A Chance at Redemption
From creator Nancy Miller, TNT's new drama, 'Saving Grace,' is about a cop's last chance at redemption and stars Holly Hunter.
BY: Interview by Dilshad D. Ali
Yes, I do. In our simple minds, we have to come up with stuff. And this is what my simple mind came up with--I think that there are angels who do reach out to us. I believe in God. I believe in miracles. I think anything is possible from that point of view.
Have you ever been visited by an angel?
Not like this. But I have angels surrounding me in my life who have helped me. And I think that they come from God, too.
Earl is Grace's angel, but he's also a last-chance angel to a condemned killer on the show. What led you develop that kind of a relationship
When I was writing this, I didn't know that I would be doing this. Grace led me to [the character of the condemned killer, Leon Cooley]. Earl led me to him. It really just came through my fingers onto the page. I had not planned that. It felt so right because, of all the people in the world, Earl leads Grace to a condemned killer. How interesting is that? And [the condemned killer] is just as important to God as anyone else. But we don't say that. We just show it.
That brings up the idea of people who have done big wrongs. Do they also have a chance at redemption? What is the show trying to say about that?
I think we're trying to say that we don’t know those answers. And I'm not sure we should try to have a judgment about that. That's God's stuff. I don’t think we're trying to say anything except that maybe it’s possible--that the angel Earl, or God, wanted a cop and a killer together. And as we go through the show, in episode four you'll find out a little more about what's going on with Leon Cooley and Grace--and it kind of turns her world upside down.
It's all an exploration. It's not anything definite. We just examine and explore. And all of us working on this show have different spiritual beliefs. My faith sometimes gets in my way. We're doing an episode about an atheist, and my faith got in the way of that episode. Luckily, I have an atheist on staff to help.
How did you get past that?
My faith kept getting in the way of telling that story. And then I finally had to wrap my head around Earl, what Earl would think of this, and what God would think of this. I don't think God's worried about atheists. So our own beliefs are very interestingly played out on the show, as well.
And it's very important to me to not say one way is the right way. I'm a Catholic. But my Jewish friends--I know God loves them every much as he loves me. And who knows? At the end of the day, we may be the one that's wrong. So it's not my place to make blanket statements. [The writers of "Saving Grace"] all have our personal beliefs, but we're not trying to convince anybody. It's just, "Let's explore this. Let's examine this." Do you think this is a sin? Well, wait a minute. Why in the hell do you think God worries about that? It's that kind of stuff. And then you can make your own decision.
The real drama in "Saving Grace" seems to be centered on redemption. Do you have some sort of criteria for Grace’s redemption? What is she to be redeemed from?
I think she has to open her heart. And Grace's heart is open in a lot of ways, but it's closed in a lot of ways, as well. And I don't know if it's actions--things that she's got to do—to be redeemed, as much as Earl wants to heal her. And we all need healing, to figure out our own way in life.
Was Holly Hunter your first choice for "Grace"? She really fits the role.
She was on a wish list, and none of us thought it would ever come true. We sent her the script on a Thursday, and we found out on Monday that she was interested. It was simply amazing.
It’s been reported that each episode has a biblical theme to it. Tell us more about that.
Some of the episodes do. Like, in our first episode, it’s the story of Cain and Abel--hopefully in a surprising way. But not every episode will have a specific biblical theme. Some episodes we wanted to base on the Qur’an, some on the Torah. But, it's interesting—there are so many similarities between all the scriptures [of these religions].
The backdrop of this show is also very interesting--it takes place right in the Bible belt, in Oklahoma City. That's where you're from, right
Yes, and that was deliberate. I wanted this character to be surrounded by people who believe in God. Sometimes, it creates friction. In Oklahoma City, you see more American flags. You see more of that patriotism. And that's where I wanted this character. I know that city. I love Oklahoma City. The bombing is a big part of its character. And I also think Hollywood ignores that part of the country. They call them the flyover states. And that just makes me mad. I'm tired of stuff set in New York and Hollywood. There's more to the world than that.
What will be the hallmarks of success for this show? How will you know when you’ve accomplished what you set out to with this show
There are two sorts of layers to that. There's a very personal layer. And then I'll know that it's a success if people enjoy it if they talk about it. I hope God gets a kick out of it.