Friday, June 22, 2012

Burn Notice - Gabrielle Anwar Interview

Burn Notice airs on Thursdays at 9/8 C on USA Network.

Note:  This interview contains slight spoilers for upcoming episodes.  I will update this post once I receive the official transcript.

Fiona Glenanne is one of TV's strongest female characters.  An ex-IRA bomber living with her CIA boyfriend, Fiona is an integral part of Miami's best crime-fighting quartet.  Last season saw big changes for the show and Fiona when she turned herself into the US government on charges of murder in an embassy bombing.  Gabrielle Anwar, who plays Fiona, called in to discuss how these changes affect Fi and the benefits and challenges of playing a character with such a vibrant personality.

Anwar is very grateful for the role of Fiona, especially since her character is often forced to create different aliases to infiltrate crime rings.  She finds it refreshing to play different people although the accents can be difficult.  Her favorite undercover persona was playing the stereotypical dumb Jersey girl a few seasons ago.  Recently she played a woman from Boston, which was a particularly hard accent to get right.  In the last episode they shot (6.08 or 6.09 she thinks) Fiona goes undercover as a mobster which is her favorite persona this season.  So yes spoiler hounds, Fiona is out of prison before the midseason break.  She also promises some romantic and emotionally charged scenes as a result.  Although Anwar was a bit cagey about revealing any major spoilers, she did allow that the CIA does have a purpose for Fiona much to Fi's chagrin. 

In disappointing news, there are no current plans to bring Fiona's back story into the CIA entanglement or to make a Fiona-focused movie like the Sam Axe one last year.  At least not to Anwar's knowledge although she would love to have an episode where Fiona goes back to Ireland.  She has an entire concept of Fiona coming from a wealthy family, which may not necessarily match creator Matt Nix's vision.  While Anwar does enjoy the enigmatic quality about Fiona's story, she thinks seeing a slice of Fi's life outside of Miami would be interesting.  Anwar would also like Fi to relax a little more although she thinks Fiona has been mellowing a tiny bit more each season.  Anwar joked, "Lowering her hem lines have somewhat calmed her a bit."

Anwar loves that Fiona is a strong female in a man's world.  She appreciates her impatience, intolerance, disdain of men on many levels, and her erratic and uncontrollable nature.  In fact she says that "all the things that are considered negative about a person are the things I love most about Fiona."  Anwar admits to having Fiona's impatience herself.  This translates in doing a lot of her own stunts because it eliminates coordinating on a tight schedule.  Her philosophy is "just teach me to do it and let's go."  Anwar appreciates that Fiona has remained a strong character and thinks TV has some fabulous female roles, especially with Homeland and The Good Wife.  She finds it "incredibly exciting and refreshing" that good women are being represented on TV.

Incarcerating Fiona was a bold move on the part of Burn Notice and Anwar thinks fans will see Fi maturing because of the experience.  She more keenly realizes the significance of people like Michael and Sam who have become her family.  Just like most, she sometimes takes them for granted and prison stresses their importance to her.  Although prison makes it more difficult for her to communicate with them, she does find a way to connect by trading favors and general resourcefulness.  She has more access to the outside world than people might think.  Fiona also has to adjust to the high female ratio.  For someone who spends the majority of her time in male company, it is difficult for her to develop relationships with other inmates.  Anwar thinks the show is subtly tapping into an element of distrust between women.  One thing Fi is not concerned about is her new prison style.  She may be a fashionista but prison provides much bigger issues for her than rocking the orange jumpsuit.  While Fiona finds jail a challenging change, Anwar actually wanted her to stay in a bit longer.  The best part was the phenomenal shooting schedule.  Anwar basically shot scenes one day a week, which allowed her to spend more time with her children. 

Another element of the incarceration plot line is the forced separation of Michael and Fiona.  Citing her own feelings about her children as an example, Anwar believes Fiona and Michael would sacrifice anything for each other.  Their commitment and devotion to each other make the sacrifice of her life and freedom for Michael believable.  Sacrifice in true love strikes a chord in Anwar, who believes that when people truly love each other they do things not out of duty to the other person but because they themselves feel compelled to give everything.  Still Anwar does not see Michael and Fiona settling down and having kids.  Fi thrives on the unconventional and doesn't like to define things.  Fiona simply wants them to be together without the shadow of the CIA or FBI.  Learning in the interview that the title sequence officially changed Fi's status from ex-girlfriend to girlfriend flustered Anwar.

Playing Fiona can be a challenge - the biggest of which is running in heels.  According to Anwar, her little toes "retired in season 2."   She isn't sure how you learn it but she considers running in heels to be an incredible skill, one to add to her resume︠.  Her background as a dancer might help.  She originally started in the dancing program at school but switched to the drama department after sustaining an injury.  She finds acting to be a lot less demanding than dancing was but the pain is comparable when "running around in bloody heels."  Another difficulty in playing Fiona is her tendency to shoot first.  Anwar has no formal weapons training although she did go shoot some bigger weapons in the beginning to get used to how heavy they are.  She finds holding a gun disconcerting because she is an ardent pacifist.  Knowing she is holding something that could potentially kill someone always throws her for a loop. 

On set, her difficulty lies in keeping a straight face.  Bruce Campbell in particular is always funny - "unparalled" as Anwar puts it.  She spends hours a day on set with him and still finds herself reading his tweets at night.  She admires his phenomenal humor.  Still it is a male-dominated set so while she gravitates toward dramatic scenes where they can show emotional vulnerability, the guys really get into the action scenes.  It can get a bit overwhelming for her.  So while they are getting giddy like 10 year olds over an explosion scene or when stunts take over the day, she sits with the girls and talks about shoes and things.  The male-female divide sporadically comes up in the scripts too, as she occasionally questions whether a woman would say something like "douche bag."  While they do improvise at times, they stay closely to the script if the scene is pertinent to the plot.  As far as guest stars are concerned, she has nothing but good things to say about them.  There is no one in particular she would like to see guest in the future but she loves how guests infuse the cast and crew with fresh blood.

When predicting Burn Notice's future, Anwar believes there are several great spy ideas around, so the writers will never run out of plot lines.  She appreciates the 6 year run and thinks they still have more seasons in them.  Originally she didn't think the pilot would even be picked up due to the phenomenally small percentage of pilots that actually make it on air.  Once picked up, she wasn't sure she could survive the intense Miami party scene that accompanied her pilot shoot.  She compares Miami to Las Vegas - always a party somewhere, but she has settled in nicely.  She follows the Miami Heat and tweets from their games.

See more of Fiona's adventures on Burn Notice - Thursdays 9/8C on USA Network.  

Screencaps by Forum TV,  ChanluuSpin the Loop, and She Knows

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