In April of 1993, my agent sent me a scene for an audition for a new on-air series called Picket Fences. I read the scene. It was well written with a delightful character of a woman Mayor. I was excited. You really celebrate good writing when you get it. Good actors become excellent at turning “sow’s ears into silk purses” with their material. Actors “sense” rhythms and phrases that are “in flow” with the character. Actors and writers should be good partners.
I auditioned for Michael Pressman , who was one of the producers, and a director on the show. It went well. Auditioning is a very sensitive thing. You can have great talent, work hard on an audition, drive to the audition literally on fire, go into the audition, and the fire went out mysteriously somewhere between waiting to go in, and the actual audition. Other times, all moments converge perfectly and you know you were great, and still you might not be what they are looking for. As I was driving home from the reading for Picket Fences, I knew I had given one of those auditions where I was great, and I knew they felt the same. That is certainly what you hope for. I felt the excitement of having done my best. I find I am usually more concerned about my evaluation of how I did in an audition, than if I actually got the job. I know I can always work to improve what I do; I know I can’t control what they do.
Later that evening, my agent called and told me they were “blown away” by my work. However… they did not feel I was well-known enough. Even though I was wonderful, they wanted to explore other female talent that would have bigger names. They would “let me know”. I felt like I had been punched. Once again, it was out of my control. What could I do about my name? Nothing.
Four weeks later, out of the blue, I was called to come in and audition once again. They had not found their bigger “name”. This audition was not quite as magical. I felt it was good, but not as good as the time before. They again said, they would be continuing their search for a name. This was a painful process. I really wanted to play Mayor Harris. I knew I could “soar” in this role.
On August fifth, my agent called and asked if I was sitting down. “You start work on Picket Fences in three weeks. They love you. You were the best. Everyone else they auditioned wanted too much money and weren’t as talented in the role as you”. I was stunned. I didn’t say much but, “thank you”. This had come at a time when I was financially strained and was considering living with my mother because I might not be able to pay my rent. I began working on Picket Fences. I sunk my creative spirit into this colorful character with all my passion and love of acting. “She” inspired me because she was not one dimensional. She was strong but fragile, passionate, opinionated, sexual, beautiful and not at all afraid to stomp on toes to get her way. In other words, Rachel Harris was great fun to play.
I fell in love with everyone and everything about this show. How could I not? The writing, the production, the actors and the crew were extremely talented and also very nice. Every ten days a script would arrive written by David Kelley. I never read these scripts silently. I would find myself spontaneously exclaiming, “Oh, my God!” , as I would discover what my character would be up to next. He wrote and created brilliant, human and hilarious situations for all the characters in Rome, Wisconsin in practically perfect scripts. David Kelley remains one of my favorite talents in our industry. I did 22 shows on Picket Fences as Mayor Rachel Harris. On Sept 10, 1995, I won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Dramatic Series.
Picket Fences on IMDB