Marina Sirtis has long been one of TV’s most memorable actresses, and now she’s about to take center stage with the starring role in the medical dramedy Internity. Marina is stepping into the lab coat of Dr. Camila Chivari, who at 50 is starting her life over as a first-year medical intern and is not the character you normally see – but to do so, she and her colleagues are reaching out to viewers to directly fund the pilot.
LA Fan Cultures Examiner spoke to Marina on Monday to discuss what drew her to Internity and why it represents something different for television.
Described as what would happen if Scrubs met ER and they went to Comic-Con together, Internity follows Camila as she begins her new career amongst a unique group of colleagues. Her new boss, Dr. Nate (Joey Adams), is a pop culture fanboy who’s barely older than her own son, but at least his flashbacks and dream sequences allow for the show to call upon all sorts of fan favorites.
Nate’s riding high because he’s under the wing of hotshot medical director Owen Sieber (Richard Ruccolo), while Nurse Tracey (Carla Jimenez) tries to hold down the fort, and everyone wonders about mysterious stranger Andrew (Jim Beaver) and the secret he’s carrying. It’s not quite a comedy, not quite a drama, but it is breaking some barriers.
“What I find exciting is that kind of like House was in a way, you have this older person who’s the lead and then you have younger people,” Marina said. “The difference is House was the boss; in this show, we’re all equal because we’re all interns. I just happen to be an intern in middle age who’s starting her life over after a bad marriage.
“I think it’s something people can relate to. I can’t tell you how often I hear from middle-aged women, how they feel they’re not represented on television,” she continued. “In fact I got a tweet last week from a guy saying why is it that every middle-aged man on television is dating a woman in their twenties or early thirties? Why aren’t they dating women of the appropriate age? And I’m like honey, that’s kind of like art imitating life, because all these Hollywood execs are with young women so they’ve put themselves on TV.”
She’s excited about Adams’ pilot script, which she called “excellent,” and explained how it attracted her to the project. “He wrote the part for me specifically,” she said. “That was the first reason, when someone writes something specifically for you, what a huge compliment and what a bonus when it ends up being really good.
“As a woman gets older in Hollywood, the opportunities for great roles get less and less,” she continued, “and for someone to actually write something for someone of my age that’s really exciting and different and something I haven’t done before, I had to. Why wouldn’t I?”
While middle-aged women are represented on television, such as Marcia Gay Harden starring in the upcoming Code Black and Kathy Bates in the American Horror Story franchise, Marina pointed out an important distinction: those are actresses who are established movie stars, not veteran TV actresses who now face tougher competition for the best roles as studios look for bankable names.
“We’re getting parts but as I said, these women are movie stars. They’ve won Academy Awards,” she explained. “We TV girls, we have to find other ways to make a living and I think that’s really important that people realize we haven’t retired, we’re not just doing conventions, we’re actresses and we want to work.”
That leads to creating their own content, and Marina told us there’s only one major distinction between being signed to a project like Internity and a traditional television pilot, because both are just as uncertain.
“The difference is you have to raise your own money as opposed to being hired by a studio or a network to be on the show, but you’re much more involved in trying to get the word out and trying to get people to donate something,” she said. “You can shoot a pilot with NBC or CBC or ABC and it could cost millions of dollars to make this pilot and it never gets shown because the studio goes nope, we don’t like it. On to the next one. Getting a pilot is no guarantee that you’re going to be doing a series.”
But with Internity, the power is in the hands of the prospective audience themselves. You can contribute money toward the production of the pilot and directly help get the series produced and feel like you have a stake in bringing the project to life. Audiences have the chance to get this story told, and give a great actress and an intriguing character the spotlight, without worrying about what a network or a focus group might say or try to change. It’s truly hands-on television.
It also represents a big step forward for Marina, who’s appeared on other medical shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Casualty, but never starred in one. In fact, even with everything she’s done in her career, there’s another big first for her: “I’m going to be number one on the call sheet,” she said. “I know this sounds really kind of inane, but I’ve never been number one on the call sheet, so it’s huge for me.
“With that comes a certain responsibility,” she continued. “We’ve always said that when we were doing Star Trek, one of the reasons the show was so successful was it was a total ensemble piece despite the fact that Patrick Stewart was such a huge star. The trickle down from the star of the show – if they’re a diva, then everyone’s unhappy. If they regard themselves as part of the ensemble and don’t act in that egotistical, starry way, then we have a wonderful and happy set. So that’s going to be what I’m aiming for.”
She’ll even have a call back to Star Trek in the pilot episode. “Michael Dorn is going to direct it and he has a cameo in it,” she revealed. “I’m really looking forward to working with my best friend again.”
That’s just another reason to get excited about Internity. Not only would it mean we’d get to see more of a great TV actress, not only could we enjoy all sorts of intriguing story possibilities, and open the door for more representation of middle-aged characters within our medium, there’s a mini Star Trek reunion in the works. What’s not to love? If you enjoy television, this is a crowdfunding project that you’ll want to get behind.
To learn more about Internity and help get the pilot made, visit Indiegogo.