Following a seven-season run as Dr. Cuddy, the fan-favorite hospital administrator on Fox’s House, Lisa Edelstein was cast as the lead of Bravo’s Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce. The comedy-drama, on which Edelstein plays self-help author Abby as she navigates life during and post divorce, put Bravo on the original scripted map. The show is now winding down with its fifth and final season. It includes Edelstein’s TV directing debut with the episode that premieres this Thursday, July 5. Next, Edelstein is slated to return to the medical drama genre with a recurring role on ABC’s The Good Doctor, reuniting with House creator David Shore. She will play Dr. Blaize, an expert oncologist who has returned at the request of Dr. Aaron Glassman (Richard Schiff), to help treat his cancer. Additionally, Edelstein, who just wrapped an arc on Netflix’s Chuck Lorre series The Kominsky Method, is developing a new starring vehicle for herself based on the book Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas at Universal Cable Productions, which she is writing with Carol Barbee.
In an interview with Deadline, Edelstein reflects on hers and Abby’s journey on Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, talks about her move into directing and provides a clue how series will end. She also reveals details about her upcoming role on The Good Doctor.
DEADLINE: How has Abby changed over the past five years?
EDELSTEIN: I’m not sure “change” is the right word to apply to Abby. She’s still Abby, she still overshoots the mark on most of her decisions and in a majority of her reactions. But she is finally in a place where who she is is no longer the question. When we first met her in Season 1, her entire identity was built from external ideas: mother, wife, writer… By the end of Episode 1 all those things are gone. All of them! So her largest task over the first four seasons was to find out who Abby is without those identifying titles. I think by Season 5 she knows herself. She’s still herky-jerky in her responses, but it feels less random or reaching. She is building a new structure for herself and this time it’s tailor made to her.
DEADLINE. All Girlfriends’ Guide episodes are titled after different rules, starting with “Rule No. 23: Never Lie to the Kids” for the pilot. What has been your favorite?
EDELSTEIN: We don’t get to see those rules until the show airs! But I have to say, the title (which I just learned) of 503 is: “It Takes Two to Stab Yourself in the Butt” which is really pretty rich. Somebody went to college to come up with a title like that and I’m all for it!
DEADLINE. What is the title of the episode that you directed and what is it about?
EDELSTEIN: Mine is perhaps more soberly titled “It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint.” I’m kind of jealous of “Stab Yourself in the Butt.” But it’s a great, emotionally complex episode that perhaps stabbing yourself in the butt just does not encapsulate. Delia is questioning her ability to be honest with her friends and with herself. Jo, too, is being pressured in ways she didn’t expect, calling into question her own loyalty and her expectations for the future. Phoebe is in deep with her family struggles but is clear sighted enough to see an opportunity for healing that comes in an unexpected package. And Abby is boldly going where she never went before, learning what it means to not only parent your own kids, but your partner’s kids, too. Complicated stuff that’s rich in texture and loaded in content.
DEADLINE: How was your experience directing and is it something you plan to pursue as a career?
EDELSTEIN: The experience itself was incredible. I loved directing my fellow actors, trying to take my internal acting language and use it to guide the performances of the incredibly talented people I was working with. Everyone was supportive and engaged and at least seemingly psyched – good enough for me! Our set has always been generous and welcoming and this felt just like that and more so. In terms of the directing job itself, I finally had a say in the myriad of details I’ve obsessed over anyway so it was less a creative stretch than it was creative permission. In some ways it was harder than a typical first-time directing gig since I was also quite heavy in the episode as an actor. But in other ways I really had it easy: I had a crew I was super tight with who all wanted to see me succeed. That is a real gift.
And yes, I look forward to directing more, writing more, creating content for myself and others. I just finished a short film – Unzipping – (myself, James LeGros, Jason Lewis) which I wrote and directed. It kicks off its festival tour this summer at the LA International Shorts Fest and already won a few Awards of Excellence at the aptly named Best Shorts Competition. So… yay! I’ll take it! I also wrote a pilot with Carol Barbee for UCP and Phoenix Films – Confessions of a Sociopath – that I’m attached to play the lead of and have a few other original productions up my sleeve that are floating around in the development background. It’s been an incredibly creative time and I give credit to having amazing bosses at GG2D who encouraged me to set myself free and do it all.
DEADLINE: Can you tease how the series ends for Abby and her friends? Will she get her happily ever after and with whom?
EDELSTEIN: I can’t tell you much, but I will say it ends beautifully. It’d be no fun if you knew more than that!
DEADLINE: How did your casting in The Good Doctor come about and how do you feel returning to medical drama and reuniting with David Shore after your exit from House, which had surprised a lot of fans?
EDELSTEIN: My managers got a call from Liz Dean, casting, whose idea it was to approach me. Thanks Liz! Then I called David and we met for coffee and talked it through. We had a blast working together on House and mostly just want to make sure there’s nothing Cuddy about what I do in The Good Doctor. So we threw some ideas around about character and back story and her relationship with Richard’s character.
It is a bit of old homie week to go there. Richard and I have worked together over and over again. He actually played my (obviously way too young) father in Relativity (1997ish?) – which was a way-too-short-lived Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz show. In it, I got to do the first ever lesbian make-out scene on network TV and I WILL CONTINUE TO BRAG ABOUT THIS FOREVER. Ha! And Richard’s wife actually taught me how to strip – for House. (Seriously, there’s a class for that) because my character, the head of the hospital, takes some time out to pole dance in a school girl uniform – an obvious turn of events when you are playing the head of a hospital, right?
DEADLINE: Can you tell us more about Dr. Blaize? And what is Dr. Glassman’s prognosis?
EDELSTEIN: I definitely don’t see Dr. Blaize stripping, although it is another David Shore show so… let me just say I definitely don’t see her stripping anytime soon. Dr. Blaize is not a fan of Dr. Glassman. There is definitely mutual respect there, work-wise, but these are two people who get on each other’s nerves and constantly revisit old arguments; just waiting for the moment they can prove they were right. He knows that going to her for help will also mean she might take it as an opportunity for payback over past annoyances. But it’s worth the risk. Because he wants to live. And she is the most brilliant oncologist around.
DEADLINE: How long do you expect your arc on The Good Doctor to last? Could it become a regular role?
EDELSTEIN: It will carry through a good part of the season, I think, not every episode, but scattered throughout.
DEADLINE: What is next for you, are you looking to jump back into TV series full-time?
EDELSTEIN: I love TV! And yes, I’m definitely looking for that next, wonderful series regular role. Hopefully, it will be on my show with Carol Barbee and UCP! But our business takes some crazy twists and turns, so all you can do is do the work and then… enjoy the ride. In the meantime, projects like The Good Doctor keep me feeling creative and having fun.