American Crime isn’t just another cop show. The new ABC series, from 12 Years a Slave scribe John Ridley, premieres March 5 and centers on what happens after a crime is committed—in this case, the murder of a veteran and the brutal attack of his wife. The series, which stars Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton, follows the families of the victims, the people accused of committing the crimes and a surprisingly wide web of strangers whose lives are all altered in the process. Among them is Aubry, the troubled drug addict portrayed by Caitlin Gerard.
Here, Gerard discusses preparing for the role and why she thought she’d never land the part.
Here you are in this anticipated series playing a woman who’s supremely down on her luck. Life being bad for Aubry is actually pretty good for you.
When I think about it, it blows my mind. Last year it was pilot season—I was going on five auditions a day, back to back—and I remember that when I got the script for American Crime, even in all that craziness, feeling this incredible sense of stillness. There was an immediate spark and connection, but then I faced the reality that it was very unlikely I would get the part. Every time I would get a call, I really was completely shocked. I went to a chemistry read, and when I walked out and looked at all of the actors siting and waiting for their turn, I thought, I can’t believe I actually got this far.
What was it about the part that made it so important to you?
I’m drawn to dark, complex characters. I really like going out of my own comfort zone. Someone like this character, who is burdened by drug addiction, is enmeshed in this incredibly deep love and is thrown into catastrophic events. Overall, it’s just fascinating to experience what the character goes through. She had this very deep sense of self and purpose, and it made a deep impression on me.
How did you prepare to play someone with this kind of life?
First of all, I really had to come from a place of no judgment. I really wanted to approach her with truth and integrity. In every decision she made, I found this kind of amazing authenticity: She was so true to herself and what she believed in, even though she does some wildly inappropriate things, I had to look at it as if it was the right thing to do.
Was it just mental preparation?
She also went through a lot of physical pain along with her emotional struggles, so I worked a lot with her physicality—how she moved and behaved. I wouldn’t torture myself, but I would limit what I was doing and physically prepare for that moment.
There are plenty of crime shows and police procedurals out there. What makes American Crime special?
This show isn’t about solving a crime. I actually don’t even think it’s about the darker side of humanity. I think it’s just looking at individuals who have been thrown into a tragic circumstance and how that event really forces them to question their morals and themselves. It feels new to me because we’re forced to stick with someone after the crime has left the headlines, but of course it’s still important to the people involved. They’re still dealing with it after an amount of time that we can’t even fathom.