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It’s All About the “Chase” Kelli Giddish Is Having a Blast Pursuing Bad Guys


Texas prisons are about to fill up with a mess of hardened criminals who’ve had their butts righteously kicked by a relentless blonde in cowboy boots. U.S. Marshal Annie Frost on NBC’s new hot-pursuit drama, “Chase,” tears after fugitives and nails them to the wall with keen analysis, brute force, and a touch of Southern-belle charm. The brains, brawn, beauty, and heart that bring this force of law and order to life is Georgia-born Kelli Giddish, a winsome, blue-eyed actor with an alluring smile and formidable drive.

After a rigorous theater program at the University of Evansville and script-development training at the New Harmony writers conference, both in Indiana, Giddish hopped a plane to study in Grantham, England, and explore Europe. During her final adventure across the pond — a trip to west Ireland’s Aran Islands “with my toothbrush, a can of SpaghettiOs, a tent, and a sleeping bag” — she was contacted by playwright Suzanne Bradbeer to star in “Full Bloom” at a theater in the Berkshires.

After the play’s run, 20-year old Giddish set up camp in New York City with Equity card in hand. She flirted briefly with Broadway as a co-star in “Bobbi Boland” alongside Farrah Fawcett, which previewed but never opened in 2003, followed by “the whole staying-on-a-futon and bartending to make money,” she confides. Giddish wrote and starred in “Dropsy,” a Henry Miller inspired, one-woman show about love and emotional disconnect, performed at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Her lean years ended abruptly in 2005 when she won the role of Di Henry on ABC’s “All My Children.” “Cheers to being able to eat steak for a little bit!” the performer grinned as she celebrated with a helicopter flight over Manhattan.

“I love the Werner Herzog thing,” she declares. “‘If you want to make a movie, steal a camera!’ You can always do what you want to do.” During her daytime-drama stint, Giddish doubled up with a weekend gig on a Web series called “The Burg,” a sendup of hipster culture set in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (created by Thom Woodley, who went on to co-write the “Most Interesting Man in the World” beer commercials.) “To go into Brooklyn on a Saturday and Sunday when you’re on a soap and to do guerilla-style changing in the car — ‘Stand here so I can change my top!’ — it was so much fun.” After a two-year run in the soap world, Giddish landed parts on “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” “Damages,” “Without a Trace,” and “Life on Mars,” and scored a leading role on “Past Life,” co-starring “The West Wing”’s Richard Schiff.

And now the former high-school softball champion is tracking down perps on “Chase” — co-starring Cole Hauser, Amaury Nolasco, Rose Rollins, and Jesse Metcalfe, and executive produced by heavyweight Jerry Bruckheimer and co-creator Jennifer Johnson — which debuts on September 20th. Through the season Giddish will square off against fugitives played by the likes of Travis Fimmel (“The Beast”) and Venice fave Robert LaSardo (Death Race, 2008). During a brief hiatus from the set, Giddish sits down with us poolside at the Beverly Hilton. With her engaging Southern lilt and forthright demeanor, she opens up and tells it like it is.


How are you enjoying your shoot down in Texas?

Kelli Giddish:

I’m so excited about doing this show. It’s so easy to talk about something when you’re having so much fun and you’re so proud of representing the U.S. Marshals. I went down for a week to Houston. Mainly I just wanted to ride along and hear war stories, and that’s exactly what I did. Twelve to fifteen hours a day, me and one of the guys, he took me around to every place he went, serving warrants and apprehending fugitives. I was on the perimeter of this one deal — we were all the way down in Galveston with a big drive back — and he said, “You wanna go check it out? The trail seems a little cold. They’ve got a K-9 unit up there and they don’t know where the guy went.” They thought he had jumped off this thing and run through the woods to get away. I’d been there for maybe 15 minutes; they take the K-9 backup who, by the way, has titanium teeth because his other teeth came off in a guy’s leg. Everything about it is professional. It’s not like these brute guys. It’s not. They’re perseverant, they’re patient, they’re committed. So they took the dog up one more time to try to get more of his scent, and the guy had been hiding — with all the sheriffs, all the police department, and the U.S. Marshals walking around — on a piece of plywood, maybe four-by-six, on top of these rafters. The dog starts jumping up the wall, so they go, “Look up there one more time.” They’d cleared the space 80 times! They’re like, “The guy can’t fit up there.” He was up there. And I saw them bring him down. There was a gash in his arm. They found him. The guy had been waiting there! And that story doesn’t even get passed around from guy to guy. Nothing about it is extreme or amazing. They deal with that stuff all the time.

Did you go through some of their training exercises?

They shackled me in the ankle shackles; they make them stay like that for [something like] three hours as part of their training to know what the prisoner goes through. That’s part of what they do, the 19 weeks that they train. But more than anything else, we’ve got this cast full of ... I don’t think we’re the perfect TV people. We’ve all got kind of earthy faces, just real and natural. And to be able to go to Texas and shoot this show with Bruckheimer’s expertise and brand name opening doors for us. It’s a thrill!

What did you think of your character, Annie Frost, when you first read the script?

I love a leader with a heart, that leads not from wanting power or anything like that, but being committed to getting a job done. And that’s what Annie Frost is and that makes her kick ass. She’s going to go get the bad guy, and if she’s got to jump off a bridge to do it then so be it. She’s got this past where her dad is a criminal and he’s still at large. So she’s got that criminality mindset already embedded in her DNA. To get the opportunity to play a good guy, but going through what a bad guy’s thinking, to figure out where he’s going to be, where you’re going to get his ass and nail it down and get that guy in custody, it’s fascinating. And plus I get to wear cowboy boots and jeans to work every day. Love it! I’ve been filming for two weeks and [my boots are] being re-soled this weekend. That’s how much running I’m doing, man. And already the toe-box is all torn up.

