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Interview: Kelli Williams

Some actors might be a bit nervous at being the lead of the very first original scripted series for a network, but not actor Kelli Williams. Up Network’s series Ties That Bind is already separating itself from the pack of police dramas on television today. One of the reasons for the series success is the work of Kelli Williams.

Kelli should be no stranger to the viewers of Ties That Bind as she has built an impressive resume of work so far in her career. She played Lindsay Dole for several seasons on the hit series The Practice; she’s also appeared on the series Army Wives, Lie to Me opposite Tim Roth and Medical Investigations.

Today, we sit down with Kelli to talk about her new series Ties That Bind, what she did to prepare for her role as Detective Allison McLean and what fans can look forward to in the first season of the series.

Pop Culture Principle – What was it about the pilot script for Ties that Bind that made you decide to do take the part?

Kelli Williams – When I first received the script, there were so many things that were interesting to me. Not only was it not just the pilot episode, but it was all ten episodes of the show, so I knew I had an opportunity to really find out who this character was. Typically in pilot season, you do the episode and then you wait to see if it gets picked up and you just get a little sliver of character, tone and what the show could be about. Here, we got the opportunity to really dig our teeth into the story.

Allison Mclean from the beginning was a really interesting character to me. These offers come in sometimes and you just cross your fingers that it will be something that is good, interesting and has all the right ingredients. I was excited and overjoyed about getting the offer for the series and I sat down to read it with all these high hopes. So, at every page turn, not only was it meeting my expectations, but it was beyond my expectations and I got really excited about it.

So, I met with Sheryl Anderson who is our showrunner, creator, executive producer extraordinaire and Barbara Fisher who is the head of drama television at UPtv and we hit it off immediately and I just couldn’t wait to get to work with these ladies.

Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us the basic premise of Ties that Bind and about your character Alison McLean?

Kelli Williams – The show is a hybrid police show and a family drama at the same time and it’s a show that the whole family can watch. You have some drama, you have a whodunit element to the show and then you also have my husband and me raising our two children and also taking in our niece and nephew and raising them. It’s that wonderful task of family where we all try to do it well and often times we feel like we are not doing it as well as we could.

At the same time, we are both working parents and trying to juggle that world of co-parenting and also trying to keep our relationship strong. I myself being a mom who is married and with kids, I try to live for that same balance like my character and it’s been fun to bring my own history and story of having teenagers into the show.

Pop Culture Principle – Did you do any particular preparation for this role?

Kelli Williams - Before I left Los Angeles, I went and shadowed Captain Lillian Carranza at the Van Nuys police department. She is in uniform as a captain there and I was able to attend the Monday morning crime meetings as they went through the day’s agenda and so on. Seeing a real life version of it was really great and it really helped me a lot.

I also had a little bit of hands on practice. Dion and I went to a gun range in Vancouver to shoot and we learned how to enter a room and things like that. A gentleman came in who was very experienced and showed us how to hold a gun, reload it, walk into a room and it was a huge help for us as well. As the season goes on, you can see that I get more and more comfortable with playing a cop on the show.

Pop Culture Principle – The series does a great job of portraying the difficulty of balancing work and home life. Would you agree with that?

Kelli Williams – Absolutely and that was one of the things that really intrigued me about the show that it was important that we show that it is flawed. In the pilot episode, everyone leaves the table and I am there by myself which was such a great moment for me and kind of made me understand the show. It wasn’t going to be a cookie cutter show, but at the same time, it has this really lovely moral center. I think you can have this moral center and this integrity in the show, but you can also have kids making mistakes and parents not handling it well and then being able to have a family conversation. You don’t see that as often and I think in this kind of family drama, I like that my 12 year old can watch it and see that this family deals with the same stuff we deal with in our house.

Pop Culture Principle – This is UPtv’s first foray into original scripted series. As the lead, do you feel any added pressure knowing this is their first series?

Kelli Williams – You know what; I actually didn’t feel any pressure. I know what you mean because I’ve seen it before with other shows that I’ve worked on. I did a show called Lie to Me with Tim Roth and even though we were partners in the series, it was really Tim’s show and it was also his first foray into television. You could see that responsibility and I was luckily able to just be there to support him and didn’t have any of the responsibility on my shoulders.

With Ties that Bind, they have been so open and really just gave us a lot of free reign in terms of the Atlanta and Charles Humbard side of things. They wanted us to make the best show we could make and I never felt any pressure on me.

As an actor, you put some pressure on yourself as far as doing the best job that you can do. For me, it’s all about the work and getting it done in a short amount of time. Typically a show is done in eight days on a network series, 7 days on a cable series, but for us, we shoot a one hour episode in six days. So, we had a lot of work to do and we just had to get it done.

I feel that me being there 95 percent of the time, it was up to me to set a tone. I felt like I wanted all of us to work hard, but have fun at the same time because laughter is important. So much so that I wanted to make sure that I was on the gag reel at the end of the season because it shows that I am having a great time on set.

Pop Culture Principle – The series boasts a fantastic cast including some amazing young actors. What has your experience been like working with everyone on the series?

Kelli Williams – All of the young actors are just so professional and amazing to work with. I had the opportunity to go up to Vancouver before the kids were cast to do some chemistry reads with a bunch of different combinations of teenagers. There were a lot of kids that came in, but when they put me together with these four young actors that are on the show now, it felt like we were a unit and it just made sense. They are all so good and I can’t wait, if we get another season, to explore their characters even more and you will get a peek at what these actors are capable of.

They are also teaching me all the things about Twitter. I wasn’t too sure about social media because it kind of freaks me out, but I decided to get back on Twitter and Rhys Matthew Bond literally gives me tutorials on Twitter. He thought it was funny that I have a personal Instagram account and a work Instagram account.

Pop Culture Principle – What has surprised you the most so far working on Ties that Bind?

Kelli Williams – I wouldn’t say anything has really surprised me, but I am excited to be on the ground floor at UPtv with this new series and as they start to build their network. In terms of surprises on set, we end up doing a lot more stunts, running and jumping which is fun, but at the same time, I have a great stunt double!

Pop Culture Principle – What can fans look forward to with the upcoming first season of Ties that Bind?

Kelli Williams – I think a lot of people are very curious about my relationship with my brother who is played by Luke Perry. So, there is definitely going to be more of Luke and our complicated dynamic. We really dig deeper into the family and the kids fitting in and things will really go down at the end of the season. We also have some great guest stars coming up including C. Thomas Howell. I am excited for people to see what the show has in store for the fans.

You can catch brand new episodes of Ties That Bind every Wednesday night at 9/8c on the UP Network. If you would like to keep up to date with all of Kelli's latest news and projects, you can follow her on Twitter @_KelliWilliams or on Instagram @iamkws.

**Photos courtesy of UPtv**

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