Back during Season 2 of ABC’s Private Practice (Thursdays at 10/9c), I was using words such as “shrill” and “steely” to describe Dr. Charlotte King, who at the time was but the chief of staff at St. Ambrose and a sometime thorn in Oceanside’s side.
My, how she’s grown.
“Who would have thought this would have been where Charlotte would go?” KaDee Strickland muses as she surveys her current storyline, in which Charlotte is helping husband Cooper (played by Paul Adelstein) deal with the life-threatening illness of his newly discovered son’s baby mama, Erica (A.J. Langer). “There were a few times [in early seasons] where Charlotte would get these glimmers [of softness] and Shonda would be like, ‘Nope, make her tough.’ And I was like, ‘Why is she doing that? There’s got to be some reason.'”
In retrospect, the actress deduces that show boss Shonda Rhimes “didn’t want to start in that direction until there was a real impetus – and we’ve had that impetus in the last two years,” starting with Charlotte’s rape. “So it really makes sense now. Yet again, Shonda Rhimes is very masterful!”
Not that Charlotte still doesn’t have her own opinions – including her initial instinct that Mason should know how grave his mother’s condition is. “It puts me in a really interesting position, because while I have great compassion for [Erica], by the same token I am equally protective of this little boy,” Strickland says in character. “But I love that we’re exploring how you break that news to a child, because it’s something that so many people go through, and there’s no right way to do it. And yet when there’s a wrong way, it’s very evident.”
Of course when Langer first was cast on Private Practice, word got out that she’d be a woman from Cooper’s past, so the early speculation was that we were due for a traditionally soapy triangle. “And it would have been very easy to do that with Charlotte, making her territorial and all that stuff,” Strickland acknowledges. “But instead we’re doing a great exploration of what it is to really love someone and to support them, and not at the sacrifice of yourself.”
But even after several seasons of playing the “CharCoop” romance, Strickland marvels at how they not only came together but emerged as “the stable relationship” on the ABC drama, “which is kind of hilarious.”
“I’m a big believer in relationships and love and sticking it out with another person,” she continues. “And if I get to explore that on the show, it’s great, because it’s unexpected.”
Speaking of relationships, Strickland has quickly formed one with her new “leading man,” 11-year-old Griffin Gluck. And that made a scene in this week’s episode especially difficult to work through, as a confused Mason acts out while under Charlotte’s care. “When we shot that, there were a lot of mothers on set, as there are, and those women all had a moment. Any mother that watches what happens between Charlotte and Mason will relate to that scene.”
Strickland admits that she herself was “panick-stricken” going into it, and afterward even “had to shake it off a bit. I haven’t seen the final edit so I don’t know how it all comes off, but that was not fun at all – because I am, as you can tell, a little attached to [Griffin]. He’s a pretty exceptional young man.”
Next Thursday, the Erica storyline will take Langer, Strickland and Adelstein to Grey’s Anatomy‘s Seattle Grace, as part of a two-hour crossover event. The change of venue “was very helpful, because if Charlotte has ever felt out of place in a hospital, it was there,” her portrayer notes. “It was also fun to just surrender; she would never be this emotional if she had her own staff around.”
As directed by Allison Liddi-Brown, who helmed the rougher patches of Charlotte’s rape story, “It’s quite an episode,” Strickland promises. “You get to the raw point, which is that someone you love may not survive this. What do you do? And what does that look like?”
Speaking of Grey’s– and wrapping up our conversation on a lighter note – I brought up that show’s recent “alt reality” storyline, and invited Strickland to ponder what the ramifications might be for Charlotte had Addison stuck with Derek all these years and never made it to Oceanside Wellness. And she quickly ran with it.
“I wouldn’t have joined the practice, for one,” she started, “and we never would have had that fun ‘sexology’ moment, so we never would have known just how rotten Charlotte’s proclivities are.” Going further, she suggested that “Sam and Naomi would still be going to Catholic church, and their daughter might never have gotten pregnant.”
And what about Cooper? Would he still be cruising the dating scene? Mmm, not so fast. “I like to believe that we would have ended up together anyway,” Strickland offers, using words such as “destiny” and “fate” to describe the duo’s draw. “I just never would have cheated on him with Archer!”