The closing minutes of the Oct. 28 episode of “Private Practice” shocked viewers when Charlotte (KaDee Strickland) was attacked in her office by a mysterious man whose face was never revealed. The assailant, played by “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”‘s Nicholas Brendon, is a patient named Lee McHenry.
Thursday’s (Nov. 4) episode, “Did You Hear What Happened to Charlotte King?” deals with the brutal aftermath of the assault and rape and doesn’t pull any punches. Strickland talked with Zap2it about tackling her biggest storyline on the ABC show to date.
What was your reaction when you heard about the storyline?
I think this is one of those episodes where people will ask the question, ‘What what I do if this happened to me?’ That kind of provocative nature is what I knew was immediately gonna happen and ultimately overall, and this was an instant feeling that came to me in my bones, I knew this was really going to be a very helpful thing for the community of survivors and people that have maybe never reported, people that have maybe never gotten the counseling or people that have been involved with or family members of survivors that have never gotten treatment themselves, I just thought that ’cause so much of this episode deals with all of the characters and their response, which makes them a co-survivor. I knew this would be remarkably impactful for the audience that we draw and I was so happy that.
Charlotte is a very in control and tough character. Will viewers be seeing a different side of her?
The nature of that kind of attack is so shocking to a person’s system a lot of times that how they respond in those first moments afterwards, it could go six ways to Sunday. For Charlotte, because of the type of person she is, very in control, very direct, very together, I think it really turns her world upside down, and I think she doesn’t really know how to even comprehend what has happened to her or how to process it. I think the instant notion for her is to get Addison (Kate Walsh) there because she knows she’ll be a professional, she knows that she’s a private person, and she cannot have a man help her take care of this. Charlotte can’t even genuinely admit it to herself on one level. You watch all of the machinations, you watch all of the softening that I believe Charlotte’s been doing this season get built back up. You see that armor go back on her, but you also see different color of her that we’ve ever been allowed to see because there’s never been a reason to show them.
We know Charlotte tells Addison what happens, but will she be hiding it from the other characters?
She is hiding it. She’s in denial. She’s in denial of reality and she’s in denial that her life is not gonna be forever changed. I think on some level, Charlotte does honestly know that, it’s undeniable. I think often times when you see someone beaten as badly as Charlotte is, you would almost automatically feel it in your bones that perhaps something more happened and I think some of the characters start adding that up early than she would like.
How will the attack affect her relationship with Cooper (Paul Adelstein)?
You’ll see a different dynamic between Charlotte and Cooper than you’ve ever seen. You’ll see her push and pull and because of the fact that she’s in this hiding state, particularly with him and I think that’s a very natural response, for someone to not want to open up to their intimate partner, intimate sexually and intimately just in matters of the heart. I think it’s very difficult for her to let him feel her feel pain. However, she unravels so of course he does and you see her lean into him in a way that I don’t think the audience has ever really seen and I love that this happens here. Human beings cannot help but respond certain ways when the people they love are in pain and I am not only in physical pain and emotional trauma, but I know that the person that loves me more than anyone else is in great pain just looking at me.
What about Charlotte’s relationships with the other characters?
Every relationship is affected so it’s not just Charlotte’s with Addison, Charlotte’s with Pete, Charlotte’s with Cooper, every relationship in their own context. You’ve got Violet and Pete ’cause she is a former victim of rape, sexual abuse and survivor and she is genuinely a survivor. She’s been living with this for twenty years, she’s very healthy around it. She is in the exact opposite place that I’m in, however, you see her and her needs from her partner affected. You see one develop with Sheldon that I specifically really love and one develop with Amelia that I specifically really love. It has absolutely penetrated everyone. Naomi comes back having missed all of this so you can imagine what that does to her.
How long is Nicholas Brendon’s character around?
You will see that there is more to Lee McHenry, who Nicholas Brendon plays, than meets the eye. You find out more about who this man is. I really love what they’ve done in terms of giving you a bit of backstory around him. Lee McHenry doesn’t go away. He’s not done after tomorrow night’s episode. That’s for sure.
How will Addison being the only one who knows about Charlotte’s assault affect her relationship with Sam (Taye Diggs)?
It’s so good. There’s a lot of miscommunication that happens when someone decides to keep something to themselves and it’s absolutely destroying them internally. Imagine the comfort that Addison is seeking from the person she loves, the need for that because of this horrendous thing that has been shared with just her. You have not only the confidentiality that is by law there, you also have the confidentiality of woman to woman. I think part of living with secrets is they really do eat you alive if they lay dormant in your heart. You’re going to see Addison struggle and you’re going to see how Sam plays a huge part in helping her resolve that.