'Damages' begins new season Monday
By Mike Hughes
'DAMAGES,' 8 P.M. MONDAYS, FX
As each new season starts, “Damages” needs someone powerful for Patty Hewes to collide with.
The first two seasons had ones played by Ted Danson and William Hurt. The new one, starting Monday, has a barely fictionalized version of Bernie Madoff.
And yes, that gives the actors plenty of reasons to be passionate. They know real people who lost their savings to Madoff's financial scheme.
“A family in my building lost millions and millions of dollars,” said Glenn Close, who stars. “They really were having to totally re-design their life.”
Charities and less-wealthy people were also devastated. Lily Tomlin, one of this season's co-stars, said she knows two writers who had invested with Madoff. “They're very close to losing their apartment in New York and all the savings they had …. People have been badly hurt.”
That gives “Damages” a powerful backdrop. “It starts to evoke certain emotions and you start to get riled up,” said Todd Kessler, one of the show's creators.
And with a villain like that, Patty Hewes – flaws and all – can easily be a heroine.
In the first two seasons, the flaws were immense. She schemed, lied, cheated, broke ethical rules for lawyers. Her colleague Tom (Tate Donovan) is wary of her; her protege Ellen tries to ignore her.
Ellen “hasn't spoken to her for six months … She's really moved on,” said Rose Byrne, who plays her.
Except that Patty is impossible to avoid; she's a fierce character.
“She's very quick,” said Close, who has won two straight Emmys in the role. “She's very bright. She's very productive, and I think she gets annoyed by people very easily, if they're not up to her level.”
Now, the court has given her a big job: A financier (Len Cariou) has stolen billions with a Ponzi scheme. Patty is supposed to find the money and give it back; standing in the way are the guy's son (Campbell Scott), wife (Tomlin) and lawyer (Martin Short).
Yes, comedians have dead-serious roles here. “Carrot Top is in the next one,” Short joked.
Tomlin said she's a big “Damages” fan. “It's the only show I've ever run home to see.”
She's done several dramas; Short hasn't. Now he says he plays a guy who claims to only have the family interest at heart. “We're not convinced that's the case. That's the most fascinating thing to play.”
This is a serious show, played by funny people. Scott – the son of George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst – has a “very dry … very quick” wit, Tomlin said.
And Donovan has been busy in comedies and dramas. Now the opener brings a huge jolt for the Tom Shayes character. “I was like, 'That is such a great story. I just wish I wasn't the actor playing Tom.'”