Photoshoot by Chris Kilkus
Source: http://www.kadee-strickland.org/L'interview du yrbmagazine.com
by Nancy Dunham
Photography by Chris Kilkus
Obviously, Margo Channing never met KaDee Strickland.
Channing, of course, was the fictional legendary theatre actress Bette Davis played to perfection in the classic movie All About Eve. For any woman to succeed in acting, she’d best rely on well-aimed stilettos and nails sharpened to daggers to scratch and claw over rivals and up the ladder of success, Channing counseled. So how does a Georgia woman hold onto traditional southern values, a southern dialect and the name her parents gave her (Katherine Dee, shortened to KaDee) yet succeed in silver screen epics (American Gangster. Something’s Gotta Give) and a major network television program?
Strickland has done all of that and more. Currently featured in the multifaceted role of Charlotte King, M.D., Chief of Staff of the local hospital on the Grey’s Anatomy spinoff Private Practice, the secret seems to be that Strickland remains firmly planted in the reality of life and its lessons.
YRB: You’ve been quoted as saying that, “If you can make anybody think in this day and age, and entertain them at the same time, that’s a dream come true.” Has this show really had that type of impact on you?
KaDee: One of the best experiences, the most profound experiences, I had recently as a part of this show was when Planned Parenthood honored Shonda (Rimes, the creator of Private Practice). I’m a real advocate for Planned Parenthood. It’s a no brainer to me. I remember when I was a broke actress in New York and going to that organization and being taken care of. I am beyond amazed at what Shonda has created, accomplished.
They did this playback of the topics Shonda has tackled on Grey’s and Private Practice in terms of things that people don’t really talk about so much in these medical shows. Certainly not with the sort of humor and grace and honesty that Shonda does. For me, to show adults taking HIV tests because they’re taking a new step in their relationships or women confronting having had abortions in their youth and not being supported…and just the use of condoms.
So, being part of this show is a gift to me. I am a documentary television watcher. I love that stuff. To be on a series and be on a show that actually is as educational and informative in its own way, its own manner, as something like Biography Channel or History Channel or documentary television is a gift. And yes, sometimes we throw pure entertainment into it. I think there’s a real blessing in being able to show that people with really high stakes lives and jobs, and frankly, people with literally tremendous pressure have personal lives. It’s intense.
YRB: So, how do you separate from that intensity and function as an actress in LA and then move into your own private life?
KaDee: You know, I am one of those people that have the great fortune to be married to someone (actor Jason Behr) and in a faithful relationship. I am very secure in that aspect in my life. I grew up with parents who were Sunday school teachers and very, very specific about their beliefs that were attached to intimacy. There is a built-in respect for yourself and the way you allow yourself to be received as a woman and a partner. I was definitely reared with that, and I am incredibly indebted to them for giving me a moral background that has aided me in making choices. You can very much throw yourself into the work - that is not healthy and I’ve found it actually stifles the process a lot.
YRB: You play this role with such intensity and skill. Did you heavily research it?
KaDee: We have an incredible writing staff and a good number have been in the health care system in the roles we are playing. We also have researchers that are absolutely crackerjack. They don’t pull these ideas out of thin air. They’re based on actual cases. Also, my mother is a nationally recognized R.N. She has been so wonderful (and supportive, answering questions and filling in details)…To get to sit down with a nurse who has had to make the hard choices such as turning off the life support, that’s invaluable.
YRB: That has to take a lot of time.
KaDee: It’s worth it. Everyone [who works on the show wants] it to be great. We want people to feel they spent an hour of their lives that were not wasted. Maybe they had some fun, learned something, or had a thought they didn’t have before the episode.
YRB: I’ve read your parents, like most parents would likely be, were hesitant about your career plans.
KaDee: I was the last kid in a family of educators with very obvious career paths. My career path couldn’t be more shrouded in mystery. When you think of that, what parent wouldn’t be scared? What parent wouldn’t ask `Where is your job security?’ And I just had to say, well, trust me.
YRB: And now?
KaDee: It is a real, real point of pride when my mom calls and says, “That was very realistic, baby. You really pulled that off.” I don’t really care what anyone else says. I can only say with my parents it’s very validating when they are proud. And there’s crazy stuff, like I got to act with Russell Crowe, and he’s my dad’s favorite actor. I could call him and say `Hey daddy, guess what?’ It’s an amazing opportunity creatively and artistically to work with these people. For me, it’s that little moment when I know my parents say `Wow, you got off the farm and that’s what you’ve done; you’ve created this life for yourself.’ The biggest issue I have right now is talking my dad off the ledge each time I have a love scene.
YRB: It had to be somewhat disconcerting to leave your small hometown and go to Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles to compete in such a rugged industry.
KaDee: I didn’t have a choice. It’s just who I am. I’ve never given myself a choice. That was what I had always wanted. When you are hungry for that and can’t be sated. It was literally like being in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. When you are exposed [to tremendous creativity] you are going to take advantage of it.
YRB: It’s interesting that you maintain your balance and haven’t fallen into the celebrity/tabloid trap so many in your profession do.
KaDee: I think you also make a lot of choices that are sort of the foundation for what comes your way. If my husband and I were more interested in going to clubs or being photographed that would come to us very easily. But the truth is, if you don’t play with it, it doesn’t play with you so much.
YRB: And you are said to downplay your looks, your sexuality.
KaDee: I never was the girl that had it to begin with, so to speak. That was the thing I was taught to rely on. It’s still strange to me. This character is the most challenging I ever had. You’ll see why in coming episodes. I do role-playing. I’m the Catholic schoolgirl with whips and chains. That wasn’t something I thought I’d ever be doing. But it’s just creating a false reality. If someone thinks I’m attractive well, bless them, that’s so nice. I think people forget we get paid to play dress up. We have a village making us well-lit, well-dressed, pinned, made up, hair blown out – we are, in those moments, an illusion with artists working on us. Half the time I feel like a piece of clay they mold. That’s not really who I am. I’m just me.