Patricia Wettig Patricia Wettig
Patricia Wettig was a loyal cancer-stricken wife in thirtysomething,

an upright judge in Courthouse and a principled CIA shrink in Alias. But boy, has she switched gears for Fox's freshman hit, Prison Break (Mondays at 9 pm/ET). At first seen only in shrouded shots chopping garlic and slicing peppers, she was recently revealed to be not only the evil power behind all the intricate plots and mayhem, but the country's vice president! What is going on here? My, you're creepy, Madame Vice President.
Patricia Wettig: Oh, I know! I'm so mean. I was just in Chicago filming an episode where I was nastier than ever. Tell me more about the character. What's the root of her actions?
Wettig: A lot of it is unknown to me. She definitely has a lot of baggage, a lot of secrets to hide. The plot goes all the way back to her in terms of why Dominic [Purcell]'s character, Lincoln, is in prison. She had something to do with setting that up but I can't tell you all the secrets. The vice president's brother was killed, and she set Lincoln up.
Wettig: I'll tell you that much. Is she an evil woman or just misunderstood?
Wettig: [Laughs] I think she's pretty evil. I haven't exactly been doing any nice things. Every time I get a script, it's like, "Whoa!" My question is, how far does she go? She's like the antithesis of Geena Davis' ideal president [on Commander in Chief]. I'm like her evil twin. Knowing the political mind, your character probably wants to be president and thus has to hide some scandal... or worse.
Wettig: I don't think that's too far off. Let's just say that's a very good guess. [Laughs] She's very ambitious. Is she fun to play? Actors always like to play bad.
Wettig: For me, it's something new. I'm usually given the part of the woman with whom we sympathize — the honest, true-blue mothers and wives, the fighters for principles. That's the kind of character that's defined my career. I was talking to (thirtysomething husband) Tim Busfield on the phone and I said, "Hey, Tim, they want me to play this character on Prison Break and she's completely evil and nasty. I don't know if I can do that." He says to me, "Trust me, Patty, you can do it." I said, "What's that supposed to mean?" He said, "I've seen your dark places." The look in your eyes at the end of one episode was pretty chilling. I don't want to be on that lady's bad side.
Wettig: That's right. I think that's what Tim is alluding to. But I really don't know what he's talking about. [Laughs] Playing her is fun and I think the show is so cool and Wentworth [Miller, who plays Michael] is like the "hot guy" on television this year. He's adorable, too. He's just so cute. And sweet. Wentworth has that star quality that elevates the show. I find him really attractive. Mm-hmm. It's a good thing you've been happily married to Ken Olin for so long. Enough said.
Wettig: [Laughs] Don't you think? It's been 23 years. Are you gone from Alias?
Wettig: If someone needs some psychological help in an episode, I'm sure they'll call me in to give advice. But I think I'm gone. You had the little "thing" there with Ron Rifkin's Sloane. Should we expect any romance on Prison Break?
Wettig: [Cracks up] I don't know, I don't think so. I think she's all business. But you never know what she has up her sleeve. No sign of a family — husband or kids.
Wettig: Nothing that I've heard about. Congratulations on writing your first play, My Andy. You were on the shortlist for a prestigious literary prize.
Wettig: Oh yes, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. It was wonderful, because it was for women writing in English all around the world. I was one of the 10 finalists, so it was very thrilling. Will it be produced onstage?
Wettig: I did a staged reading of it in Hartford, Conn., which went really well. We're talking about doing it onstage next fall. It's about Andy Warhol and his relationship with his mother. Are you now an actor who writes or a writer who acts?
Wettig: Well, I certainly spend a lot more time writing. I write every day. A few years ago, I went back and got my MFA in playwriting at Smith College, mostly because I needed to spend time with my kids, who were in school at that time. Going out of town wasn't working for me, but I had to have a creative life, so I turned to writing. It's no secret that so many of the thirtysomething cast went on to write, produce, direct....
Wettig: Isn't that interesting? It was a unique, wonderfully creative group of people who I felt really privileged to work with for those four years. Polly Draper has her new mockumentary,The Naked Brothers Band, and your husband, Peter Horton and Tim Busfield are all directing and producing hot TV series like Alias, Grey's Anatomy and Without a Trace.
Wettig: Yeah, and Melanie [Mayron] is doing a lot of directing. It's wild, isn't it? I do not have an eye [for it], so I was never interested in directing, but I've always written. When I got my first paycheck as an actor — $300, for a regional production of Crimes of the Heart — I bought a typewriter. Yet you're still a busy actor. Does Ken not want to act anymore? Is he completely happy behind the camera?
Wettig: Well, every once in a while he'll say, "Ah, maybe I should act. It was so much easier." But he's such an incredible director — one of the best directors I've ever worked with, quite frankly. No bias there.
Wettig: No. [Chuckles] I swear. When I'm out with the people from Alias — say, Victor Garber, Ron Rifkin or Jennifer Garner, all of them are always saying Ken is the best director. "We love him, we would die without him." So I tell him, "See, Ken, you can't give up directing." How do you feel now when you think about thirtysomething?
Wettig: It was deeply satisfying. I've been finding that [fulfillment] more as a writer now, but I don't give up the possibility that I could have another satisfying experience as an actress. Did it annoy you when critics carped about thirtysomething's character being so whiny and self-obsessed?
Wettig: Oh, we always got that. We'd be standing in a bookstore and someone next to us in line would say, "I hate your show!" [Giggles] I think they thought we were claiming to be the authority on the emotional reality of being 30. I don't think we ever tried to set ourselves up as that, but somehow it offended people. "That's not the way it is in my house!" And I liked that — better to have a strong point of view than just to sort of be in the middle. People cared about it — in both directions. A lot of you saw each other when you did a cameo in Polly's movie. Was there any "maybe we should do a thirtysomething TV reunion" talk?
Wettig: Oh, of course that came up. But I don't think that anyone could ever figure out what we would want to explore creatively, as opposed to just doing, "Oh, here they are just talking or something." I don't think anybody's dying to do that. But you never say never, because somebody could come up with some kind of idea — maybe they'll see us all in a retirement home!