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So, Shonda RhimesGrey’s Anatomy spin off, Private Practice, is returning next month for a second season, and though it was one of the highest rated new series of the 2007 Fall season, PP did have a few problems. The cast is first rate, sure, but I don’t think I was the only person who had a hard time connecting with the various characters and story lines surrounding  the Oceanside Wellness Group.

However, since we last saw the show, a few things have been tweaked. Rhimes says that Private Practice will have a clear focus this time around, concentrating on the moral and ethical dilemmas the physicians face every day. And several of the actors are insisting that the series has finally found its voice. I, personally, won’t be convinced of that until I peep the premiere, but after hearing from a few of the show’s stars — Tim Daly, KaDee Strickland and Amy Brenneman — I’m sort of psyched to see if Shonda will deliver. 

But before we get to the interviews, a quick refresher course and a couple spoilers: Last we saw the crew, Addison (Kate Walsh) and Pete (Tim Daly) had an undefined sort of romance going until Gilmore GirlsDavid Sutcliffe showed up and got in the way. Sutcliffe’s character, Officer Kevin, is sticking around this year, perhaps to Pete’s chagrin… Charlotte  (KaDee Strickland) was busy making enemies at work and shutting people out when she and Cooper (Paul Adelstein) — an unlikely pairing — seemed to forge a bond. They’ll be intimately involved this season, which leaves Cooper’s best friend, Violet (Brenneman) — whose been struggling with her own romance issues — feeling a bit abandoned…

Alright, caught up? Let’s talk to the cast…  

Timdaly2_privatepractice_abc_240Tim Daly
Now that  David Sutcliffe’s Officer Kevin is hanging out with Addison, where does she stand with Pete?
I think [the Pete and Addison relationship] will be backburnered for a while, but it’s not like Pete doesn’t have stuff on his stove. He has his own thing going on, which is actually really interesting. In an upcoming episode, a woman that is very important to him, comes into his life. She reveals a lot about his past, which is kind of cool.

An ex-lover?
Yes. She’ll be in episode 3 or 4, I can’t remember.

So we’re going to learn more about his personal back story. And professionally, any interesting cases for Pete?
There’s nothing I can think of specifically, but he’s involved in other people’s cases, and [dealing with] these moral and ethical dilemmas that Shonda has mentioned. We’re having a lot fun.

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KaDee Strickland

Charlotte has certainly changed since we first saw her, no? Softened a bit?
Yes, it’s wonderful. I love playing this role so much.

The relationship between Charlotte and Cooper is interesting because it kind of came out of left field.

Yeah, that’s absolutely true, but it just goes to show that life is very unpredictable, I think. The truth is that people end up in the most unlikely situations. You can be around someone for years and not know you have chemistry with them. Charlotte and Cooper have been in this professional environment, never knowing that they have a similar proclivity, if you will. And where that’s leading is really just wonderful. I’m really thrilled.

How will that work for them professionally? Charlotte and the Oceanside Wellness Group have clashed over patients’ issues in the past. Will that continue?
Absolutely. You’re going to see a lot more of that and you’re going to see it deepen and go in directions that are pretty unexpected.

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And is that going to complicate Charlotte’s relationship with Cooper?

Well, I’m finding out as the scripts roll out, it’s possible.

How do the rest of the Oceanside Wellness Group doctors react to the news of Charlotte and Cooper’s relationship?
[Smiles] I don’t know yet.

You don’t know yet or you aren’t allowed to talk about it?
Maybe a little bit of both.

You’re trying to be evasive!
[Laughs] I’m being VERY evasive.

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Amy Brenneman

Violet is a character that went through a lot last year, emotionally. Is that what drew you to her?
Yeah, I just thought she ran really deep. Last year, when Shonda was writing all these whacked out things for Violet to do — that I was having a blast with — I thought, Violet is very emotional, but she knows that she’s crazy. She has this self-awareness, because she’s a shrink, but she has to go to therapy herself. For me, that’s very poignant. It’s like, you know what you’re doing, but you still can’t stop the behavior. That made a lot of sense to me.

She seems to finally be getting over her ex, but now she’s got issues with Cooper. You have said that Violet feels like she’s losing Cooper, because of his relationship with Charlotte, but Paul Adelstein says that’s not the case.
I think that’s a testament to Shonda’s writing and how fully Paul and I see these characters. The truth is, I’ve had this in my own life, when you have a best friend, and then they get a lover and there’s that period of adjustment. I think what’s great is that Violet is not petulant about it, she’s respecting this relationship, but I think she takes a few steps back. She doesn’t know if she can still call him at 3 in the morning or if she can cry in front of him. I think he doesn’t want to acknowledge that there’s a serious transition, but there’s a serious transition.

And of course Violet and Cooper almost had sex last season, so that had to alter their friendship as well. Will that be addressed at all?
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No, basically from there, he kind of flung off into Charlotte-land. And I kind of [turn to] Naomi (Audra McDonald). Actually Naomi and I have a lot more time together, because she is feuding with Addison. So we’re turning to each other to get our emotional needs met, but in new, unusual ways. It’s really interesting. I think, in a way, Violet and Cooper have the same [will they/won’t they] relationship that Addison and Pete have. Paul and I together, we’re just so comfortable. But it’s Shonda Rhimes, so you have to rip them apart again.

Will they be able to maintain their friendship?
There’s always going to be that intimacy, and even in this episode we’re doing now, they have me flop on to his couch and I wrote this note to Shonda saying, I don’t know if Violet would flop on Cooper’s couch anymore. She may, but I think she’s still thinking, what are the rules now? Because I used to feel totally comfortable with you.

What else can we expect from Violet this season?
Well, Shonda gave me this huge piece of Violet’s backstory which is so good, that I just cannot share it, but it’s so great. It was like a light bulb. I said to my husband, Oh my god!, when I found out, and he asked if I was frustrated that I didn’t know about this last year, because it’s something that happened in the past. But that’s both the beauty and frustration of series television. I remember in the fourth season of Judging Amy, they gave Tyne [Daly] a brother and she was like, What the hell? And the writers were like, you needed a brother!

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So, your thoughts? Will you give Private Practice another shot this season or has that ship already sailed off your TV schedule?

If you’re still into it, keep your eye out for my one-on-two interview with a couple of the show’s other stars, Taye Diggs and Audra McDonald. They’re weighing in on Naomi and Sam’s current feeling for each other and whether or not Piz –er, I mean, Dell (Chris Lowell) has a shot with her.

-Additional Reporting by Marisa Roffman

Posted by:Korbi Ghosh