Sometimes technical difficulties aren't such a bad thing. Thandie Newton and I had just started discussing her new DirecTV drama, Rogue (her first spin as the lead in a TV series), and the clock was ticking. I had so many questions and so little time, I babbled out my first question more than asked it (and managed to call "Missing" and "Red Widow" movies instead of TV shows). But then, the camera guy called for the interview to stop. Something had gone wrong with his camera, so we needed to wait. And wait.
At first, the actress best known for "Mission Impossible: II and "The Pursuit of Happyness" and I sat quietly, waiting to get the signal to continue. When that didn't come, we just started talking. She chatted about her kids, the upcoming Easter holiday, the normal casual conversation you'd expect from any friendly mom at the supermarket. Her laid-back manner made her performance in "Rogue" all the more remarkable. As Grace, an undercover detective with a steely ability to play dirty, she shows how easily she can slip into the behavior of a wily drug dealer -- then, how she can fall apart. When Grace's son is killed, the cop goes, yes, rogue, forming a bond with Jimmy (Marton Csokas), a crime boss who may be able to help her find her little boy's killer.
It's a demanding role, and one that also includes some gritty, decidedly un-romantic sex scenes. So when the camera guy finally gave us the go-ahead to continue, I felt comfortable asking the personable actress about what was hard to even watch and must have been harder to film. Later, when I was told my time was up all too soon, I quickly told Newton that her raw, emotionally (and physically) revealing scenes reminded me of "Monster's Ball." She demurred, saying she could only hope to be as good as Halle Berry was in that role (for which she won an Oscar). Though Grace is a very different character than Leticia (Berry's character), the sadness for both of these tortured characters is palpable and communicated viscerally through their revealing scenes. While the series gets off to a very slow start, by the end of the first episode Grace is grappling with grief and how to do right by her son as well as her surviving family -- and Newton delivers. But I'll let you be the judge. "Rogue" premieres on DirecTV's Audience network at 9 p.m. tonight.