“Durham County” returns and Michelle Forbes shines

Hugh Dillon and Michelle Forbes star in Durham's season 2
Hugh Dillon and Michelle Forbes star in Durham's season 2

By Elaine Bergstrom
I confess that I have seen the entire second season of Durham County and if you watched the intense opening episode Sunday night, I can also assure you that it just gets better from here, with Michelle Forbes (Pen Verrity) and co-star Laurence Leboeuf (Sadie) shining in their roles.

Though when we spoke, she was recovering from the flu, Forbes was happy to discuss what it is like to take on the role of a mother gone way over the edge.

On Durham County you play a very conflicted woman – part victim/part villain and very sad -what do you think of Pen Verrity?
Michelle Forbes:
It was an amazing opportunity to play someone as tricky and as complicated as Pen, and how [series creator] Laurie Finstad-Knizhnik came up with this character, I have no idea. But I think Laurie takes a cold stark look at true womanhood on many different levels, including the ugly parts of being female that we don’t want to look at.

I think one of the things that fascinated me the most is what happens to a woman’s psychology when she’s not a good mother. It’s the one thing you are biologically predisposed to do, and if you don’t have that maternal instinct, what happens to you psychologically when you fail at being a mother and at being a wife? She truly explores the darker side of what happens to us as human beings.

What do you think makes this series so special?
I think that Adrienne [Mitchell], Laurie and Janice [Lundman] have an uncompromising vision. They want to explore the darker aspects of our humanity and they do it with a beautiful visual style. They have a unique voice that belongs just to them and they haven’t had to compromise it yet. So I think it’s just their voice. that’s what makes Durham different. And Adrienne Mitchell’s visual stamp – that bleak landscape sort of lends itself to the story and created a full environment for it.

I understand that working on a soap is grueling. Was it a good prep for an acting career?
I think it’s a double-edged sword. Any work, is good but you have so much work you are doing, you have no chance to delve into the meat of things. You are glossing over a lot of stuff. I remember being very frustrated while I was there. And yet, it did teach me that I could be a marathon runner (laughs) It gives you the confidence that you can work these really long days and handle an unbelievable amount of dialogue.

What have been some of your favorite roles?
There have been so many. I would say those on Homicide: Life on the Street, True Blood and In Treatment.

Any chance of your resurrection on True Blood?
(laughs) I’m pretty sure the Maryann story has been told.

Photo courtesy of ION.