A Conversation with BURN NOTICE’s Gabrielle Anwar   

I love the girls at New Media Strategies who have already gotten the transcripts from our various Psych conversations. However, before I post any of them, I’d like to go back to my Burn Notice set visit and share our conversation with Gabrielle Anwar.

Talking with Gabrielle Anwar -- USA Network Photo: Glenn Watson Gabrielle plays Fiona on the show and she was the first person we talked to that day and she couldn’t have gotten us off to a better start. Gabrielle is so funny and down to earth that it almost enough to make you forget she’s this beautiful TV star who is larger than life when she’s on the screen. I feel a little intimidated just thinking about that and yet she’s so “real” that you instantly feel at ease with her. There was a lot to love about her but I think what I loved most is she’s not afraid to be who she is with everyone that she meets.

Gabrielle actually came in on her day off to talk to us and brought her dog along. A beautiful huge dog who I would worry could take her down if it weren’t obvious they adore each other. Like the rest of the cast, Gabrielle and her family live in Miami during filming and this is what she had to say about living and filming there, “I actually love it. I would much rather be too hot than too cold. I’m perfectly happy melting all day long. Jeffrey has to wear full on suits and ties, poor thing, and Bruce too. Although he gets to wear Hawaiian shirts a lot too. He’s Mr. Tommy Bahamas.”

Talking with Gabrielle Anwar -- USA Network Photo: Glenn Watson We were talking about how bad-ass Fiona is and the topic of martial arts on the show came up. Gabrielle was glad her fights look good because she never really has any idea what she’s doing, “Smoke and mirrors. Jeffrey’s actually incredibly advanced in martial arts. He’s like triple billion black belt or whatever, he’s pretty high up there—although, I don’t know who actually judges that stuff. But I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s basically just choreography. I did dance, so that comes in handy. But as far as hitting the right artery or chopping the right part of the body, I have no idea what I’m doing.” She doesn’t know any martial arts and, even though she appreciated hearing that it looks like she does, she admitted, “I can tell. When I’m working and I’m looking at the dailies, I go, ‘Oh, God, I hope they cut around that one.’”

And how many times is it actually Gabrielle doing those moves? Turns out quite a few. She does a lot of them herself because, in her own words, it’s hard to find a stunt double who “looks like a pre-pubescent adolescent.” Not only that, but she admitted, “I actually do like to do it. I like to get in my body. Sometimes I get so caught up in my head with my American accent. You know, did I say that with my British accent or is that actor looking at me thinking my American accent sucks? To get out of that continual mental banter and do stunts is fun and hopefully I don’t break a leg.”

It’s funny that she worries so much about her accent because I’ve never once thought much about it myself. Clearly she’s doing better than she thinks. She talked about how, “When I read it and she was Irish, I was thrilled. I had just spent the summer in Dublin shooting a film. I was quite happy to go in to this with an Irish dialect because it was a little easier to get my mind around that then playing an American on a show indefinitely.” But the writers thought, with all of the various disguises Fiona uses week to week, it would get confusing to viewers to have her switching in and out of accents. Talking with Gabrielle Anwar -- USA Network Photo: Glenn Watson But that ends up being the most challenging thing for Gabrielle, “To be truthful, the American accent really throws me for a loop. It really does. It’s odd because any other accent I feel fine.” In her opinion, some of her concern is that the audience is American and she worries that she has all these experts out there noticing what she’s doing wrong with the accent. As she said, “Part of my problem is that I grew up in a household where my mother corrected every other word I say because she was an English teacher. I’m so aware of every word coming out of my mouth because of my mother. She appears in my mind from somewhere telling me that I’m doing it all wrong. So now I’m changing the way I’m speaking. I find it very distracting in a scene to be thinking of how I sound rather than how I am just being. It’s tricky. Now my mother says I sound like an American.” It doesn’t help that Gabrielle no longer has her dialect coach on set which meant she had someone else who was there focusing on that part for her and giving her shorthand clues on how to adjust things. As she said, “There was a sense of relief in not having to really focus on it and have it monopolize my concentration. And not having that luxury for back on I get a little bit more anxious and a little bit more anal about it. There’s nothing worse than a Brit doing a bad U.S. dialect. And vice versa.”

Lack of an Irish accent notwithstanding, what about Fiona’s Irish background? How much of it did Gabrielle know and does she think Fiona was a terrorist? Well, she says she wasn’t really told anything about her back story but, “I have a very rampant and vivid imagination, so you can imagine what I came up with. I think that her intentions are all in the right place. Those organizations are almost always formed with the best of attentions and then they often go awry. Think of Scientology. Not that I’m comparing terrorism to Scientology. I think Fiona is a seeker of justice, but she seeks it in perverse and extremist ways, which I find rather refreshing.” Of course, Fi has to keep up with Michael and his special ops training so we wanted to know if she thinks Fiona’s had any of that kind of training herself. Gabrielle was quick to say, “Either that or she’s bloody intelligent. I think she’s had some serious training to keep up with Michael. Yes, I think she’s been around the block a few times.”

