After an extended break, Showtime is gearing up to premiere Season 4 of The Affair this Summer. The Affair earned admirers and captivated critics by using a plot device first used in a 1950s Japanese, Rashomon. Basically, it involves a cast full of unreliable narrators where the same event is recounted by several characters providing subjective, alternative, self-serving and contradictory versions of the same experiences of the same incident. Here, The Affair utilizes this tactic while taking an passionate psychological look at matrimony, relationships, and parenthood.
Maura Tierney stars as Helen Solloway, whose husband Noah [Dominic West] has an affair with Alison [Ruth Wilson], a local waitress unhappily married to Cole [Joshua Jackson] and grieving the heartbreaking loss of their baby from a terrible accident. The first season alternated segments between Noah and Alison’s narratives.
Helen appeared to have it all, at least by New York City benchmarks: a smoking hot author husband, four adorable kids, a brownstone in Brooklyn, a pleasant small lifestyle shop, and the anticipation of the next summer holiday joining her wealthy parents at their property in the Hamptons. Soon enough, the smokescreen was extinguished. Helen’s affluent family weren’t supportive; the Hamptons estate was peppered with emotional mines ready to explode; their four cute kids were turning into difficult teenagers; her sexy husband had a wandering eye, and worst of all he acted on it.
It wasn’t until the second season when we were allowed into minds of Helen and Cole.
One of the brightest acting talents to emerge in recent years, Golden Globe winning and Emmy nominated actress, Maura Tierney, is arguably best known for her role on the top rated NBC series ER, on which she starred for 8 seasons. Prior to joining the cast of ER, Tierney spent four years on the critically acclaimed NBC series NewsRadio. More recently, Tierney was seen on the CBS Drama, The Good Wife, as well as the critically acclaimed Rescue Me as the love interest of Dennis Leary's character, and reprised that role for the show's last season. Tierney also starred opposite Rob Morrow on ABC's The Whole Truth and appeared on the big screen opposite industry legends like Anthony Hopkins [Instinct], Al Pacino [Insomnia], John Travolta [Primary Colors] and Jim Carrey [Liar, Liar]. In addition to her long-scrolling IMDb page of 50 projects and counting, this past Spring she made her Broadway debut, starring in Nora Ephron's Lucky Guy, alongside Tom Hanks.
We sat down to chat with Maura after her Rogue photo shoot to discover her roots, her passions and what to expect next.
What first attracted you to starting your career as an actor?
In high school, I was always acting in plays. My first attraction was during college when I was majoring in dance. I really wanted to be a dancer. Turns out I didn’t have the body for it. It wasn’t working out for me so I switched to an acting major because I had friends in the drama department.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would say ‘Don’t worry so much… About EVERYTHING. It’s a giant waste of time.’ Oh and also don’t be so embarrassed all the time… constantly thinking about what people think, you know? Judgment, ugh, what a waste.
Have you progressed in your acting career as you have expected you would?
Well as a profession, unless you write your own stuff, you’re a little bit at the mercy of being hired. I didn’t have a master plan. The only thing I knew, and I knew for sure, was that I wanted to act. I was just fortunate to keep getting calls to work. And at the times when I wasn’t working, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by great talent and I really grew through those experiences.
You’ve been in a lot of great TV and high-brow movies. What have you learned about yourself since becoming a seasoned actress and celebrity?
I don’t think that being a celebrity teaches you much about anything especially yourself. I feel that I have learned by myself and through my work as an actress. Embracing celebrity and not embracing celebrity, loving it or not loving it. It’s all relative. But celebrity is generated by the media – actual and social and to me and for me, acting is my job.
What have you learned about life and the human condition from your career as an actor?
The human condition is a difficult one, right? Maybe for some people being an actor allows one to develop a certain sensitivity that one has and tries to hone in on when interacting with those who are experiencing difficult times. For me, as an actor, I try to pay attention to just…people… That’s what activates my being into a deeper understanding. The world is such a difficult place right now… a very hard and difficult place… to say that acting is giving any true insight to real and true suffering is hard for me to fathom.
Do you see yourself in Helen from The Affair?
No… I mean, she is me, I am her. But her whole life is different. She’s a control freak, I am not. She has four kids, I don’t have any. I like the character. I think she’s strong – sometimes. I think that I’m softer, somehow. I like that she’s funny. I like to think that I am funny. But the darker the story got, the further away I saw myself. I had a revelation at the end of the last season that I’m not like her. You know, the writers create the choices, which are a mystery to me.
What things in life are still a mystery to you?
For me, the biggest mystery is when I see certain “actors” seemingly so comfortable in the public eye embracing their celebrity and even basking in it. I find that to be mysterious… their place of sheer self-celebration. I’m also envious of that type of self-promotion. Self-love is a great thing, but I’m not comfortable in those situations. I’m more comfortable at work.
What has been your greatest accomplishment as an actor?
Well… 1. Just doing it. I can’t really pin down one accomplishment. I feel very proud of the work that I have been in.
2. The Wooster Group. The Wooster Group is an experiential theater group downtown in New York City. I approached them and said that I wanted to work with them.
For me, I’m particularly proud of that work because it’s very different for me and very difficult. I’m proud that I have the balls to do it. I have a lot of admiration for artists who switch up their mediums or learn another instrument. Acting is different in different mediums. TV is very different from theater.
What would you give up in your life in an instant if you got you to an even better place than you are right now?
My New York City apartment. And I’ve had it for 21 years. And I love it.
If you could play God for a day, what changes would you make in the world?
Oh my God, if I where GOD?! Try to remove ego [laughs] it’s the route of all evil. Oh and I’d try to make people listen to each other more.
What advice do you give young actors?
Listen, it’s a difficult job. If you love it, do it. I started watching baseball again and I thought about why I love acting when I was recently leaving a Yankees – Red Sox game… I like baseball because it’s the only sport that reminds me of acting. You’re on a team, BUT you’re by yourself. It’s all on you to perform. Players make a lot of mistakes. For instance, if the outfielder makes an error and then freaks out, the whole game is ruined. You’ve just got to keep playing. Theater is similar because if you make a mistake, you’ve got to just keep going. Sometimes it’s hard, but if you love it, it eases the pain of it not always working out the way you’d hoped it would. That’s the rewarding part. If you love the work, success will be there.
Photographer: JD Barnes
Stylist: Raytell Bridges
Makeup: Julie Harris
@Tracy Mattingly using Tata Harper
Hair: Caile Noble @Starworks using Oribe
Writer: Danielle Miller