Exclusive: KaDee Strickland on the Story of a Lifetime, Coming Full Circle on Private Practice
KaDee Strickland may or may not be nominated for an Emmy this season for her work as Dr. Charlotte King on Private Practice, but she's definitely part of the conversation.
For the actress, all that matters is that the conversation keeps going.
Not about whether she deserves an Emmy (though she wouldn't mind), but on her character's storyline throughout the season and on the countless women it gave a voice to.
It was clear immediately after Charlotte was brutally raped in an episode last fall that the hard-nosed doctor would never be the same. Nor, it turns out, would Strickland.
With Charlotte ready to come full circle on tonight's Private Practice, when she marries Cooper, TV Fanatic had the honor of discussing the life-changing story with KaDee.
"Did You Hear What Happened to Charlotte King?" The title of the November 4 episode, chronicling the immediate aftermath of Charlotte's rape, said it all.
A powerful woman. At her place of business. It was the last thing you'd expect, and the only thing anyone could talk about. It hit the audience in the gut from the start.
Strickland tells TV Fanatic exclusively about being approached with the controversial story, and her role in shaping it: "I had the simple role of trusting Shonda Rhimes," she said.
"It came to her, and it made the most sense with my character."
"I was absolutely, immediately on board. For so many reasons I thought it was perfect as an instrument of educating people in the circumstances. Statistically, I understood how it could be a great service to the audience, and knew Shonda would do it right."
"My only stipulation was that it not go away quickly, and she and I were in solidarity."
Private Practice and Grey's Anatomy never shy away from pushing the envelope with emotional, often melodramatic developments, but this was different.
It was unabashed, hauntingly realistic and deeply personal.
Strickland praises Rhimes, the creator of both shows, for crafting the events in this manner, noting the outpouring of responses from real-life victims.
"Personally, I got so many letters from people who have never told people, who've never spoken about it. When you get to have those moments in the airport, walking to your car, when they just say thank you, you will be affected by that."
"I have been in the company of many people who have been in gratitude for this story and subsequent episodes. They felt validation in ways that made me so proud."
"It has opened me so much to the power of what we get to do as storytellers. It's a profound experience to bring a wonderful story to bring to people through the vessel that is me."
"I've gotten to know Charlotte in a way that is so intimate and so close and how that's impacted me as a performer, it's something that will never leave me."
The fact that it will never leave her - or Charlotte - is part of the reason it's been so effective in an era where dramatic story arcs are often quickly glossed over.
"I've done enough work on this to know that it never goes away. It takes a lifetime. This is as 'real' a situation as a main character, with the way they've conducted it, with everyone effected by a core character this way, you really get to feel all the feelings that went with it."
"The specifics of Charlotte's story line happen every two minutes to someone. Thirty times in the course of our show. People are terrified to look on some level. It is a critical circumstance because it just doesn't have a reason happen to anyone."
The experience was so profound and affected her so deeply that Strickland herself feels triggers when she steps back onto the set of the sexual assault on Charlotte.
"It's still very much in my bones," she said. "When it is so highly relatable, there's no way around it. They did carry it out in a way with which I am very proud. I don't think I can even step back on those sets and not have a memory."
Stickland is an active supporter of both the national organization RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), for which she did a PSA, and Santa Monica's Stuart House (a local rape treatment center), two groups she describes as remarkable.
Of all the actress' accomplishments, going to Capitol Hill on behalf of RAINN and seeing the 500 percent increase in service requests after the dramatic episode and her PSA aired last fall are the two that make her proudest, and with good reason.
A tragic experience may scar a person for life, but there is always hope.
Looking ahead to tonight's episode, when Charlotte marries Cooper, we will see a joyous moment arise from a relationship that has been put to the test and then some.
Strickland says her co-star Paul Adelstein has been a rock for her personally and professionally throughout the season, and that the nuanced portrayal of the sexual assault victim's partner "brought wonderful colors for Paul to play with."
"This was one of the hardest things, to share intimacy with someone once you've been damaged," she says. "With Paul, the work was allowed to happen perfectly. I was very grateful it was him that I was able to do this dance with."
Will it result in recognition for her work at TV's big dance - the Emmy Awards - and would it feel extra sweet to be nominated, given how deeply this story has affected her and the renewed interest it would spark in issues so important to Strickland?
"Everyone loves to excel at what they do and be recognized at what they do," she tells us. "Because of the attention and awareness, it would be the icing on the cake ... it's an amazing fantasy to have in this moment as you ask the question."
"If that happens, it would be extraordinary. I'm a firm believer that none of this is an accident. At this point, I am just thrilled that people still want to talk about it."
If KaDee Strickland earned an Outstanding Supporting Actress nomination following the fourth season of Private Practice, that would certainly be no accident.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Stuart House is a Rape Treatment Center affiliated with Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center.
To find services for rape victims in your area, visit RAINN or call 1-800-656-HOPE. 87 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to sexual assault victims.