This week has found me immersed in the writing of Chapter 7, which is all about how Claire Danes came to be cast in My So-Called Life. As Linda Lowy told me, she was only in the second week of her search for “Angela” when she received a VHS tape of “Skin Deep,” the Season 3 premiere episode of Law & Order. Naturally, I had to check it out, too. Let’s just say the quote in the photo above is no exaggeration: Claire at 13 was already a powerful force on screen. Everything we would later see in MSCL – the tears and roiling emotion just beneath the surface – are all present here.
I don’t want to spoil the plot for those who’ve yet to see “Skin Deep,” but her performance is so nuanced that it has the odd effect of highlighting just how overly melodramatic the rest of the cast are both here and in Law & Order in general. (Interestingly, “Skin Deep” also marked the television debut of Lauren Ambrose, who only gets a line or two as one of Claire’s school friends. Ambrose would go on to garner much-deserved attention for her portrayal of, um, “Claire,” on Six Feet Under. )
If you haven’t already I urge you to pick up the DVD and see for yourself, and please do let me know what you think. (Alas it’s not streaming anywhere as far as I know.)
Finally, the sharp-eyed among you will be saying “Wait a minute, what’s with calling Claire Danes ‘Claire’ and Lauren Ambrose ‘Ambrose?’”
This is actually the tip of a very large iceberg with which I’ve been grappling for nearly two years now. With two Devons and two Holzmans involved in the story of My So-Called Life, referring to everybody by either their first or surname has been fraught with potential confusion. Then there’s the overly clinical feeling of calling young people by their last names.
Finally, I’ve come up with a compromise for both this blog and the book that, I admit, may only make sense to me: everybody will from now on be referred to by their surname, except for Winnie Holzman and Claire Danes. There is a warmth and a wonder that the people I've interviewed for this book have used when discussing "Winnie" and "Claire" that, I must admit, has rubbed off on me a bit.
And after all, the story of My So-Called Life is in some ways the story of their unique friendship, so it seemed only fitting to single them out thusly. As MSCL writer/consulting producer Richard Kramer told The New Yorker, “Winnie wouldn’t be Winnie without Claire, and Claire wouldn’t be Claire without Winnie.”
So Beautiful it Hurts’ is neither endorsed by nor affiliated with ABC, The Bedford Falls Co.,or anyone involved with the making or distribution of “My So-Called Life.”
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