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Maura Tierney: 'American Rust' character 'is very flawed'

Grace Poe (Maura Tierney) is faced with crisis in her town and her family. Photo courtesy of Showtime
Grace Poe (Maura Tierney) is faced with crisis in her town and her family. Photo courtesy of Showtime

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Maura Tierney says the character she plays in the Showtime drama American Rust, premiering Sunday, appealed to her because she isn't perfect.

Grace Poe (Tierney) is the mother of a murder suspect, and "Grace is very flawed," Tierney told UPI in a Zoom interview. "I love that she's flawed."

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Grace is a seamstress trying to organize her colleagues into a union in fictional Buell, Pa. Her son, Billy (Alex Neustaedter), has a public altercation with officer Pete Novick (Jim True-Frost) just before Pete turns up dead.

The 56-year-old Tierney said as more clues point to Billy as the murder suspect, Grace makes questionable choices to protect her son. She said Grace doesn't believe Billy was capable of murder, no matter how much the evidence indicts him.

"I think it would take a lot for her to believe that," Tierney said. "I think in her mind, it's absolutely impossible that her child can do that."

American Rust is based on the novel by Philipp Meyer. Tierney filmed the series in and around Pittsburgh to represent Buell.

Buell has been struggling since its steel mills closed. Billy is trying to leave town when he is arrested on suspicion of murder.

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Tierney said Billy's limited options in Buell led him down a dark path.

"He's an innocent who's affected by what's going on in that town," Tierney said. "People turn to violence or self-medicate when they have nothing and are in a lot of pain."

Tierney said nearby abandoned towns drove home what Buell is close to becoming.

"Every single store is shut," Tierney said. "It's really sad to see an entire town and community gone. Once you're looking at that, it's very powerful and it's sad."

Grace's defense of Billy is complicated by her dating the Buell sheriff, Del Harris (Jeff Daniels). Del has to arrest Billy in the series premiere.

Although American Rust does not detail Grace and Del's dating history, Tierney said she and Daniels created that history for the writers.

"They've been on and off for a while, but then when the [expletive] hits the fan, that's when they really come together," Tierney said. "She's not, at the point at the beginning of the series, the most reliable partner for him."

Billy's father, Virgil (Mark Pellegrino), remains in the picture, too. Virgil still lives in Buell, and Tierney said he's left Grace to raise Billy by herself. Yet, Grace still is tempted by Virgil.

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"She can't quit him because he's super-duper charming and fun," Tierney said of Virgil. "Del is a really good man, That's a choice she has to weigh."

Despite flaws and complicated relationships, Tierney said Grace has qualities she admires, too.

"I think that the character has this tenacity," Tierney said. "She just doesn't give up no matter how bad things get for her and how challenging things get for her."

Tierney said she also enjoys Grace's colorful language. Grace uses explicit sexual innuendo throughout the series.

"I think she's funny," Tienrey said. "I think she has a really dry, observant sense of humor."

American Rust airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime.

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