Laura Prepon will return to television comedy soon enough — very soon, in fact — but first, she’s diving into the depths of drama.
Formerly the slyly funny Donna on “That ’70s Show,” she samples anything but amusement in “Iris Johansen’s The Killing Game,” a mystery-novel adaptation debuting Sunday (Oct. 30) on Lifetime Movie Network. It casts Prepon as forensic sculptor Eve Duncan, who re-creates images of crime victims.
While doing so, she’s taunted by someone claiming to be the person who killed her daughter 10 years earlier. The child’s resting place never has been revealed, so Eve plays along, hoping to determine that site. Naomi Judd, who also worked with director Bobby Roth on the 1995 NBC miniseries “Naomi & Wynonna: Love Can Build a Bridge,” co-stars.
“I’ve never really done anything like this before,” Prepon tells Zap2it. “Everybody had such a good time that when we finished and we were at the wrap party, so much of the crew said, ‘I wish this was a series.’ Even though the content was dramatic and intense, the shoot was wonderful. Everyone was just amazing.”
Johansen has written 10-plus stories about Eve, but Prepon didn’t have any contact with the author while working on “The Killing Game.” The actress reports she and her colleagues “worked in our own little bubble. The script was really great, so we just kind of went off and did what we did with it. The network was very happy with what we were doing, and they were like, ‘Just keep doing it.'”
Still, Prepon realizes that the Johansen novels have a big following, and that “people really love this character, so I hope they’re happy with how I portrayed her.” That extends to her playing 10 years younger in the opening scene set in a prison holding cell, as Eve pleads desperately with her daughter’s apparent murderer to reveal where the body is.
“She’s a little more naive and a little more nervous then,” Prepon reflects. “Anybody in that position would be, having to confront such an evil person. Later in life, she’s seen things most people wouldn’t; it doesn’t necessarily harden you, but having suffered such a traumatic event, it can make you put a block up. She’s just more serious and all about the job.”
The ABC series “October Road,” in which Prepon also played a mom, ended up helping her with her “Killing Game” work. “I’ve always loved playing a young mother because there are so many other things you can use as an actor, so many more emotions. It’s the theory of loving something so much more than anyone ever could. I don’t have children myself, so I just try to play the reality of what that would be like, using anything I can relate to.
“I’m very, very tight with my family, and my friends call me ‘Mama Pre.’ I’m a nurser and I tend to take care of everybody, which I love to do. If something were to happen to someone in my family, that’s what I try to relate to when I’m doing something like this [movie], so that it’s real to me.”
Even if Prepon wanted to bring more Eve Duncan tales to television, she couldn’t, at least for now. She’s busy filming the upcoming NBC sitcom “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea,” based on comedian and E! talk-show host Chelsea Handler‘s autobiographical best seller.
“The thing with me is that because I like to do so many things, and since directing is a passion for me, to do that and also be on an hour drama would be very tough,” Prepon reasons. “I did that for two years [with ‘October Road’], and you have no life. You’re up at 5 in the morning and you get back at 10 at night, then you have to memorize lines and you eat a little, then you wake up again at 5 in the morning.
“That’s what it was like on this movie, and that’s fine for a month or whatever it is. My new show is a half-hour, and it’s great because I get to go to work but I also still get to do my extracurricular activities. It’s just a timing thing. There’s physically not enough time in the day to do a an hour-drama schedule and everything else.”
Indeed, Prepon has been spending her off-hours editing a series she co-created and directed. “We sold it to a network — unfortunately, I can’t say who it is — and we shot the pilot ourselves as a smaller production, and we’re bringing it back to them. It’s the first [project] I’ve directed with a real crew and the whole thing.”