From Maerose Prizzi to Morticia Addams, Anjelica Huston has made a career of playing women you don't want to mess with. After she appears on Showtime's Huff (Sundays at 10 pm/ET), striding down a hall in form-fitting clothes, stilettos and a fierce expression on her angular face, you'll add the name Dr. Lena Markova to her power-babe pantheon.
"I don't like to think I'm scary," the 5-foot-10 actress says. "Maybe my size contributes to being cast in dominant roles. But then, I've never pictured myself as a wilting flower. So I'm drawn to strong women."
In Huston's four-episode Huff stint, which kicked off last night, she plays an unorthodox psychiatrist who treats fellow analyst Dr. Craig "Huff" Huffstodt (Hank Azaria). The part was created for Huston after she told cast member Oliver Platt she was a fan of the show. "They came to me with this role, which I thought was really great," says Huston. "She's very straightforward, very humane, a calming influence."
Huff could certainly use the help. In Season 2 the doc's marriage is disintegrating, his mother is drinking, his best friend is abusing drugs, his son is breaking into houses, and his practice is withering. "Huff needed a shrink," says executive producer Bob Lowry, "and the challenge was to create a friend for him who was a psychiatrist, so they could have more than a clinical relationship." He adds that in the season finale on June 25, "Huston also has terrific scenes with Blythe Danner [as Huff's mother, Izzy]. I wanted to see two legends work together."
At Lena's first meeting with Huff, she "ends up dressing Huff down and calling him on his bull," says Azaria, "which is why he [thinks] she may be able to help him." She treats Huff with MDMA, a pure form of Ecstasy, to help him "discover what's going on inside." So bad marriage, gorgeous doctor and inhibition-freeing chemicals how close do Huff and the pot-smoking shrink get? "I don't want to give anything away," Azaria says, "but there's a lot of sexual tension."
Busier than ever with movie and TV projects (she played the president in the miniseries Robert Ludlum's Covert One: The Hades Factor), Huston hopes to direct several projects as well. As for her recent productivity, "I'm building a house next door," she says of the new office/studio in Venice, California, that she'll share with her husband of 14 years, sculptor Robert Graham. "That's one good reason."
Huston's TV guest role on Huff, her first since Laverne & Shirley, proved so satisfying that she'd like to return to the show. Although the idea of signing a seven-year contract makes her wary of starring in a series, she's up for shorter stints on shows she admires like The Sopranos. Dr. Melfi, watch your back.