Saturday, August 20, 2011

{alltv} Coffee's role cute but ruthless

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Claire Coffee ... adorable? .... or not?

Coffee laughed when, at the end of our conversation, we suggested this column would be starting with those words.

"Yeah, people can decide by the end of the article," Coffee said.

The subject of being adorable was raised because Coffee's character in the light legal drama Franklin & Bash -- a product of U.S. cable channel TNT that makes its Canadian debut Monday on Bravo -- dutifully must be exactly that. Coffee plays Janie Ross, the ex-girlfriend of Peter Bash, who is played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar.

Peter turns to jelly at the mere sight of Janie biting her lip. So we asked Coffee what it's like to receive directing instructions such as, "All right, Claire, now get out there and be adorable ... and, ACTION!"

"That's the best question I think I've been asked so far," Coffee said. "I think probably my family would say I'm more incorrigible. My mom's favourite phrase when I was younger was, 'Claire, the world doesn't revolve around you.' And I keep trying to prove her wrong.


"But I would say, I am single, so it is not helping my romantic life. Unfortunately there is no spillover."

As hard as that is to believe, we do anticipate Coffee's automatic adorable ranking might take a bit of a hit when the world sees her in Grimm, the new fantasy series that debuts Oct. 21 on NBC and CTV.

"In Grimm, similarly to Franklin & Bash, I play a lawyer," Coffee said. "But in Grimm, I'm also an evil witch of the underworld.

"So yes, less adorable, more ruthless and cunning, I suppose. The witch I morph into in the pilot is so haggardly and disgusting. It was done all through CGI, so I only got to see it recently, and it was scary and good.

"Tonally, Grimm is the polar opposite of Franklin & Bash. Getting into fantasy was exciting, because I'm a sci-fi, spacehead type of girl. It's fun to be on the other side making it instead of just watching it."

Coffee is a San Francisco native with a sporting link to Canada, as her cousin is married to Aaron Hill of the Toronto Blue Jays. Coffee has done loads of episodic work on prime-time TV (The League, Psych, NCIS, CSI, Bones, Cold Case, The West Wing) as well as snaring a regular role on the daytime soap opera General Hospital.

"The reason I left the soap -- I was there for about a year and a half and it was great steady money -- was that I love doing comedy so much, and there's not much of an opportunity for that in the soap world," Coffee said.

"Someone's always dying, and then coming back to life, and then stealing a husband. Not a lot of laughs there."

Obviously Grimm isn't a comedy. But in the dramedy world of Franklin & Bash, Coffee's character often is at the heart of the funniest scenes, as the other characters tend to get goofy around her.

"I have played a fair bit of professionals -- lawyers, detectives -- but I've also played women who look sweet but are secretly evil," Coffee said. "I don't know what kind of niche that puts me in."

So ... Claire Coffee ... adorable? ... or not?

Either way, she is decidedly watchable.

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