Saturday, September 09, 2006

Men In Trees - Sept. 9, 2006



On the comeback trail

A few years ago, Anne Heche was making headlines for the wrong reasons. Now, her new TV series may finally make them for the right ones.

By Eric Kohanik

Anne Heche knows what it’s like to be…uh…crazy.

In fact, she wrote the book on the subject.

Her 2001 memoir, entitled Call Me Crazy, retraced the harsh details of her dysfunctional and abused existence as a child and laid bare the inner demons that have shaped her life and career.

Heche first became the subject of tabloid headlines in 1997, thanks to her romance with comedienne Ellen DeGeneres. The gossip cranked up to a fever pitch just hours after they split in 2000, when a dishevelled Heche ended up hospitalized after showing up on a stranger’s doorstep, rambling on about a spaceship coming to take her away.

With such an offbeat past, it seemed like one of the most profound makeovers in history to see Heche all relaxed and smiling in July, this time fielding reporters’ questions at the Television Critics Association’s network press tour in Pasadena, Calif.

Now married for five years (to cameraman Coley Laffoon) and a mom to a four-year-old son named Homer, the 37-year-old Heche has the spotlight on her again. Only this time, her job is getting all the attention.

That job is Men in Trees, a remarkably entertaining comedy-drama that gets a preview telecast on Tuesday before settling into its regular slot on Friday nights.

The series casts Heche in a smart turn as Marin Frist, a bestselling author and relationship guru who gets booked for a speaking engagement in Alaska. On the way there, she discovers that her loving fiancé has actually been a cheating horn dog.

Emotionally battered and bruised, Marin tries to pull her life back together. In the process, she realizes that the Alaskan frontier is the perfect place to do that.

Men in Trees (the title is explained in the opening episode) is somewhat reminiscent of a 1990s TV show called Northern Exposure, but the premise is considerably different.

Although set in Alaska, it is actually filmed in Vancouver and in Squamish, B.C. – surroundings that Heche has found to be inspiring, both for the show and herself.

“I had been trying to find something that really suited my personality and was, basically, irresistible,” Heche says. “This script came along, and I felt that it was so wonderful and such a great combination of humour and drama.”

Heche sees a lot of her own journey in her character, too. “I feel that Marin, at heart, is like I am, at heart,” she says. “She believes that everyone deserves love. The rug gets pulled out from under her and she has to question everything that she believes.

“I find that interesting. I think self-exploration is one of the journeys in life that we are blessed to be able to have. To be able to do it with humour and, hopefully, grace is what I think this show allows us to do.”

And there’s nothing crazy about that at all.

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