On BURN NOTICE, Fiona knows her way around guns.Oh, yes, I think we can all agree about that! As for the guns, Fiona’s definitely no stranger to them but what about Gabrielle? Turns out she wanted to get familiar with them for the role, “Yes, I’ve actually been fortunate enough to go out to this huge warehouse full of props out in Los Angeles. It’s very exciting. Next time I go I’m going to take a shopping cart and fill it with all the fun stuff. There’s a shooting room there. It’s literally a metal storage room with thousands of bullet holes in the wall. So I went in there and shot just about every weapon that is used from the second World War on. Because I’m a bit of a lightweight, I got blown back more than a few times by automatic shotguns and machine guns. It’s very empowering experience to be wielding a weapon and I am by nature very much a pacifist. So if I can get turned on by it, I’m a little terrified what really happens in the military.” Scary thought indeed! And when we pointed out that she’s a pacifist who likes playing a character with guns she could only say, “I’m a mass of contradictions and a hypocrite at the same time. What a mess!”

Something that was evident by the end of the day was that this cast has a lot of respect for one another and really enjoys working together. We asked Gabrielle to talk about the work she did with Bruce at the end of last season when Michael was off dealing with the burn notice stuff and they got a chance to work together alone. Her response, “It is an obscene amount of fun. I mean, it’s illegal the amount of fun we have. He is just such a fabulous man and an incredibly fun actor to be around. There’s no tension, there’s no ego, so it opens the creative channels like nothing else. It’s impossible to keep up with him.”

She also had wonderful things to say about Sharon Gless and talked a bit about some of the work they’ve done together so far this season, “Yes, we had a really fabulous scene where we’re both talking about Michael and she reflects on her relationship with him, and we really get to see the similarity between Madeline and Fiona mostly through Michael’s eyes. She’s wonderful. What a wonderful woman! What a strong, extraordinary life she has had. Yeah, I really admire her.”

Speaking of the new season, Gabrielle talked a little bit about how she thinks Fiona fells after Michael took off last season and left her behind, “I think Fiona is a little peeved that he made the choice to take off. Being a woman and having some sincere feelings for him, she wishes the choice he made would have included her, but it didn’t. So I think she’s dealing with a little anger for wont of a better word. There are not many other emotions that she deals with. Yes, I think she’s a little pissed. I know she’s a little pissed because we already shot it.” So what does that mean for Michael’s new nemesis played by Tricia Helfer? Well the two women have yet to cross paths but Gabrielle’s got some ideas on how her character would react. As for Tricia herself, Gabrielle says, “I did meet her briefly. She seems quite lovely actually, which sucks because I really wanted to hate her. Oh well.” Ha.

We did ask her about what she’s gotten to do this season so far and what’s been her favorite storyline so far. She said the last episode they shot (during the last week of May) was probably her favorite, “It involves these tattooed Russian types which I find rather appealing. It’s that gun-wielding characteristic I possess. I can’t remember any more – how lame is that? But it was really cool.” Not lame at all since it stops her from spoiling us too much! She did say her favorite part of the show is getting to see who Fiona gets to be from week to week. As she said, “It makes me feel like I’m Jennifer Garner sans Ben Affleck. I love it. I have a great job as it is, but I get to mix it up a little bit. Matt Nix, the genius creator of the show, is so open to my crazy ideas. Instead of doing American club girl, I said ‘can we do Kate Moss?’”

As for why Gabrielle took the part, she says the choice had nothing to do with her family and everything to do with the material, “No, my choice was purely because I thought the material was worthy of taking me away from my children, who have a life of their own now. It was time for me to get back on track with me as a woman, not just a mom, or a wife or a…” She also doesn’t care that it’s TV and not the movies. As she said, “This is such a cliché and I can’t believe it’s coming out of my mouth, but there are so few great women’s roles, so I could care what genre it is. If it’s brilliantly written, I’m in if they’ll have me. I’m really enjoying myself on many levels, particularly professionally which is such a coup for me.”

Throughout the day there was a lot of talk about Michael’s burn notice and why it’s a necessary element to keep the show going but what if Fiona was in on it? This was probably the moment in the interview that Gabrielle most reminded me of Fiona for she got a delighted gleam in her eye and said, “Of course! But that would be when I get the boot and be unemployed.” Hmmm, ok, well then I’m voting against that possible twist. I like Fiona and Gabrielle way too much to see that happen!

And, finally, we asked if Gabrielle sees Fiona as a bit of a Bond girl, like Pussy Galore, and she said, “Yes, there’s a little Pussy in Fiona. It’s interesting because the toughness in women has always been so unattractive, but I guess it works in some women. I think there’s incredible strength in every woman if you can maintain your femininity and still indulge that power.” Ain’t that the truth! And since that’s exactly what I love about Fiona, I think it’s the perfect place to conclude this post.

Don’t forget, the second season of Burn Notice premieres Thursday, July 10th at 10/9c on USA.

3 Responses to “A Conversation with BURN NOTICE’s Gabrielle Anwar”

  1. 1
    afrocurl says:

    Unrelated to the post at hand, but when I get your updates on my syndicated fee, the whole post is there now instead of a preview. Not sure why, but I figured it was something to let you know about.

  2. 2
    Rae says:

    Thanks, Roz. I know… it’s a recent change I had to make for a blog listing somewhere. I’ll change it back in a few days after they get what they need from the RSS.

  3. 3
    Craig Wicks says:

    What is the name of the actress who plays Gabrielle Anwar’s stunt double?