For Jeanne Tripplehorn, her role in FIVE served as a reminder.
"A few months ago I got a phone call saying that Jennifer [Aniston] and Marta [Kauffman, co-creator of Friends] were doing the project and I immediately said yes," says Tripplehorn. "When we started filming, I realized that I hadn't had a mammogram in two years. So I rushed out to get one immediately. My wish is that when people see this film, it will remind them to do the same."
Doing its part for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Lifetime is giving us FIVE (Monday, 9/8c) . The quintet of five short films was directed by Aniston, Demi Moore, Alicia Keys, Patty Jenkins and Penelope Spheeris.
About 20 minutes each, the stories — with stars including Tripplehorn, Rosario Dawson, Ginnifer Goodwin and Patricia Clarkson — deal with the emotional roller coaster that breast cancer patients and their families endure. The women's stories run the gamut; among them: Cheyanne (Lyndsy Fonseca), an exotic dancer who can't bear the thought of a mastectomy, and Mia (Clarkson), who decides to host a funeral for herself before her death.
Tripplehorn plays Pearl, the one character tying the five tales together. She read books about the disease and spoke with several oncologists who specialize in breast cancer treatment. But the actress believes it was Clarkson who had the most difficult job, playing the role of Mia (in the short directed by Aniston). "She wasn't eating. She had to go from looking healthy to really sick in a matter of four or five days. But she really kept her spirits up."
For Clarkson, whose character is facing Stage 4 breast cancer, the challenge was what inspired her to be a part of it. "It was brutal," she says. "There were scenes where my chest was bound so tightly I could barely breathe. But I have to preface that by saying, I'm an actress playing someone with cancer. I'm a very lucky person. I'm not actually going through the disease. And I have witnessed it firsthand with family members and friends."
Clarkson credits Aniston (also the film's executive-producer) for evoking her performance. "I could never have done this without Jennifer. She's a fiercely gifted director," Clarkson says. "She brought her energy to it, and I brought my energy ... It was beautifully written and funny as hell."
Fonseca, whose Cheyanne is married to Tommy (The Vampire Diaries' Taylor Kinney), explains that her stripper character "believes that her self-worth is what she makes a living off of, that her body is what makes her beautiful. And the relationship she has with her husband is a very sexualized relationship, kind of a young, passionate couple. She gets diagnosed with breast cancer and has to get a double mastectomy and it kind of shatters her world completely. It's a journey of her having to dig deeper and realize that she is not her body and that the love that she has with her husband is real."
The actress hopes that a younger audience will be curious about her character and tune in to be touched by the story and her co-star's powerful performance. "It's just such a moving story, and Taylor is so good," she says. "There's one scene that he has with David Eigenberg and he just breaks down crying in the car parking lot. I was watching it being filmed and I started crying too. I walked to him and was like, 'It's OK!'"
About one out of every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their life, and the film aims to raise awareness of that statistic. "Far too many women are dying of this," says Clarkson. "They've made quite a few advances, but not enough, honestly. We have to keep moving forward. We've got to keep it in the daily conversation. There's not a person that has not been touched by this disease. It's personal to everyone, and it's touched all of us."
Watch the trailer for FIVE:
Five airs Monday at 9/8c on Lifetime.
Additional reporting by Hanh Nguyen