Jennifer Finnigan, <EM>Close to Home</EM> Jennifer Finnigan, Close to Home

Things are a bit different this season on CBS' Close to Home (Fridays at 9 pm/ET). There are more male faces JAG alum David James Elliott's included and perceptibly less focus on Annabeth Chase's struggle to juggle a career and what is now single motherhood. Is it all too much at once for the sophomore drama? invited Jennifer Finnigan to weigh in on the series she holds so close to her heart. First, explain something to me: Why does Close to Home get a full-season pickup announcement when it's in its sophomore year? It's not like ABC is out announcing, "Yes, we've picked up Lost." Is it because the show was on the fence for much of last year?
Jennifer Finnigan: I think last year we were definitely the redheaded stepchild. We could never do as well as they wanted us to. Even though we kept winning our time slot, we were mystified by why we were always left behind. But the network fought to keep you around, shifting you from Tuesday to Friday, a move that paid off gangbusters.
Finnigan: Yeah, they really did [fight for us]. I think what it was is that nobody really knew what to do with the show, and when we moved it, that made all the difference in the world. Our [fall 2006] pickup came at the last minute, so maybe as some reward for sort of winning the night now, which we've done a handful of times, the network picked us up early. TV seems to be so fickle at this point, that when you find something that works, you tend to stick with it. When you and I spoke for the series' debut, I asked, "What will set Close to Home apart from other procedurals?" You said, "This is not just about the law and cases. It's about a woman who's a mother trying to balance her work and her home life." You must concede that a part of that has been lost due to some of the changes made for this season.
Finnigan: Absolutely. Much to my dismay. [Laughs] What are you doing to help retain some of those unique elements?
Finnigan: I feel like it's my duty as an actor and as a person who really cares about the show to maintain the heart of it. It's very easy to go in that strict procedural direction, but I don't think that's what our audience really responds to. No fan who's ever come to me has said, "Oh, that murder and that chase scene...." They don't make reference to those aspects so much as... Annabeth's long hours, how her husband puts up with it, she has the baby at home....
Finnigan: "I can so relate to that, that's my life!" Even when my husband died, those are all the elements that linger in the audience's mind, so it's important to maintain that. Whether it's me reminding them that that's what we need to cultivate, or whether it's the writers inserting little personal scenes here or there between myself and Maureen, or bringing the baby into the workplace, I don't think that will ever be lost because Annabeth's story, her plight, is the heart of the show. With all that said, how has it been on the set with all these new men around?
Finnigan: They added some much-needed testosterone to the show, and some great chemistry, some new conflict. I love doing scenes with them because it almost feels like a brand-new show at times. You needed a greater ensemble around Annabeth; the cast was very small. Look at something like Grey's Anatomy and the way that all the characters play off each other and how successful that is... the greater the ensemble, the greater the show. Any interesting cases coming up that you can tease?
Finnigan: The one we're filming now really personally affects Annabeth. A week prior, her husband's killer, the drunk driver, is sentenced to four years in prison, and now she's working on a case for a woman whose husband was killed and who was left with a little baby. Annabeth is very struck by this woman's situation and how eerily similar it is to hers, so she tends to jump in with both feet, to the danger of her own career. You've always been protective of what's right and appropriate when it comes to on-screen love stories  I mean, you were dating your brother there for a bit on The Bold and the Beautiful....
Finnigan: [Laughs] That was a fight! Every week, I went up to [exec producer] Brad Bell's office.... When will you be comfortable with Annabeth's being steered toward a romantic story line?
Finnigan: I would be comfortable right now with her at least looking around, with maybe people catching her eye now and again.... Just little indications that she looks and she flirts a little. I wouldn't be comfortable with a full-fledged love interest I don't think she's ready for that this season but I'd like to see her in a flirtation or enjoy some sort of sexual tension, just not with one of our immediate cast members. I don't think that's wise. Yeah, I pressed David James Elliott about that, and he wouldn't budge.
Finnigan: No, I'm not into it, because it distracts from the business, and it's so predictable. But maybe with a visiting attorney or detective. Speaking of which, I love Bruce Davison as your frequent courtroom foil.
Finnigan: Oh my god, he's brilliant. He brings out the best side of me as an actor. It's incredible. There's a great spark to your exchanges.
Finnigan: Doug and Annabeth also have a very strong friendship. He almost has a paternal feeling toward her. I love the way we play off each other. What has been your most memorable talk-show drop-by?
Finnigan: Recently, on The Megan Mullally Show, she had me do the Velcro wall. [Laughs] We were in these gigantic, Oompa-Loompa-like Velcro suits, and we had to trampoline and slam ourselves into various positions on a wall. Are you and fiancé Jonathan Silverman (The Single Guy) still heading for a wedding?
Finnigan: Yeah, absolutely. It's going slowly but surely. You'd better hurry, Tom and Katie have Italy booked for Nov. 18.
Finnigan: Well, I'll make sure to avoid Italy at all costs! [Laughs] Damn them!

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