Dana Delany first became known to TV viewers as Army nurse Colleen McMurphy on ABC’s critically acclaimed series China Beach. For the past three years she’s portrayed Catherine Mayfair on the hit dramedy Desperate Housewives.
In her new series Body of Proof, Delany plays medical examiner, Dr Megan Hunt. Five years before, she used to be a brilliant neurosurgeon, married to her job. When her husband divorces her and she loses custody of her daughter, Megan’s final blow was a car accident that left her with a condition known as paresthesia – which manifests as random attacks of numbness and cramping of her hands, which tragically leads to the death of one of her patients on the operating table.
So now she’s not in the business anymore of fixing what’s wrong, but finding out what killed her dead patient and discovering who was responsible and why.
In your career you’ve been a detective, nurse, desperate housewife, when you look at Megan Hunt, how do you see all the elements of characters you’ve played before coagulate with her?
I’d say Megan Hunt is going back to my China Beach days. I think there’s a similarity there. This character feels very close to me.
Can you elaborate a little on that?
I’ve always been more drawn to doctors than lawyers in terms of my acting, and I think in another life I was a doctor. My grandfather was a doctor. I do love the medical stuff, and I went and saw an autopsy. I encourage everyone to see an autopsy. It’s fantastic. It will make you really want to take ca of your body and have even more awe for what we’ve all been given. It’s a miracle.
We got the title right. The body is the proof, because once you cut that body open, you will see exactly how that person died. It is all there, all you have to do is look.
She seems to be a woman coming to terms with her emotions.
Yeah, it’s what drew me to the character, she’s complicated. She’s smart, and definitely complex. I just had dinner with a female neurosurgeon, and she said she watched the pilot with trepidation because nobody ever gets it right. She was really pleased because it’s very rare for women, especially at my age, to become a neurosurgeon. It’s a lot of years of work, a lot of years of school, and you’re not really allowed to have a personal life.
So I see her as an addict that was addicted to the job, addicted to the power, and then she lost it all. She lost her husband, she lost her child, and lost her job. It’s almost like she’s now needing to redeem herself.
In the pilot your character seems to be right almost to the point of being annoying. She’s like a crime-solving machine. In the future will she rely more on her staff or the police?
I think that the cops will have a lot more to do. In fact, in the episode we’re shooting right now, they have a lot more to do with solving the crime.
Is Megan allowed to be wrong?
Yes, she will be wrong. I’ve certainly asked for her to be wrong, and I agree it can be annoying when somebody’s always right and not that interesting ultimately. So she can be wrong. And she’s certainly wrong in terms of her personal life.
I was hit by a bus two week before we started filming, where I broke two fingers and my car was totaled exactly like the accident in the pilot, so I think that I am becoming the character!
She a tough character, but I really liked her. What do you like about her?
You know how I like to play complicated characters, and she’s a complicated character, so I like that. There’s a whole range of things to play there.
You also did a two-part Castle, you’ve very busy.
I blame it all on Nathan Fillion. He’s the one who asked me to go on Castle as a favor, because we’re old friends. I think Steve McPherson (the President of ABC then) saw me in the Castle and said, ‘Oh, she’d be good for Body of Proof.’
Did you make the decision to leave Desperate Housewives in order to have your own show? And how much do you miss being a desperate housewife?
I had a ball on Desperate Housewives. I had a great three years. When ABC came to me with this opportunity, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. And Marc Cherry (the Executive Producer and creator of the series) was great. He said, ‘I don’t want to get in the way of you having the lead in a show, and so I wish you well and you’re always welcome back.’ So I feel very blessed.
I miss my friends at Desperate Housewives. It really became a family, but I’m always up for the next adventure.