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An Interview with Dana Delany (Katherine, 'Desperate Housewives')

By

Dana Delany
Photo: Florian Schneider/ABC © 2010 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
April 2010

One question I often get asked is what makes for a good (and memorable) drama series. I've always believed that the heavily character-driven shows usually stand the best chance because viewers want to identify with one or more of the characters, they want to care and get invested in that character. In addition to the characters, I also believe that the shows that have defined a generation make for the most memorable of the bunch.

In a business where people seek the fountain of youth above all else, women from all walks of life were relieved when Desperate Housewives made it cool to be in your thirties, forties and fifties. Gone were the stereotypical housewives who "obey" their husbands and were barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.

Three years ago, Katherine Mayfair arrived on Wisteria Lane to give the neighborhood a much-needed makeover. Her character has escaped an abusive husband, dated the neighborhood hottie, spent time in a mental institution and reexamined her sexuality by entering into a lesbian relationship with an ex-stripper.

Dana Delany, who plays Katherine on the hit series, became a household name back in the '80s when she starred in the popular drama China Beach, and has kept us entertained ever since with that captivating and charismatic personality. I had the good fortune to speak with Dana about her days on China Beach, her role on Desperate Housewives, and a cause that is very close to her heart...

Q: When did the acting big strike?

Dana:
"I was three-years-old. I just knew I liked it, it was fun and nobody in my family had done it. I liked putting on little skits and plays and things like that."

Q: In addition to Desperate Housewives, you starred in the classic series China Beach -- which role are you most recognized these days?

Dana:
"I'd say there are three that get mentioned to me the most: China Beach, which I'm still proud of, Tombstone, which is a big favorite with the guys, and now Desperate Housewives because it's such a worldwide phenomenon."

Q: China Beach was such an influential series, were there any episodes that were particularly difficult to film?

Dana:
"The whole show was hard actually. I was still a young actor at that point and would drive to work every day not sure if I could pull it off. It was wonderful in the sense that it was a challenge and it's rare that as an actor you get to go home at night feeling like you really did something. That's how I felt everyday on that show."

Q: I understand you are involved in a very special charity, please tell us about it...

Dana:
"It's called Child Hunger Ends Here and it's being put together by ConAgra, who is in partnership with Feeding America, a food bank organization. They came to me to talk about this issue that was shocking to me -- 1 in 4 children in America don't know where their next meal is coming from. It's a silent problem nobody talks about because it's embarrassing for a parent to admit that. I just thought, we help so many other countries, why not help our own -- let's start here at home. It starts right in your own neighborhood and people can get involved. Website: Child Hunger Ends Here

Anyone can register and they'll give you a whole free package so you can start your own rally to raise money to go to these food banks. You can also buy some of the ConAgra products listed and each one sold will go towards raising money for 2.5 million meals. Also on the website will be a celebrity auction where you can buy items that celebrities have donated. For me in particular and courtesy of ABC is this Christian Dior dress I wore on Desperate Housewives the last episode I was on. They may have to fight me for that because I really loved that dress."

Q: How long have you been involved in Child Hunger Ends Here?

Dana:
"This is a new cause for me. I don't get involved in anything until I do my research, so I know that this is a good one."

Q: Is it true that you turned down the role of Carrie Bradshaw in Sex & the City?

Dana:
"Well, it was in the developmental stages of Sex & the City... Darren Starr was a friend of mine and I had been doing this little indie called Live Nude Girls (with Kim Cattrall). He saw the movie, which is very similar - four women sitting around talking about sex. I think it helped him with the idea, combined with Candace Bushnell's columns. He asked me if I'd like to be a part of it and at that point, I had done so many movies about sex and told him I couldn't do one more movie with sex in the title, people will kill me! That part is so much Sarah Jessica Parker's role, she made it what it is. I would never have had the fashion sense that she has."

Q: And you also turned down the role of Bree on DH?

Dana:
"Yes, they had offered me the role of Bree and again, I turned it down for what I thought were good reasons at the time -- I had just done a show that was very similar called Pasadena and I didn't want to repeat myself. These are just decisions you make. Of course, I did have those moments with Desperate Housewives where I thought oh my god, am I insane, what happened? I love being on the show now. Marc Cherry has been great to me. It's rare that people give you a second chance, so I will always be grateful to him."

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