ABQ native Jay Roach directs an assemble cast in Apple TV+'s 'High Desert' - Albuquerque Journal

ABQ native Jay Roach directs an assemble cast in Apple TV+’s ‘High Desert’

From left, Patricia Arquette and Bernadette Peters in a scene from “High Desert.” (Courtesy of Apple TV+)

When Bernadette Peters steps onto a set, she’s ready for action.

In the case of the Apple TV+ series, “High Desert,” Peters found herself with an ensemble cast many productions would be jealous of.

That’s part of what piqued her interest with the series.

“It’s so well-written and so original,” Peters says. “I haven’t read anything that was so well-written in such a very long time. I got excited about it and then of course, it has Patricia Arquette. Things can’t get better than that.”

“High Desert” follows Peggy Newman, played by Arquette, who is an irresistible, mystifying fusion of qualities.

She’s a hustler, loves easily, feels everyone else’s pain, operates under her own unique code of ethics, and possesses some interesting survival mechanisms – which is essential because Peggy is an ex-heroin junkie who now proudly calls herself a methadone addict.

Peggy lives in the Californian desert, working at a minor tourist attraction, Pioneertown, where she is part of a troupe reenacting life in the Old West. There, she is the queen bee, looked up to by her peers while always using her blazing street-smart intellect and wit to win any argument.

She is the one voice fighting for justice for those close to her, which leads her to right a wrong for a friend. In the glow of that triumph, her best friend Carol, played by Weruche Opia, suggests that Peggy’s true calling might be as a private investigator.

From left, Matt Dillon and Patricia Arquette in a scene from “High Desert.” (Courtesy of Apple TV+)

It would certainly bring the much-needed income Peggy needs to hold onto the house of her late mother, Rosalyn, played by Peters, before her sister, played by Christine Taylor and brother, played by Keir O’Donnell sell it.

The series also stars Rupert Friend, Brad Garrett and Matt Dillon.

New Mexico native Jay Roach directed all eight episodes.

Roach had signed on to direct only the pilot but quickly changed course because of the script.

“This was a great chance to give the audience a ride they won’t see coming,” Roach says. “They’ll feel the predicament and the stakes but most of all, it’s a ride.”

Roach took an empathetic approach with the creative vision for the series. “I had to imagine what Peggy was going through and why,” Roach continues. “Why would she get herself into this trouble? And all the while I’m doing this, I would simultaneously empathize with the audience about what they’re taking in and what matters to them. My favorite challenge is taking something that looks like it might be too chaotic and somehow make it unified and this show, Peggy in particular, feeds into that. Peggy is like a queen bee, buzzing about, pollinating her world and those in it with her almost functional-dysfunctional ADD-meets-tremendous desire to help everyone. It’s a crazy tone but that’s what I love about it.”

Peters enjoyed working with Roach at the helm because he kept the vision all the way through production.

She also pulled double duty playing Rosalyn and actress Ginger, who brings another level to the story.

“Her mother is caring and beautiful,” Peters says. “Then you have (Ginger) who is totally self-involved and narcissistic. She’s not very pleasant and is all about herself. These are two very different types of people.”

Peters says she was able to get into the flow of acting and went with every scene.

High Desert
Weruche Opia stars in “High Desert.” (Courtesy of Apple TV+)

“Ginger took a few days of getting into character,” she says. “Rosalyn was just a loving person and it was easy.”

Peters says the story is one that people could relate to because it’s about how we handle grief.

“Peggy is looking for moments of happiness,” she says. “We’ve all lost someone special to us and it is difficult to move forward. This is a production that I needed. I think it will resonate with audiences.”

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