You’re having some adventures.

Yeah! [laughs] That’s why you get into acting, to be able to play kick-ass characters. And we’ve got Eric Norris, who is Chuck Norris’s son, as our stunt coordinator. Can you ask for someone better to lead you through all the stuff we’re doing? We’ve all got a lot of athletic ability. We’ve got Jesse Metcalfe [“Desperate Housewives”], we’ve got Rose Rollins [“The L Word”]. She’s got a mean right punch on her — she’s called “Hurricane” on the show — and she really does. Then you’ve got Cole Hauser [The Chronicles of Riddick, Tears of the Sun, “K-Ville”] who’s done sports his whole life. I hate running with him because he kicks my butt. One of the first things we did was run with bulls. They were like, “Okay, we’re going to let the bulls out and you’re just gonna run across.” So we were putting through a stampede of bulls! That’s us! And that’s what’s great about this show. It’s me and Cole Hauser and Rose Rollins and Jesse Metcalfe and Amaury [Nolasco, “Prison Break”]. We’re all running and we’re jumping. And I think that’s going to transfer to the screen so well. We’re getting physical and they’ve got my back and I’ve got theirs. So we’re all kind of starting at the same level — besides Cole who’s rarely done a role without a firearm in his hand. It’s been nice that everybody’s on the same learning curve. We’re really into it! I was in 45-degree water in a river, doing a fight scene over and over and over in two wetsuits, which believe you me were not attractive. [laughs] I looked like I had gained about 15 pounds. I was like, “You’re just shooting my face on this?”

And you’re happy to do all of it.

It’s so much fun! You wake up in the morning and you’re like, “Okay, so today we’re jumping off the bridge and then we’re doing a stunt fight and then I’ve got that other emotional scene with the victim’s daughter.” You get to do all of those things in one show. You get to be still, you get to be powerful, you get to run your ass off. It gives you a lot of energy! And the scripts keep getting better and better, and I think they’re going to be creative with who the fugitives are. In the second episode it’s two women. It’s great to have Bruckheimer and this huge production come in and say, “Let’s show the American people what the good guys are doing to catch the bad guys.” And you get to explode into this colorful, saturated set in Texas. It’s not rightwing/ left-wing, it’s good-guys/bad-guys.

You can also empathize with the fugitive. However vicious Travis Fimmel’s character is in the pilot, you learn about his childhood with his terrible dad and mom.

And it happens from the very start of the show. It’s not like other procedurals where you’re putting a case together and the evidence. No. You did something bad; we’re after you. And Annie grew up with an opportunistic criminal for a father, and seeing what that does to her mom and what that does to her, and that makes you look at the world and pick things out in a much different way. She notices everything. I love playing around with the idea of her being able to cut through all of the noise and the static and see what’s really important. Because you can’t absorb everything. Picking out what’s important and seeing that emotional training because of where she came from. You really have to be the calm at the center of a storm to take a breath and look at what’s around you.

What are some of your favorite things you’ve gotten to do on the show?

I love being with Cole Hauser in a car, because he drives so well. Two days ago, the day before I came out here, it’s a full skid-out, gravel on the road and we’re behind the picture truck and he breaks the rear axle skidding around. Hits a patch of grass and we’re skidding sideways — left, right, left, right — and then we started to go off in the cornfield. And he goes, real quiet, “Hold on, babe.” All right! [laughs]

I’ve heard of shows being very protective of their stars, but they’re giving you a lot of freedom to do your own stunts.

They see our ability and they see our gangbanger attitude. We say, “Yes!,” if they’ve got a challenge for us. We’re more than ready to try to meet it.

When did you decide that you were going to pursue acting as a career?

I remember sitting down with my parents. I was on my way to University of Arizona to study astronomy and they said, “Kelli, are you sure you don’t want to do theater?” I said, “Man, y’all ain’t supposed to be asking me that!” They’ve always been super-supportive, though, and I said, “Maybe you’re right.” So I ended up in Indiana at this great school, University of Evansville. Great theater program. Then I moved up to New York and within a year I was on Broadway in a straight play [“Bobbi Boland” with Farrah Fawcett]. I was like, “Hell, yeah. I knew I had it! A year in New York and I’m on Broadway.” And then it closed before it opened. [laughs] We did previews for a week. It was the same theater that Katharine Hepburn made her debut, the Cort Theatre.

You started “Chase” on the heels of your previous project, “Past Life.”

Yes, I got to play a leading lady on “Past Life” and that really taught me a lot. I got to go home to Georgia to film that. And it’s nice to go onto a set being the leading lady [and saying], “This is how things are going to be — ‘tranquilo.’ Everybody, enjoy your job. We’re in a crazy-ass business and this is fun. We’ve got the best jobs in the whole, wide world.” When I got the script [for “Chase”], even the creator of [“Past Life”] was like, “Wow. Great part for you.” I sent the script to my dad as soon as I read it and he called me immediately and said, “Kelli, you have to do this.” My character’s nickname is “Boots.” And here’s me who never takes off my Frye boots. My high heels are made by Frye. It’s a chance to be that physical and to do stunts. She’s the whole kit and kaboodle. You get to be quiet, and have a heart and a soul, and really connect with people, and show someone who’s committed to her job.

It sounds like you have a lot in common with your character.

Yeah. It’s great because you don’t have to strip away from yourself; you just get to add on. The Southern sensibility. Being a Southern woman, [I] might get you to do or say something that maybe you didn’t know you wanted to do or say. We’ve got a way, you know? _

“Chase” premieres September 20th and airs Monday nights at 10 on NBC.

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