Q&A Amy Brenneman

Trigger-Happy on 'NYPD Blue'

Were you ever nude in public before your infamous NYPD Blue disrobing?

I once stripped down to my underwear and smeared ice cream on myself in a stage production of Happy Birthday, Wanda June.

Having grown up in a solidly middle-class Connecticut household, do you think its hard for viewers to buy you as a blue-collar Italian from Queens?

Sure. The whole cop thing feels funny. I know I have the toughness and strength, but I dont have the ability to shoot somebody. After we filmed the second episode, where Janice had to do that, I was like, Do you believe it?

One critic wrote that you were too pretty to be a cop.

Which is total bullshit. I dont know what that means. There are beautiful women copsIve seen them.

Do you ever get mail from police officers?

I get letters mostly from convicts. I did get a Christmas card from the 112th precinct in Queens.

Whats it like working with the Bochco crowd?

From day one I had a feeling of sanity and serenity. I trust them. Thats unusual for me. Normally I wont pick up a fork if you tell me toI wont believe you.

Part of your Harvard education included a semester studying sacred dance in Nepal with a priest. Does that sort of thing come in handy?

Yeah, it does, actually. It sort of furthered my understanding of performance as shamanistic. I had to sit in this room with a Newari priest for twenty minutes. The cows were trying to get in. I didnt know what was going on. Later I found out I was only the second Western woman to learn it. He had to check out my karmahe wanted to make sure I wouldnt do the dance at a party.

Are you a practicing Buddhist?

I never took vows. Im a theist. Buddhism is a nontheist faith.

Your mom is a judge and your father an environmental lawyer. What qualities did you inherit from each?

From my mother a certain fearlessness: My mind is like a trap when I want it to be. And from my father a certain philosophy for fitting whatever I do into a context. Its important for him to find a connection with his beliefs.

Did your mother ever take her superior court attitude home?

No, she was really funny. Shes come home, do the housework, pick me up from piano lessons. I once asked her, Mom, do they call you Your Honor at work? Youre damn right they do.

Which of your character traits gives you the most trouble?

My open heart. I look for the good in people. In Mississippi I found myself getting drunk with these Klansmen. I probably shouldnt have been there. But I could see they were good people.

What was the most valuable lesson you learned during your five years touring obscure towns with the Cornerstone Theater Company, which you formed with your Harvard friends?

Stay open to everything. Dont ever judge it. We did Checkov in West Virginia, Moliere in Kansas.

As recently as two years ago, you almost quit acting to take up teaching.

I was substitute teaching in Brooklyn Heights and this job opened up to teach fourth grade science. I was going to take it, then a friend of mine said, You dont really want it.

What are your vices?

I worry too much. And Bass ale.

What place would you most like to visit?

Ireland. Im obsesses with Molly Blooms speech at the end of Ulysses.

Any phobias?

Fear of heights. Screaming in church. Having tea with my girlfriends and thinking of picking up a cup of tea and throwing it in their facethings youre not supposed to do.

I wonder if they have a name for that. Any thoughts on being a year shy of thirty?

I felt old when I was twenty-fourmy first big relationship had ended. Now I feel more accomplished, know more what I want, and Im better looking. Ive lost the baby fat. I was a late bloomer.

You werent considered a beauty in high school or college?

I was cute but it wasnt happening.

What was your favorite toy as a child?

A dolls house that my father made.

So you were more of a girly girl than a tomboy?

Yeah, very early on I got into playacting. My friend and I would play house. She wanted the doll to be the baby but I wanted to play the baby.

Whats the most interesting place youve ever had sex?

At a wedding in Las Vegas. We had to wear these Laura Ashley salmon frou-frou things. For some reason it turned my boyfriend on, so we did it in the bathroom at the chapel.

What do people most misunderstand about you?

Why Im so interested in religion. That strikes some as silly or incongruous.

What dont you have that you still want?

A baby. A little place in New York. Artistically, I want to make sure I do more classical stuff.

Anything in the works?

My theater company is doing Twelfth Night. Its weird I said that about a baby. My eggs are young. My mother had me when she was thirty-eight.

Whats the worst part about acting?

Being talked about in a room as if I werent even there. Its very upsetting.

That happens on NYPD Blue?

Yeah, its very irritating. I feel like a prop. As soon as I speak up it gets better.

You must feel like youre crashing a boys club.

Yeah, but its not bad. I keep myself engaged. Its a world of guys, cops. I try to get a little estrogen in there.

If people resemble their dogs, how are you like your basset hound Maggie?

I dont know looks-wise, but we both love physical affection. I love to have my belly rubbed a lot.

Do you spend more time eating, having sex, or walking the dog?

Walking the dog. I eat really fast. And Id like to have a house with a yard so I could have more time for sex.