On The Line with Maura Kidwell

Maura Kidwell is an up-and-coming actress who plays a sweet and quirky EMT known as Stats on USA Network’s Sirens. (My favorite character on the show, by the way) She is also involved with Erasing the Distance, a Chicago-based company whose aim is to shed light on issues of mental health through theatre. Maura and I had an enlightening discussion about Sirens, learning more about Stats, what she has taken out of Erasing the Distance and more!

Alex Obert: How did you get the role of Stats on Sirens?

Maura Kidwell: I went to the audition, the casting agency called me. And when it started to feel like, “Oh man, this might be something” was when I was called back a second time. I got there and Bob Fisher and Tom Sellitti were there. I stayed there for an hour, not because they were making me wait there for an hour or anything, they had me in the room for a long time just playing. Kevin Bigley was there and was my reader. He was the best reader I could’ve asked for. I read for both Voodoo and Stats. We just played and kind of improvised. Michael Blieden was also there, he and I got along great. So that’s when it felt like I could really be on a TV show. And then I got the call within a few days. I was ecstatic!

Alex Obert: How was the character pitched to you? How did they describe it?

Maura Kidwell: Actors get a breakdown email before they go in for the audition and the only thing really written about her was the origin of her name. She’s nicknamed Stats because she has an amazing ability to remember facts and figures. She loves order and she likes organization. In the first season, she was organizing the mailboxes. It speaks to her quirks. I think that’s pretty much all it said about her though.

Alex Obert: What do you take out playing Stats?

Maura Kidwell: What I take from playing Stats ­ or just from being a cast member in general ­ is just being a part of a killer ensemble of performers who love to play with each other and who are just such pros. It’s really a dream job working with and for some of the greatest people in the industry. What’s so fun about playing Stats, I’d say one thing that’s really fun is that we actually still don’t know a huge ton about her life outside of work. The writers are doing a really good job of finding the comedy in that mystery. We have a little game of sorts in the second season where the writers would have Stats drop little bombs about her personal life to the rest of the group, and then just walk away without giving any more details. A lot of the comedy from those moments comes from how the rest of the group reacts to her, just staring dumbfounded. I love it, it’s so much fun.

Alex Obert: Who do you feel you have the best chemistry with on and off the set?

Maura Kidwell: The whole crew is such a family and a well­oiled machine. I will say I really, really enjoy when the whole crew is together at the ambulance depot. It’s so fun to play as a full group when the cops come over for lunch. Sometimes Theresa and Billy will join us for lunch and Mac will be there too. But I also really, really enjoy our ambulance scenes with Bill Nunn and Kelly and me. As soon as the doors close and the ambulance starts moving, Bill Nunn just starts with some of the funniest stories. Sometimes it fits within the theme and the cameras are rolling and sometimes it’s not, but it’s just so enjoyable. Kelly and I just sit there and laugh.

Alex Obert: What do you think of working with a veteran like Bull Nunn?

Maura Kidwell: I’m so lucky in so many ways. I get to be around that guy, just hearing his stories and hearing about how he’s developed as an actor. I’ve been familiar with Bill’s work for a long time. I love when we can really get him talking and he drops knowledge on us. It’s like being in a master class for comedy. He just has a way of varying his takes on lines, it’s just brilliant.

Alex Obert: And how about working with Michael Mosley?

Maura Kidwell: He really sets the tone with being the main character of the show. Whether he’s conscious of it or not, he carries with him the responsibility of setting the tone of positivity on set. He does it so well. And he doesn’t do it alone, it comes from everybody. It comes from the three main guys, the producers, and everybody feels that. You look to the actors who carry the bulk of the lines. It is such a positive environment. I realize that he’s done a lot of work for a lot of years and I really respect that. I really learn so much from all the people on the show, those who have been doing this longer than me.

Alex Obert: Since Brian and Voodoo separated this season, it would be interesting to see Stats and Brian as a couple.

Maura Kidwell: The thought of exploring what Brian and Stats might do if they spent the day together, it has been brought up by people. We spend a lot of time talking about our characters. It’s such an interesting idea.

Alex Obert: That’s the beauty of it, all of the possibilities with all the characters.

Maura Kidwell: Yeah, the possibilities are really endless. The writers are so good at tying things together like that. As the writers get to know the characters better and know their relationships better, the ideas are evolving. So yeah, that’s certainly a possibility.

Alex Obert: I immediately noticed in season two that your hair got longer. What’s going on there?

Maura Kidwell: It actually was getting longer because I was doing some other work at the time where I couldn’t cut my hair. I think it’s turning out well, even with the awkward not quite short/not quite long phase. I’m continuing to let it grow and it’s actually getting quite long. Crossed fingers that we go to that third season, the hairstylists will have fun with it. They do such a good job, the hair team and makeup team does a really good job of telling stories through their aesthetics. For example, Voodoo’s hair has gone through its own evolution. It has its own character arc. It’s funny you bring up hair because it’s a big thing on the show because everybody wears the same uniform.

Alex Obert: With Sirens getting solid reviews and more exposure, where were you when you found out that season two was approved?

