Rebecca DeMornay, John from Cincinnati
It's been 24 years since she gave Tom Cruise an El of a time in Risky Business, and Rebecca DeMornay is still one hot ticket. As Cissy Yost, the way-damaged surf-family matriarch on HBO's John from Cincinnati (Sundays at 9 pm/ET), DeMornay has been tearing up the scenery while proving that some sex symbols never go out of style.

TV Guide: What is going on with this show?
DeMornay: [Laughs] It's like a Rorschach puzzle being formulated inside the locked doors of [series creator] David Milch's mind. Everything is hidden behind those doors — even from the actors.

TV Guide: You find out as the scripts come in?
DeMornay: Part of what Milch is going for is to show the essence of... what some people call god [or] a spiritual awareness. Through John, he's trying to bring that to these dysfunctional people, yet the truth is that spiritual awakenings usually happen slowly. So he's not taking the easy way out by having us actually be able to point a finger and label what's going on, so much as [having the characters] experience something mystifying, much like real-life spiritual awakenings.

TV Guide: So you just play along and go for the ride, huh?
DeMornay: You have to play along and see. And the thing that's been interesting for me is that I've never worked like this before, A) not knowing exactly what's going on in the script until I see it, and B) not even getting the script till sometimes the very day I'm shooting. And when I say "the script," I mean just the scene that I'm gonna be shooting. But I've never seen — aside from the initial pilot episode — any full script of any episode that I'm shooting at any time in the last year.

TV Guide: You're seeing it play out along with the rest of us?
DeMornay: I'm coming in to do a scene and then I hear, after I've done it, [that] the scene I just played actually takes place after I was close to death — but I didn't know that when I played the scene because he hadn't written it yet. And then Milch writes the other scene.

TV Guide: And that may have shadowed how you played that scene.
DeMornay:
It definitely would have shadowed it — had I known that I was gonna be close to death! But I'd already played the scene. [Laughs]

TV Guide: So at some point, Cissy's going to be close to death?
DeMornay: Yes.

TV Guide: And I have a feeling that along the way, a lot of people are going to be close to death because a lot of times, that's where miracles come true.
DeMornay: That's funny, yeah. Sometimes you never know what you've got till it's gone.

TV Guide: Cissy is a really angry woman. Are we gonna see the roots of this come out?
DeMornay: Oh yeah, by the time this interview comes out, you'll sort of see... the roots of where Cissy's coming from. There's a lot that she's angry about in terms of the fact that her marriage is falling apart and she has a really terrible relationship with her own son.

TV Guide: Somebody needs to step on in and hug her.
DeMornay: I totally agree with you — and nobody does. [Laughs]

TV Guide: Because they're afraid of her! This must be either really exhausting to play or great therapy.
DeMornay: Well, I wish I could say it was great therapy but it isn't, because there's no resolution. It's like, if you play a character that has that much rage and that much anguish in the context of a movie, usually they find a way through it by the end of the movie. They either die or resolve it, one way or the other. This, meanwhile, has been a nine-month odyssey of unending anguish and rage with no end in sight, so it really has been hard. It's really been hard to maintain this character this long, and she... well, I don't want to say too much.

TV Guide: How has working with Bruce Greenwood been?
DeMornay: We were in the same movie before (Thick as Thieves), but we didn't really get to work together on that. And I've been a huge fan of his. I've tried to work with him. There's been a couple of occasions when I was trying to see if the two of us could get in the same project, but it never worked out. I'm a big fan of Bruce's. I think he's a terrific actor.

TV Guide: It must be nice to have somebody you respect with you in scenes where you have to get this raw.
DeMornay: Exactly. I really think he's a very, very multitalented actor, a generous human being and also very smart. I don't know if I could've done this role without him because as much as Cissy and Nick don't get along, the solidarity with Bruce that I feel within all of this has been amazing.

TV Guide: Even angry, I gotta say you and Bruce Greenwood are the sexiest grandparents ever.
DeMornay: [Laughs] Thank you very much!

TV Guide: And after all of this, would you consider a full-time role on a network TV series?
DeMornay: You know, I've done guest-starring stuff on the network series and it's all about the actual character. I've never come close to or been offered a character in a network series that would appeal to me for any length of time. I can't really see myself doing a procedural kind of show. I just don't think I have it in me to sustain the level of interest for it. But I would definitely, I mean, I love how many people you can reach with network television. I really need to know that there's gonna be interesting things to play and not just showing up every day.... But I'm sure there would be, if the writing was really interesting. It just hasn't happened for me. Let me put it this way: The role hasn't come to me and I haven't seen it. This is the first time there's been a role and simultaneous interest, and that's why I'm doing it.

Use our snazzy new Online Video Guide to go surfing for some John from Cincinnati clips.

Send your comments on this Q&A to letters@tvguide.com.