Considering the success of psychologist-based drama The Sopranos, we’re surprised it’s taken so long (five years to be exact) to see another series adopt the winning formula. Based on the true story of Dr Donna Dannefelser, former female psychologist to the New York Jets American football team, Necessary Roughness is a rags-to-riches tale about a hard-up single mother who takes a job as a therapist to the members of a high-profile sports team. As her reputation grows, Dr Dani Santino (played by 42-year-old US actress Callie Thorne) finds herself the new go-to girl on the shrink circuit as her client list overflows with politicians, musicians and actors. We step inside her head to get some behind-the-scenes gossip.
What was it that drew you to this show?
Initially, the fact that it was a true story based on a real woman was why I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the script. To me, if Dr Donna is there in the writing room, that automatically means the story’s going to be that much richer and more layered. And I was right. I read the script and it felt so honest and like it was based on a real kind of truth. Once I landed the role and got to meet her, it all fell into place so perfectly.
What advice has Dr Donna given you that you’ve put into your character?
When I landed the role, before we shot the pilot, she and I got to meet in New York City – I was very nervous. But she has such amazing energy. We did a lot of talking about the steps she took through her career, but I just wanted to soak up her spirit because I think that’s partly what makes her story so extraordinary. She was always around to answer any questions I had about cognitive behavioural therapy or hypnotherapy, and she had given me a great list of books to read.
What do you find most challenging about the role?
That’s a good question. In any role, whether it’s on TV or film, it can be hard to do comedy and drama within one story, and I thought that’s what was going to be tough. But again, because it’s a true story and so many of these things that happen in the episodes really happened to her, it doesn’t feel like a pendulum swinging from a really funny scene to a touching scene. Sometimes it’s hard for me as Callie not to play her even more maternal. It’s hard for me to remember that there is still a boundary between the therapist and the client. Dr Donna’s always available for me to call and say ‘isn’t it hard for you sometimes not to want to hug your client? If they’re crying don’t you just want to hug them?’ And she’s like ‘I absolutely do. I have a heart, you know.’
Who do you most identify with: your character, Dani, or with Dr Donna?
The thing I most connect with is the idea of not giving up. It’s something that Dr Dani really works on with her patients in therapy. The bottom line is to not give up on yourself and that’s an ongoing thing I have in my own life – you sort of have to trust your instincts and just keep trying. And if you come up against a brick wall, you’ve got to figure out which way you want to go: up or around.
Who has been your favourite client for Dani so far?
TK, because he’s the first. It’s always going to be Mehcad Brooks’ character. even though each client that’s come in has been so out of the box. There’s been a professional poker player and a professional skateboarder. But I think TK will always have this special spot in her heart, because he was the first and he will always be the constant patient.
You seem to be known for playing feisty characters. Do you think your personality makes you good for those kinds of roles?
Yeah, I think so. I mean it has to be a mixture of trust in terms of who you’re working with and who’s writing for you and who you’re acting for, and who your bosses are in terms of how much of your own personality you bring to a role.
Necessary Roughness airs every Thursday at 11pm on OSN First.