It’s funny how a beautiful woman with a British accent can easily command a man’s attention, whether she’s playing coy of giving Americans hell for brutalizing the English language. Regardless, when we got the chance to sit down with our newest woman to watch, we were definitely drawn in by this lovely lady.
After seasons verbally sparring with the likes of William Shatner on Boston Legal, running away from Sarah Michelle Gellar on CW’s thriller Ringer and a starring role on Damages, this week’s Femme on Fire Tara Summers really knows how to attract an audience, and the best is yet to come.
Appearing later this month with Anthony Hopkins in the buzzed-about Hitchcock biopic, Summers chatted with Playboy.com on her hot role, her intimidating time on Sons of Anarchy’s new season and faking an American accent (we attest she can pull it off).
Playboy.com: Tell us about your new film, Hitchcock.
Summers: You’re going to be seeing Anthony Hopkins in all his glory. It’s about the making of Psycho, and the film centers around that in 1959. It’s about the relationship between him and his wife Alma, the silent partner of that relationship. It was amazing to be part of that cast and work with those people.
Playboy.com: You play a costume designer named Rita Riggs. What can you tell us about her?
Summers: She was very young when she started; she was his dresser for Psycho, Marnie and The Birds. It’s always interesting to play someone who existed, so I watched a lot of interviews with her. She was rather bohemian compared to everyone else. In the film I wear a long black wig and very bright colors that would not be normally seen in the period. I also had to wear a corset, which was extremely uncomfortable—I nearly passed out a couple of times.
Playboy.com: What was it like working with such legendary actors as Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren?
Summers: I had to pinch myself when I arrived and sat in the makeup chair with those people. To work with one of them is a lifetime dream, but all of them; it doesn’t get any better. I learned a lot from watching [Hopkins]; he’s so gracious and down to earth, it’s so humbling.
Playboy.com: What is your favorite Hitchcock film?
Summers: I went to Brown and took a class on Hitchcock, and basically the assignment was to watch every single one of his movies for my papers, so I’ve seen pretty much all of them. I hate horror films; I can’t really watch anything scary. I have to watch with the sound off—it’s so much easier! But I like Rear Window because I love Grace Kelly, and also The Birds.
Playboy.com: With your strong British accent, has it been hard to play all these roles on American television?
Summers: I think it’s easier for us because we all grow up watching American films and listening to their music. I think it’s an easier transition for British people to play Americans than the other way around. But you definitely have to think about it; it’s a different placing in the mouth, and you end up getting a tired jaw speaking in a different accent.
Playboy.com: Do you cringe when Americans try?
Summers: Yeah…sometimes. There are a few who shouldn’t do that—ever. [laughs]
Summers: They are a force to be reckoned with. I was very intimidated when I had to do the read-through. You walk into a room with 20 guys in biker gear who are very, very macho…[laughs] there’s a lot of testosterone on set, which is a little unnerving! But they are all very nice. I was a fan of the show so I was really excited to get cast in it.
Playboy.com: Tell us about your character, Karen.
Summers: I play a doctor who comes in to work with Maggie Siff’s character, Tara, who offers her a job. I don’t have any idea about her private life. I ask, “What does your husband do?” “He’s in the auto business.” She’s oblivious to that world, which is kind of funny.
Playboy.com: Will you be sticking around for a while in Charming?
Summers: They’ve finished up filming this season, so we’ll see! But it was very surreal [shooting the series]. There’s a lot of heat because it’s shot in a valley, so it’s very hot. [The guys] are kind of lawless; they play lawless guys. It’s a dangerous and sexy show, that’s for sure.
Playboy.com: You’ll be taking part in TNT’s new series Monday Mornings in February; what can you tell us about it?
Summers: It’s from David E. Kelley, who I worked with on Boston Legal. It’s based on a book called Monday Mornings, which Sanjay Gupta wrote. It’s a moral and ethical drama set in a hospital, but it’s not your generic hospital procedural. It gives you food for thought of the ethical dilemmas these doctors face and their bedside manner when dealing with patients who require brain surgery.
Playboy.com: Could you draw similarities about the ethical aspects of law from working on a show like Boston Legal to this show?
Summers: Absolutely. That’s why it’s going to be so good, because [Kelly] comes from that legal background. Each week a doctor is brought to trial about a situation that’s gone wrong, because it’s a teaching hospital. It’s like a trial but with the jury being the doctors.
Playboy.com: What has been your favorite role to play so far?
Summers: [Katie on] Boston Legal, because she was such a fun role to grow with. She started off clueless and then was winning all these cases by the end. Ringer was fun because I got to be dressed in all these ridiculously extravagant clothes and play this Upper East Side bitchy woman. So far, so good! I’ve yet to play an action hero, but that would be fun. [laughs].
Playboy.com: Who would you play?
Summers: Catwoman—latex catsuit, brilliant. Ha!
Playboy.com: You wrote and starred in a one-woman play, Gypsy of Chelsea, about your early life and your mother’s journey. What led to that decision?
Summers: I took a performance class and had all these ideas, but they turned out to be ridiculous. My teacher said “write what you know,” and then it poured out of me. I think performing was intimidating because I had to perform in front of 500 people in New York. That’s a lot when they’re judging you as an actress and your writing. Very vulnerable.
Playboy.com: Lightning Round: What is your…
Favorite City: New York.
Food: I could eat sushi for the rest of my life happily, but sea urchins.
Guilty Pleasure: Gossip Girl…I don’t know what I’m going to do [with the series ending].
Embarrassing Moment: Walking into a glass door and breaking my nose. I was too busy looking at my reflection.
Dream Ride: Aston Martin.
Cringe-worthy pickup line: I don’t know!
Playboy.com: What projects do you have coming up?
Summers: More of Monday Mornings, and CSI: New York this week! It was super fun—also playing a doctor, who is a shrink, who gets kidnapped. Juicy!