By Phil Parma, TV Guide Canada.
Amy Brenneman is sitting in her trailer on the Paramount
lot, between scenes on her hit drama "Judging Amy," and
romance is in the air.
Well, perhaps not literally, but Brenneman feels as if it
"I have my first scene with my new love interest," the
actress says enthusiastically. "I'm really excited about
that--something different for me."
That it is. To date, Brenneman's character, Family Court
Judge Amy Gray, has had a private life almost as chaotic
as those in the cases she tries. She's separated from her
husband and living in Connecticut with her mother,
Maxine (Tyne Daly), who seems to delight in tromping all
over the lives of Amy and her brother, Vincent (Dan
Cupid has not, to this point, put in an appearance.
"I was really struck by the fact that I didn't have a love
interest," Brenneman admits. "You know, part of me is so
used to, as most women are in Hollywood, playing the
girlfriend, being attached to a guy.
"I almost got confused, like, 'Well, where's my guy?"' she
says. "And then I realized, 'Oh, I am the guy in this series,
"I was thinking of 'Once and Again,' I know that the thrust
is that relationship," she says. "And I thought, Here I am,
this big loser-girl, I don't get one."
So when Barbara Hall, executive producer and head
writer on "Judging Amy," told Brenneman that she was
cooking up a romantic interest for her--to be played by
Gregory Harrison, fresh from the recently canceled family
drama "Safe Harbor"--the actress was delighted.
Hall notes that now that audiences have gotten to know
Amy, creating a boyfriend for her is harder than it would
have been at the outset.
"In the early days, it was hard to know who Amy should
be with, because the character was so new," Hall recalls
in a separate interview. "But we used that to our
advantage. I've been divorced, and when I started dating
my motto was, 'All new mistakes,' you know?
"And so she's starting over in terms of who she should be
dating," Hall says, "and now we're just trying to establish
that Amy knows a little bit more about who she is and
what she's looking for. And, in typical fashion, I think that
this love interest comes at a time when she's not looking."
Even the writers aren't sure where the relationship will
lead, she adds.
"We're leaving it open in terms of how far we'll take it,"
Hall says, "because we don't want to look too far ahead.
We really want it to evolve organically, the way
relationships do, and we want to complicate it, the way
relationships really are."
That the relationship has the possibility of evolving over
time is a bit of a surprise--many observers had predicted
that the series wouldn't be around that long. Brenneman
herself admits that she assumed the show would be "13
(episodes) and out."
Instead, "Judging Amy," based loosely on the judicial
career of Brenneman's own mother, emerged as one of
the biggest hits of the fall, handily beating ABC's more
highly touted "Once and Again." Now, even though
Brenneman's former series, "NYPD Blue," is besting it in
the ratings, "Amy" has maintained its sizable audience.
"Well, our success has been like kismet, let's be honest,"
Brenneman says. "I hoped the show would do well, but
I've been involved with a lot of projects that I thought were
great that didn't fly."
Daly thinks the show's success reflects its intrinsically
rich dramatic potential.
"The opportunity for us is talking about grown-up women
and their mothers," she says in a separate interview. "I
said to Barbara, 'I don't think it's going to be hard to find
the conflict, but what's more interesting to me is where
they are actually useful to each other anymore.' Maxine
can't change her diapers and slap her on her wrist, she
has to help her in other ways.
"The most surprising thing about this season is that many
of the dramas have done well," she says. "Another thing
about our show is that it has no gimmick. Everyone else
seems to have a gimmick--talking to the camera,
whatever--but you really have to say that this show is
doing well because of the writing and the acting."
"Amy" and other hits such as "Providence," "Everybody
Loves Raymond" and "7th Heaven" seem to strike chords
in their audiences by portraying either multiple
generations or a large nuclear family living in very close
"I think people are starting to figure out that families don't
all have to look the same," Hall says, "and some people
are figuring out that, when the ideal married situation
doesn't work out, that doesn't mean that family life is
That family life will continue to develop over the course of
the current season, Brenneman promises.
"Well, by the end of the season, the divorce is done, done,
done," she says. "And I will have met his girlfriend."
Vincent, a struggling writer, will try his hand at journalism,
and, Brenneman teases, "there's some really great, very
happy surprises with other people on the show."
For those who want to see her at times other than
Tuesdays at 9, Brenneman co-stars with Glenn Close,
Holly Hunter, Cameron Diaz, Calista Flockhart and Kathy
Baker in the independent film "Things You Can Tell Just
By Looking at Her," which debuted at the Sundance Film
Festival and is due for a wide release in April.
Upon first reading the film's script, Brenneman admits, "I
didn't really get it." But once she heard who else would be
in the cast, her doubts vanished.
"I was like 'OK, I'll do it,"' she says cheerfully. "Like, 'Oh,
what do I know? I'll come to that party!"'
The biggest test of "Judging Amy"--and a potentially
awkward situation for Brenneman herself --came in "The
Pillsbury Bakeoff," her joking name for the show's being
scheduled against "NYPD Blue" and its creator, her
former boss Steven Bochco.
"He's a great guy with an amazing show," she says,
"who's given me more than I probably even know."
In November, just as "NYPD Blue" was preparing to
return from a lengthy hiatus designed to make room for
"Once and Again," Brenneman attended a Eurythmics
concert in Los Angeles with her husband, film director
Brad Silberling, another debt she owes Bochco, since the
couple met during an episode of "NYPD Blue."
In the row of seats next to her, Brenneman spotted
"And I thought, Well, this is sort of awkward, but I climbed
over all these people and I sat in his lap," she says,
laughing. "I said, 'Well, I guess there's room in network
television for both of us."'
Bochco laughed, and Brenneman did too. And, to judge
by the ratings, they're probably both still laughing.