Dorri Olds caught up with Oscar-nominee Kathleen Quinlan for a one-on-one to talk about “After,” her latest flick. Quinlan plays Nora Valentino, the matriarch of a New York middle-class family. Nora is married to Mitch played by John Doman (“The Wire”). Their eldest son Christian (Pablo Schreiber) is trying to hold everything together. The family stone-cutting business is failing and Mitch has wracked up debts but he throws his hands up and leaves Christian to deal with it. Christian is trying to decide how to handle it. His wife Molly (Mandy Gonzalez) is disgusted with the stress. Everyone seems to be cracking under the weight of life on life’s terms.
Writer/producer Sabrina Gennarino plays Maxine, who feels like a failure compared to her sisters. One is living an exciting life in New York City and the other is happily married with a kid. Maxine is questioning everything — who she is, what she wants, whether it’s smart to stay with Barry (Darren Dewitt Henson), the man she’s in love with. The youngest brother Nicky (Adam Scarimbolo) is a disaster. He’s violent, stoned and self-destructive. Diane Neal (“Law & Order SVU”) is the screwed up but charismatic Aunt Kat.
Sadness, turmoil and dysfunction aside, the family loves each other even though most of the time they don’t seem to like each other very much. That right there is a universal reality — most families drive each other crazy. It’s a character-driven movie with richness and depth. I ran into some disappointment with the ending. It seemed to come abruptly and I found it hard to believe that a family could’ve carried out that type of deception. I’ll tell you what, though. I couldn’t shake the film from my mind. It intrigued me enough to watch a second time. I enjoyed the journey even more when I knew the destination.
Dorri Olds: Did you find the family situation plausible? Could a family facilitate that type of denial?
Kathleen Quinlan: Oh, yes. I think families carry out that type of denial every day. Look at the world — it’s too much to take in all at once.
What other projects are you working on?
I play Daniel Radcliffe’s mother in “Horns,” a supernatural thriller due out this Fall. It’s directed by Alexandre Aja and written by Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill. It’s about what would happen if something removed your ability to edit yourself.
I read you’re in a film about a college football player hooked on ADD medication.
Yes, it’s another independent film, called “ADDicted,” which is in post-production now. A young actor named Luke Guldan plays my son. He’s trying to find himself and ahs to answer to the pressures of what his family wants for him versus what he wants. The mother has a very driven political career so a lot of her ambition is projected onto him. It’s about coping mechanisms.
How old were you when you started acting?
I was 18 when I did “American Graffiti.” They shot it at my high school. I realized storytelling was something I could do. I could touch people in some way and that was very exciting so I moved to Los Angeles and kept working.
Did you get caught up in the Hollywood lifestyle?
L.A. was fun in the beginning. I had a great background in athletics so I was a very disciplined worker and didn’t stay out late or go to a million parties. I went to some parties when I was young but that’s not what it was about for me. I liked other things. My father raised me on nature. Scuba-diving, fishing. I loved working but I like to go to the beach and go up in the mountains rock climbing.
Which movie role stands out the most?
Certainly working on “Apollo 13” was a pinnacle. Especially meeting Jim and Marilyn Lovell. To be able to meet a historic figure like that. They’re the nicest, most grounded people and I stay in touch with them after all these years.
Did you ever sing for a role?
Okay, now I get to tell you a story. I went to the College of Marin. It was a really prolific drama department and Robin Williams was part of our group. We did “Fiddler on the Roof” together. I was Hodel and he was Perchik. So we sang and he sang to me. I’ll never forget it. Francis Ford Coppola came to see that production. I was so saddened by the news of Robin Williams. Everybody seems to feel it. What a profound effect he had.
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Dorri Olds is a journalist at Honeysuckle Magazine, TheBlot Magazine, The Jewish Daily Forward and has been published in The New York Times.