When you cast Catherine Dent in a project, you know you're going to get something different. That's the case with her role in the new Lifetime TV-movie Guilty At 17, where she plays a mother whose daughter (Erin Sanders) is on the hot seat after being lured into accusing an innocent teacher of sexual harassment. We connected with Catherine on Thursday to ask her about the movie, as well as her continued presence on the small screen.
In many TV-movies, playing the main character's mother can often be a thankless role, except for rare occasions like Callie Thorne in Thinspiration. But you don't bring in someone as tenacious and talented as Catherine Dent to do hand-wringing. She's too good of an actress to put in the background, and she didn't approach the role that way. "I actually didn't see it as a backseat role," se told us. "One of the things a lot of these Lifetime movies do really well is, they sort of bring in the story not only from the teenager's perspective, but the mom's perspective."
What was it like for her to make the film? "I think it's like most people going to work. Although it's probably a little earlier than most people," she said. "I've worked on a lot of serious shows and usually when the subject matter is serious the more levity there is on set. It was a wonderful crew; the Canadian crew was great. Erin Sanders, who played my daughter, is an absoute doll and we hit it off."
Catherine is one of those actresses who's been all over television, and always elevates whatever project she happens to turn up in. So you might be surprised to learn that she doesn't like to watch her own performances, and even though she deserves plenty of accolades, she's not congratulating herself, either.
"I don't really think of myself as being good. That's sort of not really how I work," she reflected. "But projects that I enjoyed working in or I loved the people I was with - years ago I did a miniseries called Taken. Les Bohem wrote that and we won a Golden Globe and we won an Emmy, and that was a period piece. I aged from like the 1930s to the 1970s. Dakota Fanning was in that, and she was an absolute doll to be with.
"I like sort of things that are different from today," she continued. "I just finished a pilot for AMC called Galyntine, and it's set years in the future. I did a movie called The Majestic with Frank Darabont and Jim Carrey starred in that. That was set in the 1950's. I've done some really wonderful projects. I'm usually just happy to be invited to the party."
Were there any experiences she would've liked to seen last awhile longer? "I've worked with some really great people," she said. "I did 21 Grams with Sean Penn and Naomi Watts. I'd have been happy hanging out on the set with them a bit longer. I just worked with Peter Fonda on Galyntine."
Of course, you know her best as Officer Danielle "Danny" Sofer on FX's groundbreaking police drama The Shield. Six years after the end of the series, how many references to it does Catherine get every day? "I would say at least once a day," she told us. "I think because of Netflix and Amazon Prime and things like that, a lot of people are actually just picking up on it for the first time. It's pretty much every day."
Currently, you can see Catherine in a recurring role on FOX's Gang Related, where she plays the District Attorney who supervises ADA Jessica Chapel (Shantel VanSanten). But whether she's in a supporting part as on that series, or taking the lead as with Guilty At 17, we can always count on her to give a performance that we remember. We're lucky to have her be as prolific as she is. But she takes every part in stride.
Said the actress, "It's just really good to be a working girl."
Guilty at 17 airs Sunday, July 20 at 7 PM ET/PT on Lifetime (check your local listings for specific channel). For more with Catherine, you can also follow her on Twitter (@CatherineDent).