Poppy Montgomery is a familiar face to many TV viewers. She is a veteran of many TV series, most notably CBS’ “Without a Trace,” as well as “Party of Five,” “NYPD Blue,” “Glory Days” and much more. On July 18 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, you can catch Poppy in Lifetime Television’s original movie “Magic Beyond Words: The J.K. Rowling Story.” I spoke with the gorgeous Aussie recently, and she told me about portraying such a private and interesting woman who created the magical world of Harry Potter.
Celebrity Extra: J.K. Rowling is known for being very guarded about her private life and is very reserved. Did you have any reservations about taking this role, especially since Ms. Rowling was not involved in the production?
Poppy Montgomery: I had enormous reservations. I’ve been a Harry Potter fan long before I did this film, and I’ve read all the books and I’ve read them since I was in my 20s. I read the first one right when it came to the States. I didn’t want to do anything in any shape or form that was exploitative or tabloid-y. So, when they sent me the script, I definitely had reservations, because I knew that it was unauthorized. I knew that she wasn’t collaborating on it. It was based on a book that just told the facts, basically, from her childhood through to the present. And when I read the script, I found that it was a love letter to J.K. Rowling, and it really was a story that was inspirational for other people. I didn’t think that there was anything about it that was not good, and so then I changed my mind.
CE: Just watching the movie was so inspiring; I couldn’t wait to be creative once I was finished.
PM: Right? You just feel so inspired by her, which is exactly what I loved about it and why I wanted to do it. And that inspires you to be better, because she was so driven. The fact that the first Harry Potter book was written basically in one of the darkest times of her life and she pushed through, and as a single mother with very little money, this extraordinary book was born. I just think it’s incredibly inspiring.
CE: What were some things about J.K. that you hadn’t known prior to filming this, and that had perhaps surprised you?
PM: I didn’t know that her mother had been ill for so much of her life, and that must have deeply affected her, because I’m really close to my mother. I didn’t realize really how bleak and difficult things were for her. I’m a mother of a 3-year-old, so to be alone at the age that she was in her 20s with a baby and having left the marriage that wasn’t working, and being so poor, and still being able to have this enormous creativity and write this book under those circumstances. The power of her spirit is something that I wasn’t as aware of until we did this movie, and I just thought it was extraordinary.
CE: I was very happy to see that it was, like you said earlier, a love letter of sorts to the elusive author …
PM: Me too. Like I said, when I was sent the script and I knew that she wasn’t involved directly, I had strong reservations. But the script told such a beautiful story. Her books have affected millions and millions of children and adults all over the world. It’s magic — she’s been responsible for getting kids to read books again. And I just think it’s a story that everybody can relate to and hopefully be inspired by, and that was what drew me to it.
CE: What were some things about J.K. that you could relate to and you found enjoyable to portray?
PM: Her tenaciousness, her drive, her never-quit attitude were all things that I really dug into and loved. In fact, it made me a better person, made me work harder and want to be better. I love the way her mind works, her funny, irreverent, unusual, magical mind. I found that to be fascinating. To try to even get inside that for a minute was really intriguing to me.
CE: Tell me a bit about your role on this fall's new CBS series, “Unforgettable,” and the role of Carrie Wells.
PM: I play a woman who has hyperthymesia, or total recall. It’s a person who can remember every moment, in vivid detail, of her life as though it happened five minutes ago. You could ask: “What happened on June 20, 1984?” and she could tell you every single thing — what she was wearing, what she had for lunch, if she had a fight with her boyfriend. It’s extraordinary. It’s a blessing and a curse, because you can forget nothing, and sometimes there are things that we need to forget.
My character is an ex-cop who couldn’t be a cop anymore, because the condition obviously didn’t allow her to forget any of the hideous things she saw. It’s also what made her an extraordinary cop, and basically she’s pulled back into the cop world through a number of circumstances, as well as her ex-lover, played by Dylan Walsh.
It’s a love story, it’s a mystery, and it’s a cop show. There are so many elements going on that it’s almost impossible to describe. It’s very compelling — and it’s directed by Niels Arden Oplev, who directed “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” He’s just a genius. The writers are amazing. Ed Redlich wrote it, and I did “Without a Trace” with him the first couple of years. It’s a fantastic group, and it’s on CBS, and they do amazing shows.
CE: How were they able to lure you back to network series television?
PM: The script was amazing. I’m obsessed with Niels and had been long before I ever met him, because I’ve seen “Dragon Tattoo” maybe 30 times. I’ve worked with CBS since I was a baby, so it’s like coming home again. CBS is like my family. It’s such a great place for me to work, and I feel like they support their shows so wholly and completely that it is just a joy. Everything about it lined up for me.
To see a strong female character leading a show is very exciting. Now that my son, Jackson, is 3, and I spent two years after “Trace” really just being with him and being a mommy, I felt really ready to go back to work. I’m very proud of the show. I think it’s quite extraordinary and really good.
CE: I know fans will be glad to see Dylan Walsh regularly again. What is he like to work with?
PM: My darling Dylan — I love that man. He’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life. We’re on set and he just makes me laugh. I’m like, “You have to stop making me laugh so I can shoot the scene.” It was like that with all my co-stars on “Trace” too. Anthony LaPaglia is Jackson’s godfather; Roselyn Sanchez is my best friend. We’re all still very, very close. And I never thought that could happen again, and it did with Dylan and the cast on this show. We all instantly just bonded and became friends, and everyone is amazing. So — knock on wood — that’s a huge blessing as well.