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A talk with Geena Davis about Atlanta-based A&E miniseries ‘Coma’ Sept. 3-4

geena davis coma 3

Oscar-winning actress Geena Davis now spends far more time raising her three young children than acting.

So it’s notable that she flew to Atlanta late last year to shoot A&E’s “Coma.” The four-hour miniseries, which airs over two nights Sept. 3 and 4, also features other illustrative actors Richard Dreyfuss, James Woods and Ellen Burstyn.

Davis, 56, plays the head of psychiatry at the fictional Peach Tree Memorial Hospital where patients land in comas at an inordinately high rate. She may or may not be part of an appalling conspiracy.

A young medical student played by Lauren Ambrose (HBO’s “Six Feet Under”) works with a surgical resident, played by Steven Pasquale (FX’s “Rescue Me”), to unravel the mystery.

“I’ve gotten really spoiled by having some great parts,” Davis said in a recent phone interview, citing films such as “Thelma & Louise,” “League of Their Own” and “The Accidental Tourist,” in which she won an Academy Award. “So I tend to take my time trying to find someone interesting to play. I have the luxury to do that. Frankly, I haven’t run out of money!”

Davis, who is married to a plastic surgeon Reza Jarrahy, then joked, “You know I’ve run out of money when you see me playing a kidnapped mother!”

“Coma” was produced by Ridley Scott and his brother Tony, who recently jumped off a bridge in what has been termed suicide. Ridley Scott directed Davis’ 1991 film “Thelma & Louise.” “The chance to do something again with Ridley was a huge factor,” Davis said, though she did not know his brother Tony. “I liked the story and the character, too.”

Plus, she enjoyed the 1978 film version of “Coma” starring Michael Douglas, which was based on the best-selling Robin Cook novel of the same name.

“There’s this visually arresting image of the hanging bodies,” she said. “I couldn’t get that out of my mind. It’s great to play a character with dubious morals.”

Davis’ character is also romantically involved with Pasquale’s character, who is two decades younger than she is. She thought it was cool that the age difference isn’t even addressed in the script. “I love that,” she said Better yet, she’s a fan of “Rescue Me.” “A really charming guy,” she said. “We had a lot of laughs.”

Pasquale, in a separate interview, said he was in awe of her at first. “She was in probably 20 of my favorite movies I grew up watching,” he said. “She was one of the Hall of Famers I expected to be guarded or keep to themselves. But she was warm and sweet and approachable. I can’t say enough about her.”

While in the middle of production, he had to tape an audition for a big Hollywood film and Davis took two hours of her time to help play the other character. (He didn’t get the part, unfortunately. “Maybe they didn’t get the cuteness of it all,” he said.)

Davis thinks viewers are still intrigued by this particular storyline given that “we are never quite sure we can trust medicine. What are they not telling us? It plays on our primal fears and our fear of authority.”

She didn’t get to rub shoulders with Burstyn, who plays the evil operator of the murky Jefferson Institute, but got to hang out with Woods and Dreyfuss. “We went to set in the same van. It was really funny because we were making jokes about who should sit in the front and how would we rank in terms of seating on the bus,” she said.

This version brings the story to present-day Atlanta. The show was shot at spots such as the High Museum, the Southern Regional Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Agnes Scott College Georgia Tech and the Masonic Temple in Atlanta.

This is the first time Davis has shot here. “I loved it,” she said. “I know it sounds cliche but everyone is so nice and sweet. One of the drivers gave me some pecans from his yard. Oh my God! There are really places where people are nice to each other!”

Davis’ future work schedule is not exactly as crowded as that of, say, Will Ferrell or Samuel L. Jackson. She said she has a cameo in an upcoming Lake Bell film. She is also planning to do a Funny or Die spoof video featuring her archery skills.

In 1999, she tried out for the Olympic archery team for the Sydney 2000 Olympics and placed 24th out of 300 women. “It was because of the [1996] Olympics in Atlanta that I took up archery,” she said. “I watched it religiously on TV. It’s such a beautiful, dramatic sport. I wondered if I could be good at that.”

On TV

“Coma”

9 p.m.-11 p.m. over two nights, Sept. 3 and 4, A&E

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By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk

2 comments Add your comment

JTesla

August 30th, 2012
4:18 pm

At 56 she’s still got it.

[...] Davis spoke to the AJC about working in Georgia: “I loved it,” she said. “I know it sounds cliche but everyone is so [...]