Cat Chat: More With Paget Brewster
The actress talks about her road to Criminal Minds and the cat who was there along the way.
Christopher Ameruoso |
Posted: November 3, 2010, 3 a.m. EDT
Paget Brewster and her cat Chauncey.
Did your parents instill your love and respect for animals?
Yes, for sure. Do people not? I have never not had an animal, so I wouldn’t understand that. Of course, my family always had cats and dogs, so I knew that love at an early age.
Does your cat Chauncey have any of your personality and how?
Yes. She is dramatic and fickle, and she had a temper tantrum when we just shot [the photos]. I have never had a temper tantrum like that (laughs). I have never cuffed a co-worker in the mouth and cut her lip. I don’t need to be fed liver treats. But I do like craft service. Yes, I guess probably I am a little dramatic. She is an actress’ cat: demanding and childish. I don’t think of her as being old either. I constantly think she is a kitten. I forget that she is getting older. Chauncey is very healthy and she will have many more years.
What is a typical day like for Chauncey?
Whatever time I get up, and that varies from 4 a.m. to noon depending on shooting and my social life, Chauncey is meowing for her wet food. So she gets one of her little cans of food. Then she sits and perches on the chair next to me while I send e-mails and watch the news. Sometimes she lies down in my lap but then there’s the possibility of touching her in the wrong spot and she bolts, angry, and sulks a bit. Then I open the doors and she will come outside immediately and lie down in the sun. She doesn’t bring in lizards or mice, so that is nice. I’m not a fan of that, even though I know they are supposed to be gifts. Maybe that is just beneath her to kill anything. Then, napping — maybe 75 to 80 naps a day. Some vocalizing, clawing on us, drooling. Lying down by the fire to watch some TV and then go to bed. It’s a good life.
How did you get into acting?
I sang in bands — not particularly good ones — while I was flunking out of art school in New York. Then I moved to San Francisco with my drummer to start another band, and I was bartending for a long time. Then I started to go to acting school while in San Francisco. I got an agent to sign me, but I didn’t know that he handled correspondents and anchor people, so I ended up with a talk show. He sent me on an audition, and I got a talk show in 1994. Ricky Lake was on TV and all of a sudden there were all these talk shows on in the middle of the day. We shot 65 episodes, and it aired in the middle of the night. My talk show was called The Paget Show. I had a flat-top haircut, and they put me in Bill Cosby sweaters. I had no idea that there were audience warm-up people, so I did everything. I was still bartending because [the show] didn’t pay very well. We were on at 1:30 in the morning, and we had a 100 people in the audience.
Then I got an agent in L.A. while I was still in San Francisco. I told him I wanted to act and that I had been doing plays and going to acting school but was on TV every night as a talk show host. I moved to L.A. and started auditioning and was very, very lucky. I moved here in 1996 and that was when everything was a sitcom. It was a great time. Comedy and money and I was able to get work in sitcoms. I was really lucky. It was great timing for me with my L.A. agent.
What role have you played that represents who you are as a person?
There is an acting class that I have heard about but I have not taken. You go to the airport with a partner from your class, and you each have a sheet of 100 adjectives. You walk up to strangers and you say, “See my friend over there? Can you pick four adjectives that describe that person?” And it never varies. People will generally pick the same description of the person. Play what you are already.
I always get cast as articulate, fast-talking, educated, doctor, therapist, neurotic FBI agent, disaster love life, insecure but with a heart of gold. Until Steve moved into the house that absolutely described me, except I did fail out of college. So I think I’m pretty much cast as close to who I am. I’m not Meryl Streep. I fake a Romanian accent on cartoons, but it’s not good. [My character on] Andy Richter Controls the Universe is probably the closest to who I am as a person.
Have you ever modeled with your cat before?
No, this is the first time. And I didn’t know how difficult she would be as a partner.
What about your photography?
I don’t do it anymore. Part if it is because I am working a lot on Criminal Minds and am gone all day. Also, once everything went digital I really felt like I wasn’t good enough. I had been studying film and trying so hard and it kind of hurt me in this weird personal way that anyone can take a picture. It is daunting that people can take a great shot with an I-phone. I worked so hard to learn how to do an art form and it kind of broke my heart and I just haven’t really picked up the camera. It’s not that I just don’t want to shoot anymore; part of me is hurt by the evolution of photography. I totally understand the photographers who refuse to go digital because it is their medium; it is their art form. If I take pictures now it is shooting friends’ head shots which is one of the hardest things to do because people hate the way they look.
What role are you most looking forward to next in your career?
I would like to do comedy again. I love being in front of a live audience and shooting on multiple cameras. I miss it a lot. I really enjoy playing an FBI agent with blood and guns and shooting like a film. Before that I did Huff on Showtime for two years, and that was much like shooting a film but I really miss sitcoms and hope they get a resurgence because it’s the best way to live and work. I’ve also always wanted to do a miniseries in England, so I can bring my mom and we can hang out in London. All I do is watch those BBC miniseries. I want to be in a period show — Victorian or earlier. I want to work with pigs and cobblestones and carriages. I would love to do a horror film, but I can’t scream, and I don’t like running all day. So I’m going to go with the BBC miniseries.
What do you do to help animals?
I adopt from the pound. I give money to the ASPCA. I donate a lot of money because, unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time to personally be there. When I had more time, I used to walk dogs at the Lange Foundation [a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization dedicated to saving homeless and abandoned pets]. Before the animals get adopted, they need people to help care for them and walk them. I went to ASPCA to see if there was something that I can do. It was so heartbreaking, I didn’t think I could do it. I thought I was that person who was going to bring them all here, and although California has a low kill rate, it was still rough.
We saved a Boxer that was wandering around in the yard. We dedicated an entire weekend trying to find the owner. We did, and they finally came and got the dog.
We like to go to the L.A. river and feed the birds. Steve only likes the ducks, but I like feeding everybody. We have a skunk that walks through our house and eats the cat’s food. The previous owner said his name is Einstein. If he can get in and eat the cat food, who am I to stop him? He was here before me.
What are you working on now that you are most excited about?
CAT FANCY magazine is the highlight of my year — don’t think it’s not. Clearly Chauncey and I need to work more together and have better communication for future photo shoots. I’m on Criminal Minds, and I love it. I get to play an agent. I get to pay for all the wet food Chauncey can eat. I was able to fence in the property, so no more coyotes.
If Chauncey could tell us one secret about Paget what would she tell us?
Mommy likes red wine. Mommy likes to sleep. Mommy picks her fingernails and compulsively builds cheese plates. Yeah, I like cheese and crackers and fruit and chocolates. That’s my social life: We do it and people come over.
What have you learned from having animals in your life?
I have always had pets. If you have a home and you are able to love them and feed them and take them to the doctor and take care of them, you should. I know that a lot of people don’t like the word “pet,” but rather animal companion because they are their own creatures. I don’t own Chauncey. I feed her and I take care of her and she chooses to continue living here, which I appreciate. I try to keep her out of trouble. I think it teaches you how we are all creatures and all of the same God and nature and earth. I guess it is a friendship or love or mutual respect. I hope she respects me; she probably doesn’t. She is just getting away with murder as long as she can.
How important are pets for the well-being of our society?
I think pets are obviously important because it has been going on since we have been walking upright. We are built to want to have non-human companions. We want to care for things and share food and shelter with animals. Maybe it’s part of what makes us human to have other species of animals as part of our families. There has never been a time when people haven’t, and I think that points to something in our nature that wants that companionship or that responsibility or that return of love.
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Cat Chat: More With Paget Brewster