TV Guide: Your Rescue Me character, Maggie Gavin, is the sister of Denis Leary's Tommy Gavin. Describe her.
Tatum O'Neal: What you see is a real broad, a Queens woman who doesn't think before she speaks and is extreme in everything extreme in her drinking, extreme in her men, extreme in her language, extreme in her opinions. Extreme all the way.
TV Guide: How did she get that way?
O'Neal: Maybe it's because she didn't have the proper mothering. And, if you look at Charles Durning's character, perhaps even the proper fathering. I think the Gavin kids had to scrape and do for themselves.
TV Guide: Has the show ever said what happened to the Gavins' mother?
O'Neal: There's been no real reference to her except in passing, but all of us have our own opinions. I think she sort of died of alcoholism. She wasn't a very good mother.
TV Guide: Is Maggie a villain or a victim?
O'Neal: She's a tortured soul with a heart of gold who is still looking for love. She's an example of how to survive living among a bunch of tough guys. I think Denis would like her to be a villain, but I'm hoping he'll make her more loving.
TV Guide: I hope so. I think they've underused your character.
O'Neal: I hope you write that!
TV Guide: What do your children think of Maggie?
O'Neal: My sons are 20 and 18, and they're New York City kids, very mature and worldly, and they love her. They've seen me struggle to get back into acting, and they see that I'm on a very good, respected show. They couldn't be happier. There are certain things they wish she didn't have to say they'll be like, "Wow, that's a little rough." But they know me, and they know I'm nothing like Maggie.
TV Guide: What does your daughter think?
O'Neal: She doesn't really watch it. She's 15, and I think it embarrasses her a little bit.
TV Guide: Because of the nature of the character?
O'Neal: Yeah, especially the second episode, where I had to wear a little robe, and curse.
TV Guide: Viewers might believe that the show's producers were playing on your own turbulent life story when they cast you. Does that bother you?
O'Neal: I'm sure they felt that I would have some insight because I've gone through so much, but if I had done a poor audition, they wouldn't have hired me.
TV Guide: In a recent episode there's a scene in a bar when you have a drink in your hand. And I'm thinking it could have taken hours to shoot that scene, and you're sitting there with a drink the whole time....
O'Neal: I don't have any problem shooting scenes like that. I'm an actress. I make a commitment to do that as my profession. I can show up, and I can do that. I mean, I've been working at it since I was 9 years old.
TV Guide: What's up with Maggie's relationship with Sean [Steven Pasquale]? It's like the drunk leading the blind.
O'Neal: Well, at first I think he was just one of her many guys. He was cute, and she could boss him around. But I think she has begun to actually like him and really care about him. I don't know if she could say the L-word, but she's learned to have some respect for him. And she's gotten rid of all her other guys.
TV Guide: Have you dated many himbos in real life?
O'Neal: Uh, no. I haven't.
TV Guide: During Rescue Me's hiatus, you did Dancing with the Stars. What was that like?
O'Neal: I loved it. I thought it was really fun, and it was really good for me to do. I had tremendous fun doing it.
TV Guide: How did you feel about your early exit?
O'Neal: I knew that I was not... I was away from my kids and I was sort of happy to go back to New York.
TV Guide: What happened? What went wrong?
O'Neal: I don't know. I have no idea. It was live TV, I got nervous....
TV Guide: Final thoughts on what the future holds for Maggie Gavin?
O'Neal: You'll get a sense of her character and innocence. There's some vulnerability, which I'm glad about. You will learn to love this character, trust me. I promise you.
Send in your comments about this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.