iF Magazine (2010)
The actress compares her character to those she’s played on ANGEL, ALIAS and DOLLHOUSE and talks about the series’ central mystery
ABC’s new series HAPPY TOWN, premiering this Wednesday, takes place in the small Midwestern town of Haplin, where folks are friendly, neighbors are good and everything is just peachy-keen – except for the re-emergence of a mysterious serial killer called the Magic Man.
ABC has been promoting it as “From the Network that brought you TWIN PEAKS,” so that bodes well for its geek cred.
Making the show even cooler is in the inclusion of Joss Whedon alum Amy Acker (ANGEL, DOLLHOUSE), who is known for the extremely multi-faceted characters she’s created on a number of series. On HAPPY TOWN, she plays Rachel Conroy, wife of the town sheriff.
In this exclusive interview, Acker talks about portraying yet another woman who may or may not be exactly what she appears to be.
iF MAGAZINE: How did you become involved in HAPPY TOWN?
AMY ACKER: Well, after we wrapped on the first season of DOLLHOUSE, we weren’t sure what was happening and I wasn’t a regular. I had known these guys [HAPPY TOWN executive producers Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec] from ALIAS and I just read the script and they asked me if I wanted to do it and I met Geoff Stults [who plays Haplin sheriff Tommy Conroy] and all the people and I was really excited about doing the show. I was excited about playing a normal girl [laughs].
iF: The producers have said that your character’s husband Tommy is a good guy. Do we know that about Rachel?
ACKER: Well, I guess we don’t know for sure, but I don’t know – I think it’s going to get too predictable if I always turn out to be the bad guy [laughs]. I think people are starting to expect me to be the murderer [Acker has played characters who’ve tipped to the dark side in ANGEL, ALIAS and DOLLHOUSE].
iF: How was it working outdoors in the Canadian winter snow?
ACKER: It was cold [laughs]. It was nice, because we were on location and I think it really brought the cast together when we got to bond in a way that you don’t when you’re all going home to your regular lives. We spent a lot of time together outside of work and being in a foreign place is nice because you get to explore different aspects.
iF: One of the HAPPY TOWN episodes was directed by MASTERS OF HORROR creator Mick Garris. Did you get to work with him?
ACKER: I did. He was so nice.
iF: Now, it seems like the vibe on HAPPY TOWN is a little less “pop culture” than, say, on ALIAS and DOLLHOUSE and ANGEL, where the characters are all snapping off one-liners as they embark on heavy action ….
ACKER: Yes, I do think that like [executive producer Scott Rosenberg] was saying, they wanted to make OCTOBER ROAD [a previous series executive-produced by HAPPY TOWN’s Rosenberg, Appelbaum and Nemec] with something [more dramatic] happening. And I think it does have that quality of everyday life and then all of a sudden, something extraordinary happens. Like on ANGEL, for instance, we were actually hunting vampires and had a business – it wasn’t like we were just living in a town. Or ALIAS [where most of the characters were spies]. Just the circumstances that they’re in [on HAPPY TOWN] are more normal, more relatable to people. I [as Rachel] work at a bread factory and my daughter goes to school. People have normal jobs. They aren’t these already-extraordinary circumstances.
iF: A lot of the characters you’ve played – Fred and Illyria on ANGEL, Peyton on ALIAS and Claire/Whiskey on DOLLHOUSE – have had dualities or pluralities to their personalities. Will you miss that if Rachel doesn’t get that?
ACKER: You know, at first I think I was attracted to just playing this person, and then I realized that no one doesn’t have that [plurality of character]. The stuff that happens to my character in this causes me to have change and I think that is something that I really value in the characters that I’ve gotten to play, is that I’ve gotten to be so many different things. Now, it’s not like DOLLHOUSE, where it’s Whiskey and [multiple personas].
iF: Rachel is a mother. How is it playing a mom?
ACKER: It’s fun. It’s interesting, because this is the first time that I’ve become more aware of [changes in] my life, being a mom [of a young son and daughter in real life]. It’s like I’m starting to notice things, sometimes even with the writing. When you’re doing Dr. Saunders [on DOLLHOUSE] or ANGEL or something, you do have those one-liners and it’s hard to [tell the producers], “I don’t know if I would say that,” but when you’re playing a mom and you’re in situations that you actually have experienced in your life, it was interesting. I’ve said, “You know, as a mother …” so it’s been a lot more looking at my own life, I think.
iF: Can you talk about what is unique in the scripts on HAPPY TOWN?
ACKER: [The show is] great because it is a character-driven show and what was amazing is the crew, who usually doesn’t really care that much, they were crazy about trying to figure out the mystery of the show. They were very into being a betting pool where all the people were putting in ten dollars for their guesses of who the Magic Man was and everyone by the end of it had put in their bets to see who it was and there were all these theories, and at lunch, that was what people talked about, so there’s something about the show – you really want to figure it out, you want to be the one who knows why it happened and how it happened.
iF: Did you put money in the betting pool?
ACKER: I knew who I was going to do and then the day I was going to put money in, the scene that totally tipped me over the edge got cut [laughs] and so then I was like, “Wait, now I don’t know!” It was the deadline and I panicked and I didn’t do it.
iF: Did you turn out to be right?
ACKER: I don’t know who it is. Apparently, everyone else knows, but I left two days before the last day and they all know, but no one will tell me [laughs]. I don’t think it’s me. It could be me. I don’t know how they revealed it, because they were trying to be all secretive, they didn’t use any of the crew and they made all these people sign confidentiality accords.
iF: Was this your first experience working in Toronto?
ACKER: Yeah. It was my first time there. I really enjoyed it, especially since I was in New York [Acker’s husband James Carpinello was performing on Broadway in ROCK OF AGES], so I was actually commuting back and forth between New York and Toronto. Just wonderful people. It was nice being there and being part of this. It really felt like a family, like the small town that the show [takes place in]. I think it was nice that we were all there, because we had that same sort of camaraderie that you get in a small town. Everybody did kind of know everybody’s business.
iF: Is it any different or similar to working in Vancouver?
ACKER: I really loved Vancouver, too. I’ve only been in Vancouver when it was summertime, so it felt colder – the pilot [for HAPPY TOWN]was really cold and every day I’ve been looking at my weather thing on my phone – “Oh, seven degrees today, it’s going to be really cold.” [laughs] Vancouver, it seemed like you could just walk everywhere. I didn’t ever get to know the town [of Toronto] as well because I was going back to New York, but I enjoyed all the people. It was nice. I’m excited to hopefully get to explore it more. Watch HAPPY TOWN. I think you’re going to love it.