Martin Donovan with Mary-Louise Parker, <EM>Weeds</EM> Martin Donovan with Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds

Tonight at 10 pm/ET, Showtime's highest-rated series, Weeds is back, to give fans another seasonlong buzz. When last we tuned in, Nancy (Emmy nominee Mary-Louise Parker's pot-peddlin' mama) had finally bedded her new beau, Peter, only to learn that he is (of all things!) a DEA agent. Surely, Peter's getting his walking papers, right? Not so fast. grabbed a few minutes with the fed's portrayer, Martin Donovan, to talk about his extended visit to Agrestic, his confusing stint as Dead Zone's big baddie, and the rather disquieting film he has premiering this month. After watching Weeds' first-season finale, I figured you weren't long for this show. Now, having seen the first three new episodes, I realize I could not have been more wrong, could I?
Martin Donovan: That looks to be the case, yes. Was this long-term arc laid out for you when you showed up late last season?
Donovan: No, no. I don't think there was any discussion about the next season. So you were as surprised as the rest of us to see where it was going?
Donovan: Yeah. When they said they wanted me back, first they said they wanted me back for six [episodes], and a few weeks went by and they said, "No, we want him for 12." Then they gave me the arc of the season. Needless to say, Conrad is not happy to learn that Nancy is dating a DEA agent. Do the two guys have a chance to "get into it"?
Donovan: Yes, we do meet. We do meet. [Chuckles] But it's safe to say you won't be smoking any of the "not-pot" that Kevin Nealon complained to me about.
Donovan: I don't see any cannabis going up in smoke around Peter, no. Weeds is what, your fourth project with Mary-Louise Parker?
Donovan: Let's see, there was Portrait of a Lady... Saved!... Pipe Dream... and this, yeah. Is it all a case of finding someone you like working with?
Donovan: In each case it's different. Portrait was our first time together, and with Pipe Dream, I think, [writer-director] John Walsh had been talking to Mary-Louise, and my name came up.... The same thing sort of happened with Saved!, where they cast Mary-Louise and said, "What do you think of Martin Donovan?" and she said it would be fab. And she was very supportive with Weeds, as well. Brian Dannelly (Saved!) directed the pilot, and my name came up in the very beginning; actually, I think they were talking about me for the Kevin Nealon part. Mary-Louise said she would just badger them on a daily basis to get me on the show. [Laughs] I imagine you will join me in saying that Mary-Louise is one of the most watchable actresses out there.
Donovan: You ought to have the great privilege of doing a scene with her, which is even more fun than watching her on TV. It's just fantastic, like riding a tiger. It's a great ride. Let's touch on The Dead Zone for a moment. We saw a bit of your character, Malcolm Janus, in the season-opener, and then... nothing. But I now hear that you're back for the season finale?
Donovan: [Pauses... then chuckles] That show, they write these episodes and then mix and match them. I showed up and did my scenes, and then they put the [season's schedule] together. The Dead Zone publicist told me the finale is your episode.
OK, then that's true. [Laughs] That was shot a while ago, and some of this stuff gets kind of blurry to me. She didn't tell you any more than that? Just that it leaves fans with a massive cliff-hanger.
Donovan: Yeah, I remember that now.... Will the finale offer any additional insight into what Janus is planning, why he gives Johnny these visions of Armageddon?
Donovan: Yes, I think there might be some clarity, but I don't think you'll get the full answer. You're in The Quiet, a dark little film that I caught a screening of and it's probably not the first role an actor like you jumps at. Did you have any reservations?
Donovan: When they offered me the role, I spoke to [director] Jamie Babbit and said, "I don't want to play a creep," and she said, "I don't want you to play a creep, either." That was my only concern. Jamie was determined to make this guy as human as possible, and then it became very interesting to me. And of course working with Edie [Falco].... I know Edie from the first Hal Hartley film I did [1990's Trust], so that was an added bonus. I imagine so, since the film [opening Aug. 25 in New York/Los Angeles] takes you to some very strange places.
Donovan: I think it's a great part, riveting in a way. This film is not about incest, but, in addressing the issue of incest between fathers and daughters, it deals with it in ways we haven't quite seen before. It shows the totality of the relationships and how complex they are. When I came on board they shared some of the research they had done with me, so I got a sense of how complex and convoluted and, in some cases, triangular [such a situation] is, between the mother, father and daughter. The mother is often drug- or alcohol-dependent and in complete denial. So the father and the daughter have this relationship, and the daughter resents the mother for not stepping in. The mother is in some ways an enabler. Elisha Cuthbert gets a bum rap because of the silly story line they gave her on 24, but I thought she was very effective as the daughter.

Donovan: Oh, she's fantastic, she really did a hell of job. I think people are going to take note, absolutely. Do you have any other upcoming films to talk about?
Donovan: I have a glorified cameo in Wind Chill [slated for a February 2007 release], but it's a really interesting piece with Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada), who's brilliant. Fabulous. I play the killer-rapist-ghost-sheriff in that one. Oh, another one of those.
Donovan: Yeah. But it's kind of a cerebral horror flick, if you will.

Pick up the Aug. 14 TV Guide to see what Mary-Louise Parker has to say about the new season of Weeds.

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