Between her supporting role on HBO's “Hung” and her critically acclaimed appearance in the new comedy “Cedar Rapids,” Anne Heche is busier now than at any time since the 1990s, but she might be the least surprised of anyone by her newfound career surge. In Heche's view, it all comes down to not giving up.
“In a way, it's kind of perseverance — like, you know, ‘I'm still here and just not going away,'” Heche said in a phone interview while having extensions wove into her hair to play Jessica in the upcoming third season of “Hung.” “I just think I'm lucky. I found some projects that I really wanted to do, some things the artists involved wanted to me to be a part of that we merged our creative brains around. And of course, work begets work, so I think I got into a really wonderful situation where I got on a roll, and it couldn't feel better. I've had a really wonderful couple of years.”
Heche had recently ended her two-year run on the ABC series “Men in Trees” when she learned about “Hung,” a comedy-drama about a Detroit high school coach named Ray (played by Thomas Jane), who, thanks to certain physical attributes, finds a sideline as an in-demand male escort. Heche's Jessica left Ray to marry a plastic surgeon, but she soon found that her post-Ray plans were anything but certain.
Heche originally missed her shot at “Hung” due to some unfortunate scheduling, but then the show's producers decided to recast Jessica. At that point, Heche was nine months pregnant.
“So I just kind of rolled myself into the room and said, ‘Please please please, give it to me,'” she said. “So they reshot the pilot's scenes with me, and we had such a great time.”
Producer-director Alexander Payne (“Sideways,” “About Schmidt”), who executive produces “Hung,” was a key ally for Heche when “Cedar Rapids” director Miguel Arteta was casting Joan Ostrowski-Fox, the married mother of two who lets her crimson hair down with naive insurance agent Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) at an annual convention. Heche said she beat out several A-list actresses for the role thanks to heavy campaigning on her part and the endorsement of both Payne and Arteta (“Chuck & Buck”).
“It was really about our working connection and understanding that we were creating a character,” Heche said. “I think he (Arteta) really felt that for the truth of ‘Cedar Rapids' to work, we needed to really buy, not just a comedian in the role, but a person who would embrace the vibe of a Midwestern woman without making fun of her. He trusted the seriousness with which I would approach the comedy.”
Heche said that the Joan character required nuance. As the alpha female at the insurance convention, she had to come across as a relatable woman, not just a party girl, when she befriends Tim and his colleagues played by John C. Reilly and Isiah Whitlock Jr.
“It was very important to all of us,” Heche said. “This was more of a story about friendship. By the end, you really believe that these are people who are going to look forward to seeing each other again and will have bonded.”
That bond is evident in the final scenes, and after developing comic chemistry with her co-stars, Heche said she hopes “Cedar Rapids” is the start of a series of unconventional conventions.
“I sure hope so — ‘Cedar Rapids' is the place they go for this convention; I'd love to go to every city in the Midwest for a convention,” she said. “Bring it on!”