For Alanis, ‘Weeds’ is Good Stuff
For Alanis Morissette, Weeds is medicinal television.
"Weeds was my solace and respite in the back of the bus on tour. I was in the middle of detoxing at the time, and it was my replacement addiction for food," the alt-rock star says.
"Weeds helps me," she says, laughing. "The irony is hilarious."
Now Morissette, who has acting experience, gets an opportunity other fans of the Showtime comedy would die for: a seven-episode guest visit that begins Monday (10 ET/PT), playing a doctor who cares for the pregnant Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker).
The popular Canadian singer enjoys the surreal world of Nancy, the marijuana-dealing suburban mom who has been spared death at the hands of a Mexican drug gang because she's carrying the boss's baby.
"Somehow, they make very fantastical things seem very mundane and commonplace, which I love," she says. "And anything that pushes the envelope politically. Touching on legalization just by having a show called Weeds is amazing."
Morissette put the guest possibility in motion by seeking a meeting with Jenji Kohan, creator of Showtime's most-watched comedy (1.2 million viewers for Season 5's premiere). "I have a lot of empathy for the Nancy character, and I thought it could be interesting to offer someone who could be in a supportive position with her."
When Kohan developed the role, Morissette was among numerous hopefuls who read for it.
"I found her delightful, but I was a little concerned about the acting thing," Kohan says. "Had she shown she could not do the part, I would have cast someone else. In the end, she was so natural and engaging and believable that she really won the day."
It didn't hurt that Morissette looks like the doctor, a friend of Kohan's, on whom the character, Audra Kitson, is based. (Morissette won't sing in the episodes, nor will the show feature her music. "I don't think we can afford it," Kohan says.)
Audra first appears as a doctor examining Nancy and advising her of her pregnancy options, including abortion. "Once she becomes privy to their world, she sort of becomes the family doc in a weird way," Kohan says.
Morissette says, "Nancy is in a pickle, and Audra helps her outside of what typically would be allowed in a hospital." The more conventional doctor is horrified by the family's bizarre lifestyle "for a millisecond, and then it's alluring to her. She's really drawn to the drama."
She's also eventually drawn to Nancy's brother-in-law, Andy (Justin Kirk), who has been carrying a torch for Nancy after being rejected by her.
"I think it's fair to say that on the surface of things, Andy doesn't seem like someone who has (it) together to the degree she might, being a doctor and all that," Kirk says. "It's a rocky road at first. It is a bit of a struggle for Andy to nail it down, as it were." He praises Morissette's "authentic presence on screen. (And) she clearly knows something about performing."
Morissette says she wants to do more acting. Before Weeds, she hadn't been able to pursue it for more than a short commitment, including a three-episode arc on FX's Nip/Tuck, because she was constantly touring.
She's working on a book that "is decidedly not a memoir" and will include Q&A, philosophy, body-image conversations, anecdotes, humor and photos.
And she's training for a marathon. "I'm doing it on behalf of eating disorders. My thought is, one great way for people to heal their relation to food is treating the body as an instrument rather than an ornament."
Acting and the other pursuits won't preclude music. "Once the book is finished, I will segue into one if not two records," Morissette says. "I never think in terms of having to pick between two forms of expression. I do the one that calls me the most."
For now, she's called to Weeds, something she has in common with her character.
"Audra is interested in all the goings-on," Kirk says. "She just wants to hang out and see how it turns out - just like a Weeds fan."