Margot Ebling

Last seen trapped in the Holland Tunnel with Sly Stallone, Amy Brenneman has hopped a crosstown bus to Lincoln Center, where she plays an ad exec on the verge of enlightenment in Craig Lucas s God s Heart.

Voice: Your bio says you have a B.A. in comparative religion from Harvard. How do you synthesize it all?

Brenneman: When I was at Harvard, I was also doing a lot of theater, and at times felt schizophrenic because I loved the acting and I loved what I was studying. But they ended up fueling each other in an incredible way. I was really interested in ritual and shamanism and taking those ideas into performance. I consider it to be a holy act, to surrender your own being up into this larger thing. Even if it s the cheesiest movie script in the world, I really have to see it in those terms. I look at characters almost more spiritually than psychologically. I want to know, What s keeping them from their joy? What do they think of as God?

Voice: What turned you on to this role?

Brenneman: The challenge and the risk for me is to play a truly non-cynical person, which is embarrassingly difficult for me. She does not have the cynicism and the sense of irony I do. I go to a dark place pretty easily. The first time this came to my attention was when I got the part in Heat. I had three months before we started work on it, so I went off and wrote this whole bio of a really damaged person. I thought, This character doesn t seem to have a life, she s lonely and disenfranchised, she gets involved with a guy she doesn t know at all --I threw a little incest in there--and then I met with Michael Mann, the director, for the first time and I read him what I had written. And he said, No. I think she is healthy. I think she falls in love with this guy. And I realized how I tend to go toward a darker, huge therapy ride, instead of just saying, She is who she is. And just like in life, shit happens. And you don t have to explain it, you don t need to diminish the mystery of a human being. Working on God s Heart has been a similar challenge. The character I play is a very joyous, self-contented person, but there s a piece that is not filled. And one day something pops that leads her down a certain path. There s a word that Craig Lucas came up with: it s an awakening.