In Step with... Toni Collette
Less than six months after the birth of her first child in Australia, the tall and talented 36-year-old actress Toni Collette—of Little Miss Sunshine, Muriel’s Wedding, and The Sixth Sense, for which she earned an Oscar nomination—was back working on a new dark-comedy TV series for Showtime dealing with, of all things, mental illness.
How can you find humor in that?
“It is sensitive,” Collette admitted. “And when you get Steven Spielberg involved, and it’s his idea, and he’s always dropping by the set as executive producer, you do it very carefully.” The show in question is called United States of Tara. Collette stars as a wife and mother plagued by what used to be called “multiple personalities” and now is known as dissociative identity disorder.
“You go with the gut,” the actress said. “Of course there was a lot of research. We all did the reading and had doctors who knew the disease available to us. There also was one woman who had the problem cooperating with us. She didn’t feel exploited but quite enjoyed the fact that we were doing something to bring it to people’s attention.”
In the plot, Tara, her two kids, and her husband (John Corbett, best known from Sex and the City) don’t know which identity, age, mood, or even gender Tara will have on a given day.
“The story is seen through the eyes of the whole family,” Collette said. “But the trouble [or fun?] starts when Mom goes off her meds.”
How was the audition process?
“I didn’t audition,” Collette said. “They wanted me. My agent sent me the script in Sydney, and I found it incredibly original, and I leaped at it.”
And does the cast get along?
“I was a fan of Sex and the City, but I didn’t know John before this,” she said. “He was so good in that and, much earlier, remember him in Northern Exposure? He’s a delight.”
The shooting is at what Collette said is “one of the oldest studios in Hollywood.
“They say that the ghost of Mary Pickford roams the building,” she added. “But I haven’t met her yet.”
Collette grew up in Blacktown, a suburb of Sydney, and was barely in her teens when she began working onstage in Godspell. Where did she get the nerve? “Being that young, I didn’t know enough to be afraid,” she said. “Had I waited, I’d have become too bashful and would never have become an actor.” Her latest project offscreen is motherhood. “I didn’t get much sleep last night,” she confessed. “We have no nurse. None of that. My husband—he’s a drummer— and I take care of her.” How did she get back in shape after giving birth? “I do yoga and Pilates, but the body itself knows what to do,” she said. “When you’re breast-feeding, the body has its own way to shrink.”
What You Don’t Know
She sings with her own pop-rock band, called Toni Collette and The Finish. Her husband is the drummer.Less than six months after the birth of her first child in Australia, the tall and talented 36-year-old actress Toni Collette—of Little Miss Sunshine, Muriel’s Wedding, and The Sixth Sense, for which she earned an Oscar nomination—was back working on a new dark-comedy TV series for Showtime dealing with, of all things, mental illness.
Born Nov. 1, 1972, in Blacktown, Australia. Married to Dave Galafassi since 2003; one child.
Why You Know Her
She was nominated for an Oscar for her role in The Sixth Sense (1999) and played a misfit in Muriel’s Wedding (1994).
What You Don’t Know
She sings with her own pop-rock band, called Toni Collette and The Finish. Her husband is the drummer.