Formidable Marjorie Monaghan digs putting out fires on Rescue
by Jessica Wallenfels, special to TVQuest
Marjorie Monaghan may not be the kind of woman you'd want to meet holding a sword aloft on the fields of Norway, but she is exactly who'd you'd want to see if you were, say, trapped in a burning building. On Rescue 77, (the WB, Mondays at 9 ET) she plays Kathleen Ryan, a hard-boiled, throaty-voiced firefighter who can bark orders one second, swap insults with the boys the next. In person, Monaghan is even more self-possessed than her Ryan character. The fair-haired, 6-foot-plus actress, dressed from head to toe in black leather, is sitting with quiet composure in the offices of her Beverly Hills publicist, but you get the feeling that if anything goes awry, Monaghan could pounce on the couch and emit a battle cry to make your blood run cold.
For the record, Monaghan's sexy alto is a natural thang, whether she's yelling, "City Base! This is Rescue 77!" or describing her respect for the profession she protrays. "Firefighters are the coolest people you will ever meet," Monaghan says. "The work that they do is astounding." To research the role, Monaghan spent time in a firehouse. Initially, she wondered if firefighters would treat her like just some "blonde actress."
Instead, Monaghan was blown away by the firefighters' candor and accessibility. "Boom! They just connect with you as a person," she says. The actress researched "pretty much everything I could get my hands on" in preparation to play Ryan. "We want it to be as real as possible."
Born in Newport Beach, Calif., the daughter of a salesman, Monaghan grew up in New York, New Jersey, and Ohio. In college, she studied acting at Miami of Ohio.
Monaghan moved to New York and landed a role -- as a fire fighter!! -- on H.E.L.P. Next she got cast in Bonfire of the Vanities, moved to L.A., and enjoyed guest roles on shows like Star Trek: Voyager, L.A. Law and Babylon 5. Then she read the pilot for Rescue 77.
"First of all, I'm like, 'Fire show. Yes,'" Monaghan recalls excitedly. "Here's this woman who's strong and intelligent and very good at what she does and yet compassionate and vulnerable." But as for backstory, forget it. Instead of learning about the "token chick" through her personal life, Monaghan is happy that "you get to know Ryan through the work."
And what work it is. Six episodes into the show, she's dangled from cliffs, clung to helicopters, talked down gunslingers and comforted car crash victims. "It's really, really moving," Monaghan says quietly.
Regarding the future of ratings-challenged Rescue 77, Monaghan says tersely in a Russian accent, "Now ve vait." She says firefighters she's met are campaigning to keep Rescue on the air.
If and when future episodes roll, Monaghan hopes to incorporate some singing into Rescue storylines. She keeps up her operatically trained voice limber by belting out everything from arias to musical theater to Bonnie Raitt. And oh yeah: Monoghan is developing a children's CD of children's songs.
Lullabies? From this leather-clad actress? Let's just hope she doesn't sing them too high.
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