August 28, 2008

‘Practice’ Tries to Perfect

By Bill Keveney

Private Practice is giving Addison Forbes Montgomery the chance for something she never had on Grey's Anatomy: a fulfilling love life.

"We only knew her as the miserable part of a triangle" with Derek and Meredith, says Kate Walsh, who plays Addison on the ABC spinoff. "It's interesting to see this character with someone who wants to be with her -- in a good way. That's been fun to explore, what it's like to date and perhaps date successfully."

Officer Kevin (David Sutcliffe, in a recurring role) returns to court Addison, putting her will-they/won't-they situation with practice partner Pete Wilder (Tim Daly) on the shelf for now. "But by no means are Pete and I done," she says.

Romance will play a greater role -- for better and worse -- for all the characters in the second-year medical drama, "creating more conflict and drama and comedy," Walsh says.

She echoes creator Shonda Rhimes, saying neonatal surgeon Addison will be more grounded this season, which likely would stanch outside criticism that the character lost both grit and gravitas after her move from Grey's Seattle to Practice's Los Angeles.

Having had time to adjust to her new professional and personal circumstances, "she will be more in a take-charge mode," Walsh says.

More surgical opportunities for Addison will show off her strength, she says, and the medical cases will raise ethical questions and more conflict for doctors at Oceanside Wellness Group.

No major additions are planned to the star-laden cast (which also includes Amy Brenneman and Taye Diggs), as viewers barely had the chance to get to know the regulars during last season's nine episodes, the last of which ran in December. Grant Show will appear in at least one episode as Addison's brother.

The personal-professional conflict between friends who work together will be familiar to many viewers, Walsh says. Similarly, the precarious financial state of the medical practice, which will raise tensions for friends Addison and fertility specialist/practice administrator Naomi Bennett (Audra McDonald), should strike a chord in tough times.

Walsh, like Addison, has adjusted to her switch from supporting role to central character. With shooting taking place on the eighth of 13 episodes picked up by ABC, she says Season 2 "flows more seamlessly. The medical cases and characters are much more intertwined."

Walsh acknowledges both "excitement and anxiety" in returning so long after Practice aired its ninth and final first-season episode in December. As with Rhimes, Walsh says she doesn't focus on criticism of the show.

Both talk about improvements they see resulting from a chance to rethink parts of the show during the strike and the knowledge one picks up going through a first season.

"It feels like a good wine," Walsh says. "It's been able to breathe a while." (c) Copyright 2008 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. <>