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'Big Love' just a big family

The women who play the wives on the drama about polygamy say it's not about sex.

Published May 7, 2006

NEW YORK - There was something about playing the three wives on Big Love, HBO's polygamy drama, that made three actors answer "I do," "I do," "I do."

"I was really shocked at myself for signing on without knowing where it was going to go, or much of anything else," says Chloe Sevigny, who co-stars with Jeanne Tripplehorn and Ginnifer Goodwin in this unconventionally devout series (following The Sopranos on Sunday nights at 10).

"But after reading the pilot, I was so moved by it," she said during a recent interview with her two fellow actors/wives. "And I was fascinated by my character" - Nicki, the sulky middle wife of Salt Lake City merchant and father of seven Bill Henrickson, played by Bill Paxton.

"I got the call about the show when I was in my car," says Sevigny. "I went and picked up the script at the agency and read it in the parking lot. I had the meeting the same day, and we pretty much signed the deal."

"I had months of auditioning," recalls Goodwin, who was vying for the role of the excitable, childish third wife, Margene. "They gave me a love scene to do as my screen test. I went into a conference room with, like, 25 execs and a camcorder, and Bill and I were seated in two armchairs.

"I thought, 'How on Earth am I going to do a love scene? I'm going to have to sit with him!' So I crawled over, and I kind of feel like we made out. Then, afterward, I had to leave the room to gather myself. Out in the hall, I thought, 'What was I doing?!'

"I was pulling out of the driveway on the phone with my agent, saying, 'I blew it. I made out with a stranger, and I think I must have upset him.' "

Then another call came in: "Welcome to Big Love!"

"I'd really been wanting to do a television series," says Tripplehorn. "But I don't like legal dramas. I don't like medical dramas. I was looking for a comedy."

Before accepting the part of Barb - Henrickson's wife of 17 years and the matriarchal focus for the whole family - she initially wavered.

"I went through all sorts of emotions: 'I don't think I'm right.' 'Everyone is really nice.' " But she trusted the script. "The family situation was handled with such dignity and intelligence and class."

"Polygamy is just the backdrop," says Goodwin, noting the Henricksons' overwhelmingly righteous lifestyle in their three adjoining suburban tract homes. The fact is, Big Love seldom turns out to be what you expect.

[Last modified May 7, 2006, 07:07:16]

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