Maura Kidwell: Bob Fisher called me on my cell phone. He was so cool about it. Waiting to find out if you get that next season, it can be mildly stressful. I imagine Bob didn’t think we’d know much, being in Chicago and away from the other guys. So he called me on my cell phone and just assured that it’s a go. I haven’t worked with all that many shows, but I don’t know if anyone else would do that. Bob is so special in that way. So he told me and then we had an hour long conversation on the phone about other stuff. He’s so cool, such a great dude.

Alex Obert: Being on a show that’s on a major cable network, what was the feedback from friends and family when you were on the first season?

Maura Kidwell: It was great! It was so great! My parents were really proud. I think they would watch and love the show, even if I weren’t on it. But of course, they watch every episode. They get together with my aunts and uncles to watch. Since I don’t live where I went to school and where I grew up, I lost touch with many of the people I went to high school and grade school with for the most part. When people see me on TV, they will generously write to me on Facebook or send me an email and say “Hey, I just saw you on TV! Great job!” It’s a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with random people that I haven’t talked to in years.

Alex Obert: Outside of Sirens, you are involved with Erasing the Distance. Can you fill readers in on that?

Maura Kidwell: Erasing the Distance is a theater company that I’ve been a part of since 2009. It was formed several years before that by Brighid O’Shaughnessy, she’s the artistic director. Our mission is to spark dialogue about issues of mental health through theater. So basically what we do is we conduct interviews. It might last thirty minutes, it might last three hours. And the interviews are with people who want to share their stories about their experiences with issues of mental health. Maybe they themselves deal with issues, maybe they have a family member or a friend. They come to us and say they have a story to tell. Many times, it’s either a friend or a family member of someone involved in our company who hears about what they do and then they say that they know something about that. Then they want to talk to us about their sister’s eating disorder or their own experience with bipolar disorder. Or sometimes, people who see our show will come forward. They can also go to our website and contact us that way. We have story sharing days where people can just show up. We have a huge number of stories from many, many generous storytellers. We audio­record the interview, then we listen to it and transcribe it word for word. It can end up being three pages or thirty pages or whatever. And then we shape that into a monologue, or in some cases a scene, and we have professional actors perform those pieces for organizations, communities, schools, we’ll go anywhere.

Alex Obert: Do you feel all that helped influence you playing Stats in regards to her perceived OCD?

Maura Kidwell: It’s an interesting question because I don’t know that anything was written anywhere that I can remember that Stats has OCD or any specific disorder. It is indicated in the writing that Stats is very comforted by order. She does have that amazing ability to remember statistics, hence the name. I might’ve pulled little of my knowledge of obsessive tendencies and applied it. I have many obsessive tendencies myself, so I didn’t have to look too far. For example, I have this thing where I don’t really step on cracks. And I’m not even conscious of it anymore, I just don’t do it. Or if I do step on a crack, there’s a whole system that I have to do with my other foot. It’s a weird thing that I don’t even think about anymore. But I incorporated it into one episode of the first season of Sirens and Denis Leary told me that’s how I have to always walk on tiles. (laughs) He said that’s one of my things now and to incorporate that. So I didn’t have to reach that far for little quirks like that. I think at the heart of it, all of the characters on Sirens are full of eccentricities. And they all love each other for those eccentricities, that’s what really makes the heart of the show.

Alex Obert: I’m very glad that you opened up to me with that, especially since I deal with similar issues. Before we wrap up, do you have any projects that are being presented to you or that you may be going after?

Maura Kidwell: I did a feature film in December, it’s called No Resolution. It’s written and directed by Tim Kasher. He’s a musician, but he’s apparently a jack of all trades. A really brilliant guy. That was very special project for me. I made some very dear friends on that one. People can expect to see it sometime in 2016. As far as future work, I’m just living the life of an actor. I go on auditions every week for everything from theater to commercials. I’ve actually taken on more responsibility with Erasing the Distance, helping out with casting. I’ve really been enjoying that a lot. And I’m getting married in July!

Alex Obert: Sounds like a big year ahead. All we need now is an approval for season three.

Maura Kidwell: Yes, we’re all keeping our fingers crossed and positive thoughts abound. I really love this show and this job, I’d love to see it keep going.

Alex Obert: And even if not on cable, there’s more outlets now for new episodes of the show to air. The first season is available on Netflix now, so you never know what can happen.

Maura Kidwell: Yeah, that’s the beauty of the technology of today. There’s all sorts of ways to share content. No matter what, there’s a life for this show.

Alex Obert: In closing, I have one last interesting question for you. Since you live in Chicago, what is your preferred way to have a hot dog?

Maura Kidwell: (laughs) Oh man! I am a big mustard person in general. So generally that. I’ve gotta say that Chicago hot dogs have opened me up to relish as a condiment. I never thought of it as a possibility before, but it’s pretty delicious. That combination sounds kind of gross, but it’s so good.

Alex Obert: I’d love to thank you so much for your time and I wish you the best ahead.

Maura Kidwell: Thank you for your time, Alex! It’s been a pleasure talking with you.

Official Website for Maura Kidwell
Official Website for Sirens
Official Website for Erasing the Distance

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Photo Credit: Jason Ensler

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