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Terry Kinney Online

March 06, 2002, Wednesday
LENGTH: 807 words
Terry Kinney takes on 'Laramie Project'
SOURCE: Scripps Howard News Service
PASADENA, Calif. - When actor Terry Kinney was little he was always in trouble. "I was very mischievous but also someone that would constantly try to charm people, so I was class president in high school, but they tried to impeach me as well," he says, smiling.

That's why a guy like Kinney can play the tough prison administrator McManus in "Oz," as well as a grief stricken father of gay college student Matthew Shepard in "The Laramie Project," which premieres Saturday on HBO. "So there were two sides. I was a pretty emotional kid," says Kinney, who talked his way into "The Laramie Project" by convincing the writer-director that he could nail the part.

"I didn't like bullies and things like that. I always had a sense of right and wrong that was so overly developed. I got into trouble because I didn't listen to other people's rules. I made my own. And then I stuck by them and also preached about them to other people. If I saw someone being beaten up falsely or whatever - I came from a very small town and tended to jump into everything that I shouldn't jump into."

In a way, "The Laramie Project" was created by outsiders jumping into the affairs of another small town.

The film, which is adapted from a play, comprises interviews with the people of Laramie, Wyo. after the shocking anti-gay murder of Shepard four years ago. The interviews were conducted by a New York theater company who coalesced them into a play.

This film is about that process and stars people like Laura Linney, Steve Buscemi, Jeremy Davies, Peter Fonda, Janeane Garofalo, Camryn Manheim, and Christina Ricci.

Kinney says he relishes playing people mired in different psychological states. "I think I like to get into the head of very, very different people from myself and live like them a couple of hours," he says.

"My uncle is a priest and used to direct us in family plays. He directed all the plays at his seminary, and so I would go see those and get so involved, and knew I wanted to do something like that."

Kinney's dad wasn't sure his son could make a living at acting. And the truth is, neither is Kinney. "In retrospect all that talk about 'have something to fall back on,' I didn't want to fall back and wouldn't have done that, but I've got to say, he had a point. At some point when they're done with you - and you can feel it every once in a while - 'Is it now? Are they done with me? Will I ever work again?' And that feeling, to have it happen over and over in your life, what a lifestyle! I wouldn't want it for my kid. I tell her, 'Here, try this stethoscope on, honey, and see how that feels.'"

The father of a 6-year-old daughter with his wife, actress Kathryn Erbe ("Law & Order: Criminal Intent"), Kinney co-founded the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. For a long time theater was his main but not his only interest.

"We were groomed on films more than plays. It was films that inspired us. We wanted to do the kind of work (John) Cassavetes was doing with 'Woman Under the Influence,' Al Pacino in 'Dog Day Afternoon' and the movies 'The Scarecrow,' 'The Conversation.' We wanted to do that kind of intimate and focused work on stage where acting was so internal. That's what we did."

Kinney, with cohorts like Gary Sinise and John Malkovich, stayed with theater for many years. "But we did film because we finally wanted to make money, and it paid better. So I think the first thing I tried out for was a small part in a television show in Chicago that I got. And it felt so weird, so unreal because you're out on a real sidewalk instead of on a stage and you only work , like, 30 seconds at a time," he says.

"I'd done giant plays and here I was saying something like, 'Really?' That was it. That's all I got to do."

But now he prefers films and has co-starred in movies like "The House of Mirth," "Save the Last Dance," "Fly Away Home."

But his career moves were minuscule compared to life moves, he thinks. "The first time across the table I saw my wife, she was just an actress I'd never met when we were doing 'Grapes of Wrath.' I saw her clear across the room, and I was stricken. That was a big one. The biggest of all was the moment my daughter was shown to me across the surgical tent. It was a C-section, and that was a big moment."

Like most people, parenthood became an epiphany to Kinney. "I never realized, fully at least, how much of the adolescent hero I was hanging on to. There's a certain amount of ego that an actor has to maintain in order to do what they do because they've got to go 'out there' with it and be open about going out there. . . I think that what I learned permanently was that I now didn't come first, even in my own mind - even for a second."


