'Body of Proof' Dana Delany interview: 'I'm kind of a science nerd'

Desperate Housewives star Dana Delany chats to Digital Spy about her new show 'Body of Proof'.

By Catriona Wightman / July 15, 2011
When it emerged that Dana Delany was leaving Desperate Housewives, there were lots of sad faces here at Digital Spy.

Luckily, the real news was that she'd landed her own show Body of Proof! The series - which stars Dana as a medical examiner - is beginning in the UK next week, so we thought we'd catch up with her to find out more.

Read on to see what Dana had to say about the show, dashing FBI agents, wrapping her tongue round that tricky medical jargon, and whether we'll see her on Desperate Housewives again...
Body Of Proof/ABC
Can you give us an overview of Body of Proof?
— It's a mystery show where I play a medical examiner, and every week we're going to have a different body and find out how the person died. But it's more than that. It's also a character driven show in that my character, Dr. Megan Hunt, used to be a neurosurgeon, and then her life takes this turn where her husband has left her because she's so obsessed with work, gets full custody of her daughter, and then she has a car accident that makes her hands go numb so she can't operate anymore. She has to change her life completely. I see this turn in her life as a way for her to redeem herself. In many ways, she's learning from the dead people how to be a human being again, or how to be among the living. There's going to be strong evolution of the character.

So it's not a standard procedural?
— No, it's not. I personally feel that people are getting a little tired of that, that they want more about character. Even towards the end of Law & Order you started to get back stories about the detectives. I think people are a little more hungry for that now.

So tell us about your character, Megan.
— She's very complex, that's why I like her. Well, first of all I like her because she's really smart. I'm kind of a science nerd - I really like all the medical stuff. She's complicated, not always nice, kind of abrupt, direct, gets very impatient with people because sometimes they're not as smart as she is. And she's also flawed. She's not a good mother, she didn't know how to be a good wife, so she's learning about those things. She also has a very strong mother and a very strong daughter so there's a lot of tension!

Do you think it makes it more realistic, that she's not perfect?
— Yeah, well, are you perfect? I think we're all kind of imperfect and we're all constantly evolving, hopefully.

So how does Megan change?
— In the pilot people say to her, 'You need to get some friends', because she's always kind of done everything on her own and relied on herself, and so she's learning how to ask for help, which I think is difficult. She's learning how to listen to her daughter and not just try to take over. She's going to finally let some man into her life so we'll see how that goes...

Can you tell us anything about that?
— It's going to be a dashing FBI agent that she's working with. I won't tell you who, but it's somebody you know. He's pretty well-known. It's great.

Did you have fun shooting those scenes?
— Yeah, that was fun. Up until that episode I'd been pretty much all business, you know?

Do you think it's important to examine the work-life balance in the show? It's something that affects lots of women.
— Yeah, I know it affects me. I certainly think I hide behind my work a lot, because first of all I love my job. I love to act, so I'm not going to stop acting. But it is hard to find the balance. I don't know how most women do it. I mean, I've never been married, I don't have kids, and I always marvel at women that can do that because I don't know that I'd be able to do that. I think I made that decision early on, that I wouldn't be able to do that. I remember Katharine Hepburn saying something about that years ago, that acting is a very selfish job, you have to be to do it well. I think it's hard to come home from working 15 hours a day to cook dinner for somebody. I don't know that I could do that. When I come home from work I've got to learn my lines for the next day, so you have to have a really supportive partner.

You mentioned a love interest, but how does Megan's relationship with her daughter change?
— Mary Matilyn Mouser plays my daughter. She's a wonderful young actress and I feel lucky that I get to act with her now because I think she's going to be great. In the beginning, which I really like, she doesn't let me in. She's really tough with me. She says, 'You weren't there for me, don't pretend to be here for me now'. She's really good because she's not letting me in and I have to prove myself and back off once in a while and say, 'OK, when you're ready, you tell me when you're ready'. I have to learn to listen to her. Usually I'm telling everyone what to do, but she's the one person I can't tell what to do.

Normally your own daughter is the one person you can boss around!
— Yeah!

What was it about the show that appealed to you?
— It's a complex character, which is nice for an actress. In TV you can really do that and have a complex female role. In movies, you tend to be the wife or the girlfriend. And also I like mysteries. I read them. I read a lot of mystery crime novels. I love the medical stuff. I think in a prior life I was a doctor or something. I got to do the research and I've been to four autopsies now and I get to participate in them. That's an honour, to be able to witness that because the average person doesn't get to. That was something that made me one, revere this instrument that we're all given and made me really want to take care of myself, and then also it makes you understand why Megan Hunt is honouring these people that are dead. You have to remember that these were human beings and they lived a life. Our show is right - the body is the proof, because once you make that Y incision and you open them up... Like, if I opened you up now I could tell you how you lived your life just by looking at your organs. It's quite amazing.

Were there any specific challenges to doing a medical show?
— The words. The words are hard. It was really hard at the beginning. I don't know if you know, but I'd actually had a car accident very similar to my character. So I had a concussion and it was hard anyway to remember anything, let alone medical terms! So there were words that were hard but the brain does adjust. I think that it's a muscle that you just need to exercise - it's not actually a muscle, but it's some neural pathway. I should know this, I'm a neurosurgeon! But it starts to become easier after a while. By the end of the 13 episodes that we shot I could look at a word, I could figure out how to pronounce it, I could figure out pretty much what it meant and then I would just look on my iPad and look up the procedure and the word and it would give me what it really is. It was cool.

You left Desperate Housewives on good terms - could we see you back on the show in the future?
— I hope so, yeah. [Creator] Marc Cherry left it open and said, 'We'd love to have you back and see what happens to Katherine'. So I'm curious. I'd like to see what happens to her.