May 19--Beth Harper is a mess. She's obnoxious, undependable, out of control and mean to people, including her family, friends and neighbors.
But that all changes when she chokes on a sandwich, has a near-death experience and starts getting messages from God in "Save Me," a new comedy premiering Thursday, May 23, on NBC, channel 2, cable 9.
It was a "desire to make people giggle" that made Anne Heche want the role.
The Emmy-nominated actress, who starred in the comedy series "Men in Trees," HBO's comedy "Hung" and has a string of film credits opposite heavy-hitters such as Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman, loves comedy.
She said during a teleconference that she "fell in love with physical comedy" while performing on Broadway with Alec Baldwin in "Twentieth Century."
"You cannot get more pleasure, I don't think, than throwing yourself up against a wall and listening to an audience just cackle with laughter," the Ohio native said. "And I guess I kind of set out to make more of those opportunities happen for myself, for sure. And, 'Save Me' has fallen into that desire to make people giggle."
Heche, who has appeared on many popular TV series, started out as a soap opera actress first on "As the World Turns" and then played good and evil twins on "Another World." She said she wanted to quit acting after that job and go to Parsons School of Design in New York.
"I never thought in a million years that anybody would continue to hire me as an actress," said Heche.
She paid her first semester's tuition at Parsons but then got a call to audition for a part in the Hallmark Hall of Fame film "O Pioneers!" opposite Jessica Lange.
"And I got it and then was like, 'Well' -- this is so funny because it does dovetail kind of perfectly into 'Save Me' -- because I thought I must be getting a message from God. I mean, come on. Somebody's hiring me to go work with Jessica Lange? And so I didn't go to Parsons School of Design, and I haven't stopped working since."
The actress, who also starred opposite Harrison Ford in "Six Days and Seven Nights" and "Return to Paradise" with Vince Vaughn, said her character is human and makes mistakes.
"I think we all get messages. I think sometimes we're more in tune to it than others. And, like Beth in my show, I probably misinterpret messages often. And I'm going down, you know, trippy, windy roads trying to find out if I've interpreted them correctly.
"And I'm sure we all do that. It's part of what I love about the show. We look for signs. We look for messages. Sometimes it comes in a book, sometimes it comes in the stars and, you know, we try to figure out how to make our lives work. And that's all Beth has really tried to do. And she doesn't always do it elegantly and, certainly, neither have I, so I relate."
She said the show is also about second chances in life and what people can do with them.
Her character, she explained, is a housewife from Ohio who isn't a great mom or a great wife, drinks too much, plays too hard and isn't a responsible person. Her life isn't great and, after choking on a hoagie sandwich, she gets a second chance to do it again.
"She wants to do it right, and she wants to make people happy along the way. And I like that. She's a really positive person," Heche said.
Heche knows about second chances. Her book "Call Me Crazy" detailed her horrific childhood include sexual abuse at the hands of her father who died of AIDS when she was 13, the suicide of one of her brothers and moving nine times before she was 12.
"I love that because I've been blessed with many chances in my life that I get really excited by being able to play women that get to do it all again, you know?"
When: 7 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: NBC, channel 2, cable 9
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