Copyright 2001 Newsday, Inc.  
Newsday (New York, NY)


May 4, 2001 Friday ALL EDITIONS

A Shell-Shocked New Yorker Finds It's Raining Women

(2 1/2 STARS) THE YOUNG GIRL AND THE MONSOON (U) Terry Kinney galvanizes a thoughtful, if uneven, comedy-drama of a 39-year-old divorced parent who feels overwhelmed by pressures from a much younger girlfriend and a needy teenage daughter. With Ellen Muth. Written and directed by James Ryan. 1:30 (adult situations). Angelika Film Center, Sutton, Manhattan.


AMONG THE MOUNT RUSHMORE of Steppenwolf Theater pioneers who include John Malkovich, Gary Sinise and Joan Allen, Terry Kinney is the least prepossessing and arguably the most audience-friendly. He provides a very firm center of gravity for the daughter-and-dad drama "The Young Girl and the Monsoon," no mean feat when you consider that his character is standing on very shaky ground.

Kinney is Hank, a 39-year-old New York City photojournalist and divorced father to a very dramatic 13-year-old named Constance (Ellen Muth). Constance is an armful, boasting a talent for acting out her pubescent rages in Chinese restaurants and Central Park. She's manipulative and canny in the way that an only child can be, playing upon her father's guilt to buy her a Betsy Johnson dress or getting a rise out of him with a dirty joke she heard in school. She thinks Hank is weird.

And you can see her point. Hank has that nerdy, nervous air about him that comes from years of photographing terrible events in Third World countries and being jilted big-time by Constance's mother. He has an adoring, 26-year-old girlfriend in Erin (Mili Avital), a fashion model who can use the word "anachronistic" in a sentence, but he is working overtime to sabotage the relationship.

Written with intelligence and care by New York playwright James Ryan, "The Young Girl and the Monsoon" attempts to balance the angst of a middle- aged man, who feels overwhelmed by the two women in his life, with that of a precocious teenage girl who perceives more about her father's emotional life than she is able to articulate.

The effort is not entirely successful. A subsidiary set of relationships having to do with Hank's boss and former lover Giovanna (Diana Venora) has a glib, sitcom edge, and an otherwise excellent Muth is required to shed a monsoon of tears before the film arrives at its consoling destination. It's a likable enough film: Ryan can juggle throwaway sight gags about condoms as adeptly as a wrenching conversation about a drowning cow in Burma. There is enough interesting writing to make us wish that Ryan had not chosen to direct his own script, as the filmmaking feels a bit starchy and anemic.

As with "You Can Count on Me," one's admiration for the filmmaker's familial concerns offsets many of its shortcomings. In the end it's Kinney's compassionate and warmly life-sized performance that makes "The Young Girl and the Monsoon" worthy of attention.



Copyright 2001 The Providence Journal Company  
The Providence Journal-Bulletin


May 11, 2001, Friday, All EDITIONS

The ubiquitous Terry Kinney

With his staging of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest playing on Broadway, a leading role on the HBO series Oz and roles in several recent films including Young Girl and the Monsoon Terry Kinney looks like the latest King of All Media.

"Maybe I'm in all media," Kinney said from his home in Brooklyn, N.Y., "but I'm a blue-collar guy in every arena. I just tend to do things that cult audiences watch." A founding member of Chicago's Steppenwolf theater company - he's directing his old Steppenwolf cohort Gary Sinise in Cuckoo Kinney has mainly been employed in movies in supporting roles. But The Young Girl gives him a solid leading role, as a divorced New York photojournalist who can't bring himself to tell his 13-year-old daughter (Ellen Muth) about his 26-year-old girlfriend (Mili Avital).

"We did it on a very small budget and a few locations around New York," Kinney said. "It was such a hard shoot. I had a broken foot the entire time, it was hot and really uncomfortable and everybody screamed at each other all the time. But we really liked the material a lot."

Kinney also played an emotionally distant divorced dad in the recent box-office hit Save the Last Dance, which he describes as "a kids' movie."

"But it didn't start off that way," he added. "Most of the story was about a teenage girl adjusting to living with her father. Most of the dark qualities about where he lives and how he lived had to be cut out because MTV bought the movie."