Caught in The Net's Paranoia
Brooke Langton says she's feeling a teeny bit paranoid these days. It's not that she believes that getting on the internet to read reviews of The Net could cause agents of evil to access her files; it's more concern that her cell phone might be giving her brain cancer, or panic if her dogs bark that someone's breaking into her home. "The other night I was dreaming, and I woke up and there was a guy standing in my room, and he had bowling pins for legs!" she recalled recently in a telephone conversation as she strolled down a Vancouver street near the studio. "I was like, OK. He's not real. He's a bowling pin-legged guy. He's just a dream! It's like my mind is more stimulated to be fearful because of what I play every day, but I'm pretty adjusted to it by now."
Langton is in the midst of filming her first season of The Net, the USA Network's techno-thriller based on the Sandra Bullock film of the same name. The series already has a cult following (not surprisingly, on the internet) and a wide crossover audience among fans of USA's most successful show, La Femme Nikita. There are some striking similarities between the series - tough, resourceful, gorgeous heroines, trapped by secret government organizations, for starters - but Langton's Angela Bennett has marked differences from Peta Wilson's Nikita.
"I think getting to play a female lead that wasn't La Femme Nikita, that didn't have to be like a hired assassin, was a cool opportunity," said Langton, who added that she loves Sandra Bullock and was excited at the chance to play a role that Bullock had played. "People have compared me to her, so I understood why I got the offer - we both have that dark-haired, sort of girl-next-door disposition. It's so rare to get a really great part. She's been a great character."
Shortly after wrapping her longtime role on Melrose Place as Samantha Reilly, Langton was offered the role on The Net without an audition. She "had to go in for the big round-the-table, sort-of-scary, let's-see-if-we-get-along meeting" with Rob Cowan (who had produced the movie along with Irwin Winkler) and the USA network executives, "but we did get along, so it was great." After several years on a broadcast network hit, Langton found that there are advantages to being on a cable series.
"I think there's a lot more freedom and a lot more understanding," she said. "They give you a lot more time to get on your feet than a network does. When I was on Extreme, we thought we had a great series but they killed us after seven episodes. And it was just because we weren't beating Friends - we were on Thursday nights at 8:00. I think being on a cable network, we get a little more creative freedom as well. She changes all the time, and I knew that would happen because there's a plethora of stories with the internet, we play with any storyline that you see on the news. I feel really fulfilled being on the show. "
Yet playing a woman pursued from all directions is not precisely empowering; "em-paranoid-ing" is the term Langton uses. "I'm up and turning on the lights and checking the alarm - I don't think I ever did that before," she laughed. "But I think I'm getting stronger from all the physical stuff that we do. And sort of growing - I feel like I'm not really 22 anymore. When you play a character like I played with Samantha Reilly, I sort of had her disposition about myself, so I think in my own life it's reflecting, I feel more in-control."
The part requires a great deal of physical work on Langton's part, like white-water rafting and considerable jumping and running. She has stunt doubles "who do the killer stuff, like flipping a car or crashing things," but the role taxes her stamina so much that she doesn't need to work out to do stunt work. "Are you kidding? I work eighteen hours a day, Monday through Friday, every week since April," she laughed. "On the weekends I'm usually working till Saturday morning, so I usually sleep all day. And I get up 5 a.m. on Monday morning. So I have not worked out since before April. I think staying on my feet all the time probably keeps the potatoes off me."
The company has filmed 14 episodes so far of the 22 planned for this season, and won't get a break till December. Fortunately, the group is close and enjoying the work. "I love our crew, we're a big family," reported the Texas native. "And Vancouver is amazing - I've only been here during the summer, but it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been on Earth. It's very innovative, it's sort of different, there's a lot of very hip locations to shoot in. I think that makes it fun: we're always on a different location every week, all week long. It's really got a lot to offer."
What's hardest for the actress is finding time to be creative in the acting, given the breakneck pace of production. "It's hard to really take the time that's necessary when you're shooting a show as fast as we do, as often as we do," she said. "Sometimes I haven't even read the script revisions when I'm shooting the scenes. I think that's frustrating: it's like we shoot a movie every week, but we have so little time to do it. The challenge is to make it good work at the pace that we move at."
Langton noted that since she works so many hours a day at the show, she has to be careful not to become immersed in the dark world Angela Bennett inhabits. "Our reality as a crew is making a facade - we're there all the time, we don't really have time for a real life, our whole reality is this!" she pointed out. "It's challenging to keep it light. But a friend of mine came to visit me, he said, 'How fun! Every day you go to work and you guys make this big theater production, you set up all these stages and these lights and you do this acting stuff, and then they feed you and then you go home. What a fun job!' And it's true, we're very blessed. It's fun."
