Friday, May 20, 2011

David Sutcliffe's "Group" Needs YOU: The WLS Interview, Part Two

In Part One of our interview with David Sutcliffe, the beloved film and television actor discussed his new docu-webseries GROUP, the Kickstarter campaign to gain funding for his project, as well as his personal struggles he addressed through "Core Energetics."  In Part Two, he shares why he is asking for your help in funding GROUP, how his series is intended to help his audience, as well as memories of shooting GILMORE GIRLS.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What are you hoping your viewers will gain from watching GROUP?
David Sutcliffe: Hopefully they will be affected by it.  Hopefully they will see themselves in it.  What I’m hoping is that people can start to have the same feeling as if being in an actual group.  You recognize yourself in other people, you start to see you are not alone in this.  You can then start to let go of some of the shame you have around “negative” feelings.

I'm hoping it can affect others and allow them to become more honest with themselves.  I hope it allows them to see other people’s struggles and then not take things so personally. I hope it helps people to get out of state constantly blaming others, denouncing others, or projecting their shit onto others.  I don’t think someone will watch this and be completely healed, I’m not that idealistic.  But even if it gives them a taste of what it possible, a taste that there is liberation for them, that would be amazing. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So by supporting the GROUP Kickstarter campaign, people are not only supporting your work, but they are potentially learning ways to become empowered, liberated, and learning functional ways to be in relationship.
David Sutcliffe: Yes, that is it. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Would you say that your decision to get off the acting train and dedicate two years of your life to this project is a result of having gone through the Core Energetics process?
David Sutcliffe: That is fair to say.  It’s a great observation.  Going through the process of this has brought me to the edge of my own stuff.  I have been an actor on television shows, most of which were pretty mainstream family friendly.  Leaving all that behind and making this really weird documentary about group therapy will lead a lot of people to ask, “What the hell is that? Have you lost your mind?”

That was a real challenge.  I had to overcome a lot of my own fears about how people were going to see me and how they might judge me.  It’s been tough, it’s been a real struggle.  I think that’s why it has taken me two years to really get past that and summon the courage to say, “This is what I’m doing, this is what I believe in.” I have a tremendous amount of passion for it.  I think it is beautiful, and I really think it can help people.  I stand in that without apology.

I still don’t get a lot of support from people in the industry, particularly my agents and managers.  I’m sure there is a piece of them that thinks I have lost my mind.  It’s hard to explain this to them. Trying to apply logic to this situation seems ridiculous to me.  I want to live my life not based on what the “good” decision is.  I want to follow my heart, I want to follow my passion.  That is what I’m doing. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I think anyone who has followed their passion outside the traditional lines, myself included, have been perceived as eccentric or offbeat or nuts.  That happens when we decide to live outside the rules others have established.  We pay a price for coloring outside the lines.
David Sutcliffe: You are absolutely right.  That becomes the challenge. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So let’s talk about some of your previous acting projects.  As a 40-year-old guy, I can honestly tell you that GILMORE GIRLS is my favorite prime-time show, hands down.  Every one of those 153 episodes are filled with humor, entertainment, and a much deeper subtext. 
David Sutcliffe: I agree.  It’s one of those great show that is completely under appreciated.  People don’t really understand the brilliance of it and the threads that ran beneath it. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Your role as Christopher was originally written for one episode?
David Sutcliffe: I was told there was a possibility for him to be reoccurring.  They wanted to see how he played and then go from there.  I think like a lot of TV shows they were making it up as they would go along.  They had an idea of where they wanted to go, but trying to create 22 episodes of television a year is really overwhelming and most often they are flying by the seat of their pants. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Were there other actors considered for the role before you?
David Sutcliffe: I went in for the general audition.  When I went in for the role I felt confident about it.  I felt I had a real handle on it.  I saw the pilot for the show and really liked it.  I walked out of the room and heard an explosion of laughter.  I didn’t know what that was about, I got a little paranoid.  Later the casting director told me they knew immediately I was the guy and Amy (Sherman-Palladino) was excited.  But it took a couple of weeks for me to get the official nod.  I heard I was the first choice but the network thought they might be able to get some stars.  I don’t know if this is true, but I heard they tried to get Ben Affleck to do it, and then Jason Priestly.  From my understanding, Amy thought I was the guy and fought for me.  I was really flattered and grateful for that.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What was Amy like to work with?
David Sutcliffe: Amy is a super super smart woman.  She has a lot of passion, she is really driven, she knows completely what she wants.  She is a real artist with a vision.  That is not always easy to work with because she wants what she wants.  I like that though, I like someone who is tough, who is passionate.  She wasn’t immovable, she was open to what you wanted to bring to it.  People look at GILMORE GIRLS and see one big happy family but the truth is there were a lot of intense intelligent powerful people who were making that show.  When you have a lot of those people in a room together trying to work, it’s not always going to be easy, and it’s not always going to be nice.  So working with Amy was rewarding, and it was often intense.  It was an intense show to work on. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: The dialogue was so fast. 
David Sutcliffe: And she was very specific about that.  That was tricky.  She wanted it fast fast fast.  That was really the note you would get over and over.  She wanted to pace it up, to get that rhythm.  It was tough.  It’s not my natural state to speak that quickly.  I think for Lauren (Graham) she drops into that very quickly.  For me it’s harder so it would always take me a scene or two to get up to speed.  As an actor sometimes you felt like, “Geez, am I just going in there and saying this as fast as possible? Am I even acting? Am I moving too quickly over some of the emotion?”  I would get caught in that.  But when you watch it you can see that it really did work.  Part of acting on GILMORE GIRLS is that you have to conform to the style.  You had to get with it.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Christopher could have easily been seen as deadbeat dad.  But your energy brought something else entirely. 
David Sutcliffe: Part of that was the natural chemistry between Lauren, Alexis (Bledel), and I.  It all happened at the first table read.  It doesn’t always happen like that, but it happened.  We all felt it.  We really liked each other and so the relationships came really easy.  They were just there.  There was a real willingness on everyone’s part to go into what was there.  That part wasn’t always easy.

In particular, Lauren and I had a lot of really difficult scenes.  We trusted each other enough to go into what ever uncomfortable feelings that were there.  You could say it’s just acting, but it does get a little personal, and that can be scary.  You are hanging out with someone you really like and suddenly you say, “We’re going to spend the next three hours doing a scene where we’re going to scream at each other.”  Unless you have a real trust in the other person, that stuff can be difficult and scary.  I really credit those girls a lot. They were a big part of what made Christopher work, as well as Amy playing to my skills.  Amy is a smart writer.  She saw what she had.  She didn’t try to write a character and impose him on me.  She had a  feeling for me, for my essence, and wrote for me, and that allowed me to bring my strengths to it.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Please come back for Part Three where we discuss Christopher's crippled emotional development, the fight scene with Luke (Scott Patterson), plus Sutcliffe addresses the ongoing GILMORE GIRLS reunion rumors! Until then, please take a look at Sutcliffe's Kickstarter campaign and donate to GROUP.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Therapist in New York City who specializes in treating  depression, stress management, HIV/AIDS related concerns, and grief/loss issues. He is also the author of the popular book "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve," currently available at For more information about scheduling an appointment or a speaking engagement, please email him at [email protected].

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