OSN’s latest comedy is about cancer. Yes we had to read that again too, and have to admit we’re skeptical about how they’re going to pull this one off. It’s brave, we give them that, and could either end up a sticky mess as they mock people’s grief and get labeled insensitive or, and the later is more probable, they’ll be up for an Emmy nomination for being so ballsy. The show is based around a family woman and teacher called Cathy Jamison who deals with her diagnosis by reanalysing her life (in a similar way to The Bucket List). While she could sit and wallow in her depressing news, she instead tackles life head on. She doesn’t want sympathy and, at first, keeps her diagnosis a secret, then goes about stirring everything up around her, being reckless and seizing the day. Actress Laura Linney tells us some more...
How would you explain The Big C?
It is a series about a woman who finds out that she has stage four melanoma [skin cancer] and has to make some decisions about how to live the rest of her life with the time that she has left.
What was it about this project that drew you in and made you switch to TV?
The subject matter was running around in my head so often, about time and life, how much time you have, and the privilege of growing old.
Did you see this show as more about a woman with cancer than a show about cancer?
When this script came to me, what hit me the most was the theme of time and what you do with time, the choices that we make, how we spend our time, the fact that we all have a limited amount of time and that it’s a privilege to grow old. That’s something that I think quite a lot of people have forgotten, in this very fast-paced world where youth is overly celebrated.
In the first three episodes, your character Cathy hasn’t told her immediate family she’s sick. Is that a hard concept for you to wrap your head around?
No, it makes sense to me. I get that. When you tell people, your world changes, your identity changes and people treat you differently. And then, not only do you have to deal with your own emotional response to what’s going on, but you take on everybody else’s emotional response. It’s a lot and she’s not ready to do that yet.
Your mum is a nurse, how much did she inform your role?
I certainly know a lot about melanoma, at this point. I know a lot about the process, what happens and what can be expected. And then, I’m actually going on the journey with Cathy because I’m at the age where relatives are growing older and friends are dying, sometimes in unexpected ways. It hits me in a very different way and, every once in a while, I’ll be filming and, normally things don’t really cross over, but something will hit me in a scene, and I’ll just start to cry. It’s part of why I love the show.
What would Cathy give as advice to other women going through a similar situation?
I don’t think she’d give any advice at all. She’s pretty self-consumed, at the moment and I don’t think she would dare take anyone’s advice. But, she’s learning from experience. She’s learning from the mistakes that she makes. She’s learning from her actions that are positive. And, more than trying to have a bucket list, I think she’s trying to figure out who she wants to be. There’s a lot of fun stuff that she does do because there’s a sense of liberation, which is so odd. When you’re dying, you’re liberated to do what you want to do. You give yourself permission. I think everyone’s experience with a terminal disease is so deeply personal and unique to the person, the context in which they’re living and the relationships that they have.
Do you have any thoughts about how the series should end?
I don’t want to miss out on what happens before that, if that happens. The thing that’s been amazing is that, since we’ve started the show, in the news, there’s all of this stuff about melanoma coming out. There are new treatments happening. Oddly, and sort of weirdly, we started the show, and then enormous research came out about this new treatment for melanoma. I don’t know what’s going to happen, so we’ll see. But, I find the time that she has left so wonderful that I’m game for whatever happens, as long as it’s honest.
Tune into The Big C at 10pm from March 30 every week on OSN Comedy.