The actress claimed she "fell" into acting and joked that she tells people who want to act that if they can do anything else, they should. "I had the stamina and the endurance to stay in it because I can handle rejection, and I knew there wasn't a lot else that I wanted to do, or maybe that I could do - I think that if you have that, you can make it through the rejections. But it's so hard to be an actress," she noted. "It's like 500 auditions before you ever have a callback usually in Hollywood, you know? I never thought I was going to do it, but I persevered. I didn't start acting till I was about 22, which is late. I guess it came together quickly, but it seems like it's been years."
Langton has quite a list of genre credits, including Sliders and Terminal Velocity in addition to her current role, which she credits to her physical type. She observed, "I'm not a very feminine girl, I'm more of a tomboy girl, so I can play action people more than I would be playing, like, Kim Basinger in L.A. Confidential. I think it's more my physicality. It's cool, it's sort of what God gave you, you go with it. If I had huge breasts and blonde hair, I'd be playing that role right now on Star Trek in a really tight rubber suit or something! So I don't mind it at all."
She did get some experience playing a femme fatale on Melrose Place, when her character, who started out sweet, began to "go bad." Langton thinks that was inevitable: "Every Melrose character is going to go sort of crazy because that's the nature and essence of that show. I was a little bummed, but it's funny - a lot more people recognize me and know who I am from the badness that my character played in the end than when she was a good, sweet soul. I think people do respond to craziness: that's why the show has been going on for seven years or whatever."
Was she sorry to leave the hit series? "No, not at all," she responded without hesitation. "If Spelling had wanted me back, I would have gone and done what they wanted; I'm very easy. Whatever! Now I'm moving on. I like change, change is good." She would like to appear on Homicide, and is sorry she never got a chance to appear on The Larry Sanders Show before it went off the air. Langton finds comedy to be "the hardest thing in the world, much harder than doing drama or action," but would like to be on a show like Seinfeld as well.
Before she started working on The Net, Langton shot a John Hughes film, Reach the Rock, which she greatly enjoyed because it gave her the opportunity to work with a director she'd enjoyed for years. "Because I grew up with Some Kind of Wonderful and The Breakfast Club, the shooting was a big high for me. I don't know about how the actual character will come out, but I really enjoyed that." She plays Alessandro Nivola's love interest in the film, which is expected to be released early next year.
"I think I've liked shooting movies because they're shorter, so you get to sort of pop in and do your thing and leave. It's like two months, instead of a series," Langton said, adding that the free spirit of the profession and all the moving around are her favorite aspects, though she wants to take her dogs with her. She has thought about writing for the screen, but not yet attempted it. "We have this joke on our show, whenever any of us says anything about writers, we're always like, 'It's a lot different when you're staring at 66 blank pages,isn't it?' I think that to ever stare at a blank script and make a great story would be a big accomplishment. That shuts us up if we don't ever like a line, writing is such an amazing feat."
"I think to write would be a great accomplishment, but I don't know...I might have some babies, and move to Jamaica!" Langton continued with a laugh. "I'm proud of just surviving, and staying with what's most important, which are friends and animals and long-term things. I try to take care of what's around me instead of saving the world - my character can save the world!" She believes that her biggest accomplishment "is knowing that I haven't reached my biggest accomplishment."
In terms of feedback, Langton noted wryly that she has read some wonderful reviews of her performances and some "really miserable" ones. "Sometimes fan mail is like, 'You rock, Brooke! I love you!' and other times it's like, 'I hate you, why do you have to be on TV every week?'" Despite what happened to her character on the net, "I would like to go on the internet and respond; I just have not ever had less time in my life. I haven't even checked my mail in four months, let alone what people are saying online."
The network has moved the series repeats to follow La Femme Nikita, its most successful show, and is considering moving The Net to Sunday night right before the new La Femme Nikita episodes. "That's a really amazing show, isn't it?" Langton pondered. "Our show is very different, but from what I've heard, Nikita was very different its first year. You find sort of a fold where you're comfortable, and it starts to really flow. I think that's where we're going. A lot of it is about our relationships together, how we react to each other - it doesn't really have to do with whether we're going to find the diamond mine or not. Shows that hit big successes, that's usually what they're dealing with, isn't it?"
The biggest upcoming surprise on The Net will be the identity of The Sorcerer, currently voiced by Tim Curry, but Langton isn't talking about who it is. "If I do, I'm fired, it's in my contract!" she laughed, though she does note, "The new kid, he's awesome. That's going to be the coolest new story point: who the sorcerer is and where that goes. As we go on, we're going to have the coolest toys, the coolest new computers. All the new stuff! Technotalk!"
Understandably, Langton's a bit exhausted these days. "My brain is fried," she apologized. "I haven't had a day off since April, so if you don't find me funny, it's because I'm barely staying awake - I do hundreds of interviews, they made me go do the Leno show and the Magic Johnson show, on five hours of sleep a night, and then I get two days off. Sunday night, my personality comes back, I remember funny things in my life." The actress chatted about coffee shops in Vancouver, horrible Canadian cellular phones, and her pets, concluding, "If you don't think this is a great article, catch me on Sunday night and we'll do it again!"