wonder... :D

Thanks for the interview Tracy, and Mark as well. I love hearing anything new behind the scenes, no matter how small or big golden nuggets we get, I savor it all. Since the DVDs pretty much got shafted in the extras department.

Happy Easter from Iceland!

- Jósef

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Guest RodimusBen

Wow, I totally didn't realize that she was Bonnie on LOST... amazing.

She also gets the nice distinction of being one of only a small handful of female killers on the show. I can think of Lucy of course, then the wife from Covenant, and... man, are there any others?

Anyway, nice interview. I liked what she said about her approach to the character in terms of being innocent. If the character believed it, she had to make herself believe it.

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Same here Ben, it didn't click that Bonny and Cass were portrayed by the same woman. She looks incredibly different in Lost to how she looked in Millennium and if she hadn't told me I never would have clicked despite seeing both characters onscreen many, many times.


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She also gets the nice distinction of being one of only a small handful of female killers on the show. I can think of Lucy of course, then the wife from Covenant, and... man, are there any others?

Danielle from Monster, the little girl. I think that's it.

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