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Maura Tierney gives first interview since cancer treatment

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Image Credit: Inez Lewis/PR PhotosIn her first interview since undergoing treatment for the breast cancer that forced her to drop out of NBC’s Parenthood, a healthy Maura Tierney spoke to The New York Times about her decision to instead channel her energy into a stage role. Her New York run in the Wooster Group’s revival of North Atlantic, a play that the paper describes as “an absurdist portrayal of life on an aircraft carrier during the cold war” — pause while you wonder if you should feel guilty for just thinking of NewsRadio‘s genius Titanic episode — ends this Sunday.

What strikes me is just how much sense everything she said makes. I’ve not battled cancer, but I’ve watched my father fight for nearly five years. She said she wanted to challenge herself, doing it with a theater company that values what the Times refers to as “technical precision and stylized line reading over emotionally wrought acting,” which was perfect for her. “What appealed to me was that the focus of North Atlantic was more about performance rather than emoting, because I was at a point in life where it was nice not to have to emote all over the place,” she said. In my experience, it’s like you want to stay busy, but you never know which mood you’ll be in — and you have zero interesting in faking one. I can understand the comfort of knowing you don’t have to convey an emotion. Plus, her role of “whimsical and sexually curious” Nurse Babcock, who gets to make lewd comments to men in a chorus that includes Frances McDormand, sounds like a fun distraction.

“A theater role was also a much better fit for me last fall than television,” Tierney added. “I felt terrible leaving the Parenthood team in the lurch [Lauren Graham replaced her], but doing the show would have been very stressful because I didn’t want that phase of my life documented on film. There is no HD in the theater.” She could be saying that because she lost her long brunette locks (her hair is a short salt-and-pepper now, the writer reports. But I get that, too: Theater is focused on the moment. It exists, then it’s gone. It’s like taking one day at a time, and living it. You can be intensely focused for a short amount of time, then let it go. Reading that Tierney is also recovering from the loss of her father in mid-December during her final weeks of chemo, you wish her those moments of peace — whether they’re quiet or in utter abandon.