As the raging nutjob Sheila on “Rescue Me,” Callie Thorne proved she had the chops to tackle anything – but she chose to go in a less crazy direction with the role of Dr. Dani Santino in the new series “Necessary Roughness” (debuts Wed. June 29 at 10 p.m. EST on USA). A Long Island mom and psychotherapist who finds her life in chaos after demanding a divorce from her cheating husband, by a stroke of luck (and a hot trainer played by Marc Blucas) she becomes the go-to head shrinker for high profile clients after she reforms bad boy football player T.K. (Mehcad Brooks). In a conference call Thorne talked to reporters about why the real-life story of Dr. Donna Dannenfelser got under her skin.
She wanted a chance to get real: Thorne says that playing a character based on a real person was a selling point. “[It] was why I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the script,” she says. “To me, that means the story is going to be that much more rich.” Meeting the real Dr. Donna only helped. “I was very nervous. [But] it fell into place so perfectly. There’s a spirit about her that fills up the entire page.”
She doesn’t know anything about football, either: Even though Dr. Dani's first big name client is a pro football player, she knows nothing about the game – which was a relief to football-clueless Thorne. “I do not know a lot about football,” she admitted. “I guess I’m a Patriots fan because I’m from Boston? But I’m getting to know a lot more about it and I’m finding it fascinating.”
It’s a tough job, but not for the reasons she expected: Initially she expected the script’s balance of humor and drama to be tough to play. But it turned out not to be the real challenge. “I think that in any role you have, whether TV or film, it’s hard to do comedy and drama within one story. I think I thought that was going to be hard. But because it’s a true story, it’s a very smooth journey through each episode. It’s actually one of the easier things. I think what’s hard for me is not to play maternal. It’s hard to remember there’s still a boundary between my character and the client. I can call Dr. Donna and say, “Don’t you just want to hug your client? Just hug em?” And she says, “Sure I do.”
She was ready for a starring role, mostly: After making a mark in ensembles like “Rescue Me” and “Homicide: Life on the Streets” Thorne was ready to take center stage. Not that it was easy, of course. “It was a really big transition, I’m not gonna lie,” she says. “I was nervous about being number one on the call sheet. Watching Denis Leary (of “Rescue Me”) be a master of the call sheet, it was like a master class. I didn’t realize all I was soaking up from him. The hardest thing for me is shooting one episode while I’m learning the episode. At first I was scrambling a little bit because I wanted to be overly prepared as I am in my other jobs, and that’s a real ass kicker. But I found that I thrive on it.”
She might get a love triangle on the show: Though sparks fly between her and trainer Matthew (Marc Blucas) in the pilot, there’s also sexual tension between Dr. Dani and the mysterious football team “fixer” Nico (Scott Cohen). “It’s kind of a delightful accident that happened during the pilot,” says Thorne. “Not that we weren’t meant to enjoy the relationship between Nico and Dr. Danni, but because the relationship is so different between her and Matt and her and Nico, it does set it up to be a delicious triangle.” So, will Matt get the boot for Nico? Thorne’s not saying. “Whether that would be a romantic relationship or he would become a confidant, that will come into play.”
She likes the idea of the show: “The thing I most connect with is the idea of not giving up,” says Thorne. “And that’s a thing I have in my own life. You have to trust your instincts and keep trying. It’s a daily exercise for her. And it’s a daily exercise for me.”