When most “Private Practice” fans think of Cooper (Paul Adelstein) they think of him as the comic relief. But that is not the man we saw in in the Nov.3 episode, “Did You Hear What Happened to Charlotte King?” and for good reason. His fiance Charlotte (KaDee Strickland) was brutally beaten (and raped, which he has yet to find out) and Cooper was wracked with guilt and anger for not being there to protect her.
Zap2it spoke with Paul Adelstein about how Cooper is changed by the assault, the status of their wedding plans, and if he’ll come face-to-face with Charlotte’s rapist, Lee McHenry (Nicholas Brendon).
Did you do any research on the significant others of assault victims when you heard about the storyline?
Somebody gave me a book that was written by a man whose wife was sexually assaulted and it was about how violence affected family and how they kind of put their marriage back together. I wanted to be careful not to read it before that episode because in that episode he doesn’t know that she was raped and so it’s a big difference. It’s a different act really. As horrible as her being beaten badly was, rape obviously takes it to another level. Once we got to the aftermath, I’ve read through the book and that’s been helpful.
There were a lot of upsetting scenes in the episode. Which was the hardest for you to film?
The most upsetting thing was dressing her because that was actually pretty shocking. I had seen her face at that point, but I hadn’t seen her body. It was so disturbing to see. She’s a little woman and she looked like she got hit by a car. That was really upsetting. That was hard to shake. The scene where I go into the crime scene with Violet was probably the most difficult to shoot because those can just be difficult scenes. You have to imagine everything that happened in there and you have to make sure it’s right. You don’t want to over do it.
Were you surprised when you read that Charlotte didn’t want the rape kit performed?
It felt consistent with the character and I also know from being a
“Grey’s” fan even before I started on “Private Practice,” Shonda [Rhimes, the show’s creator] looks
for the kernel of truth in some of these things that may be the most
difficult for the audience to take. That seemed to be in keeping with
that where that may not be every woman’s reaction. It was certainly
surprising as an audience member, but it didn’t bump for me as an actor
in that world, but it was a bold writing stroke. The way KaDee played it
I totally bought it. It was upsetting and I wanted her to get it, but I
think I understood.
We saw Cooper go through a lot of emotions in the episode, including anger and guilt. What will see from him going forward?
He does feel guilty and he does feel angry and he does feel powerless. This has been a relationship that has really been based on a lot of things, but one of the pillars of it is he respects this woman’s strength and needs it and I think is attracted to it. To see her so broken in a way is very difficult for Cooper. I think he’s a conscious 21st century male. He doesn’t want to make it about him, but it is so incredibly disruptive. I think he’s giving it a go and he doesn’t know what to do with all the feelings he has. He actually goes to other people and he doesn’t go to the usual places.
He is very conscious of trying to be a good guy and he is a good guy, but
he’s very conscious of trying to not make it about him. As optimistic as Cooper is and as lighthearted as he could be, what we picked up from him at the beginning of the series is that there’s obviously some self-destructive impulses there and some demons in his past. This sort of stirs that stuff up, but he is doing his best to remain an optimistic guy.
How will we see Cooper and Charlotte’s relationship change?
He doesn’t want to step all over her obviously. It didn’t happen to him. It happened to her and so he really wants to get out of her way, but in doing so he wants something to happen and when or if doesn’t, he doesn’t know what to do with that either. Sometimes with things like this you want the person who is injured or hurt to get on with the healing on your time-line. Shonda did a really good job of exploring all those things. We see a lot of stuff in upcoming episodes from Cooper’s perspective. Not that Charlotte and Cooper are at odds, they’re just completely out of sync for good reason. He’s flailing. He’s trying a lot of things and he doesn’t know where to put a lot of this stuff.
Will their wedding plans be put on hold?
I really can’t address that. Shonda would kill be. There’d be no wedding because Cooper would be killed immediately. That’s obviously something that’s on the table. I mean everything gets thrown into question when something like this happens. The first order of business obviously is to get her physically and emotionally healthy again, if that’s even possible. It’s life-changing.
It seems like some of the characters will begin to realize something more happened to Charlotte in the next episode. Do you think Cooper has any suspicions that Charlotte was raped?
I don’t think he does have any idea. I think it’s like being blinded by an explosion. It’s so in your face. it’s so visible what happened to her that I don’t think he can see past that. I don’t think he picked up on any of the things that some of the other people may be picking up on. I think Charlotte’s going out of her way to make sure that he doesn’t.
How do you think Cooper will react when he finds out?
Anger, sadness, there’s a certain amount of insult obviously. After the anger, maybe I’m not strong enough that she thinks I can handle this. All those things come up and I think that he’s got people around him to try and guide him through that. I think we’ve also seen how much he really loves her and to a certain degree knows her well. There’s an aspect of he not being the first person she told for instance, or even told in a timely manner that is in keeping with her character. He may not agree with it and it may be hurtful, but the fact that it happened trumps any of those feelings.
Will we see Cooper interact with Charlotte’s rapist Lee McHenry in upcoming episodes?
I can’t answer that, can I? He comes back. I can tell you that.
Photo credit: ABC