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Interview: My So-Called Life's Patti D'Arbanville on Playing Rayanne's Mom



“You could not concentrate on anything else with her in the room, you just couldn’t. She was distracting and intoxicating and terribly charismatic. I would sit and listen to her, watch her move, watch other people react to her; I was just mesmerized.”*

This is how actress Patti D’Arbanville was described to me by her My So-Called Life daughter AJ Langer ("Rayanne"). And though we only spoke by phone yesterday (thanks, Patti), I get what she meant.


Having been an actress, model and cultural icon for years, D’Arbanville has cultivated the refreshing air of someone who calls things as she sees them while remaining easy-going, humble and proud all at once. Back in the day we used to call this “cool,” before we started using that term for absolutely everything.


Though Amber didn’t get a whole lot of screen time on MSCL, she did make a lasting impression. Her biggest moments may have come during the episode “Other People’s Mothers,” but it was in her first, “Guns and Gossip,” that she revealed something that, in hindsight, is very My So-Called Life.


In the scene immediately following Mr. Foster’s Q&A session with the parents about the recent discovery of a gun in school, Angela’s mom, Patty, and Rayanne’s mom, Amber (D'Arbanville), continue to talk about their daughters outside. At one point Amber hoists herself up on a short wall and begins to rummage through her bag, and pow! From that moment on, her mannerisms are the very same ones we’ve seen Rayanne demonstrate in earlier scenes, and earlier episodes. This doesn't appear anywhere in the script and no one I've spoken with so far remembers this being in the scene's direction. “I studied AJ,” D’Arbanville confirmed yesterday. And from that one subtle detail we learned more about Amber’s daughter than we probably would later on.


Finally, D'Arbanville also brought up something about the end of the series that I’ve heard from no one else before; something so important that I’m now going to have to go back and ask everyone else about it. Many thanks to Patti for adding one more puzzle piece to an already fascinating story.


*For the record, D'Arbanville described AJ Langer pretty much the same way

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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