Two familiar television faces welcomed the opportunity that one project gave them to change things up.
The fact-inspired Lifetime drama “Baby Sellers,” premiering Saturday, Aug. 17, offers Kirstie Alley and Jennifer Finnigan (“Monday Mornings”) chances for something different. Emmy-winning “Cheers” and “Dancing With the Stars” alum Alley notably underplays the part of a seemingly respectable adoption agency chief with a worldwide network, her illegal supply chain for the youngsters she needs.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent portrayed by Finnigan is on to the scheme. She infiltrates the operation, and one notable scene gives the actresses a face to face confrontation reminiscent of the midstory showdown between Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in 1995’s “Heat.”
“I get to be the bad guy, right?” Alley asks Zap2it with a knowing laugh. “I think when you’re the bad guy, you think you’re the good guy, or you wouldn’t do what you do. You have to justify it. I think every villain thinks they’re right, though they may be crazy. I don’t think they know they’re crazy, and that’s what the danger is.
“This woman knows these kids in these Third World countries might not make it to 3 years old and that they probably will have horrible lives … and that’s how I played it,” adds Alley. “She does have a point. Yes, she’s ripping babies away from their mothers, but it’s a bit like going out on Hollywood Boulevard and ripping a crack baby away from its mother.”
Previously a star of such other series as “Close to Home” and “Better With You,” Finnigan — a three-time Daytime Emmy winner for her tenure as Bridget Forrester on CBS’ “The Bold and the Beautiful” — enjoyed turning into a very physical action heroine for certain “Baby Sellers” sequences.
“I took karate for a couple of years,” she reports. “I love combat; I just get to do it so rarely. When I was working with the stunt doubles and they were teaching me the fight routines, I think they thought I was a little crazy. We’d rehearse and rehearse, and two or three hours later, I’d be like, ‘Keep going!’ And they were like, ‘OK, you’re good. You’ve got it.’ I loved every minute, but I was a sore girl for a few days.”
India and Brazil were among locations used in the film by veteran executive producer Robert Halmi Sr. Finnigan confirms the atmosphere not only helped her performance, she was “forever changed” by it.
“After having seen the way so many of those communities are,” she reflects, “I get to come back home to comfort. I’ll never take what I have for granted again. When you’re ‘in it,’ it’s a completely different experience from shooting in a studio. I think it made me a better actor and a better person.”
Alley allows she found “Baby Sellers” educational in a sense. “I’ve been aware of human trafficking, I just wasn’t aware of this baby market until this movie. I have two adopted kids, and I went through it in a very civil and conservative way. I wasn’t really privy to this sort of operation, and I had my eyes opened by this.”
Now filming a TV Land sitcom slated to premiere in December – and to reunite her with “Cheers” co-star Rhea Perlman – Alley is pleased “Baby Sellers” is timed as it is.
“I like to do what I haven’t done very much of,” she says, “so I was excited to play this interesting sort of villain. I guess every actor’s plight is to find as many different roles to play as they can.”