Polygamy seems to be all the rage these days in the pop culture world. HBO's Big Love set the bar. Next month there will be a reality series following a multi-spousal husband called Sister Wives on TLC. And tonight Lifetime premieres a new movie called The 19th Wife.
In the made for TV movie, based on the book by David Ebershoff, Chyler Leigh ("Little Grey" on Grey's Anatomy) plays Queenie a wife in the secretive world of the fundamentalist sect First Church of Latter Day Saints in Utah. She goes to great lengths to defend and prove the innocence of another wife, BeckyLyn (played by Brothers & Sisters' Patricia Wettig) who is accused of their husband's murder. Queenie calls on BeckyLynn's son Jordan (Gilmore Girls' Matt Czuchry) for help and the pair end up risking their lives when they uncover some of the sect's darker secrets.
We spoke with Chyler in a recent conference call about playing Queenie. She talked about the differences between doing the film and her work on Grey's Anatomy. "Once you get on set and you're doing something, especially with TV, for so long, you get into a pattern. So it was nice to be able to break out of the pattern a bit... It was definitely something different than what I've been doing for the past four years. So that was challenging."
Chyler recalled that she read the script while vacationing in Hawaii with her family on hiatus from Grey's. "Between rounds of golf and jumping into the water swimming with wild dolphins, and trips to the beach and to the pool, I immediately fell in love with it."
She said she was drawn to movie because of Queenie's strength. "She was such a compelling character with such strength under such extreme circumstances... Her child was so incredibly important to her. And once she started seeing... how detrimental polygamy can be to a woman's character... Once she really got a good look at her daughter and thought, 'Oh my gosh. Everyone's thinking of this 6-year-old girl as a wife already.' I think that was a major motivator and I definitely related to that."
Since her regular gig on Grey's Anatomy requires a wardrobe of surgical scrubs, we thought the cotton LDS Church garb might be a welcome change. She revealed, "The first week that we got there, it was raining really heavily and it was really cold. So to have the dress—they're pretty thick cotton—was nice to be able to be warmed up with that. But I got a nice little case of 'bacne' because there's no breathing with the cotton... It was fun being able to dress up like that because I really was able to step into a character from head to toe."
Chyler and the cast and crew of The 19th Wife hope to send a message to all women through this new movie. She explained, "No matter what is thrust upon you. No matter your upbringing is. Or what you were either told to believe or told was right, it's always a matter of following your heart. And if it's not what everybody else thinks it doesn't necessarily mean that it's bad. Whatever you're passionate about stay true to it and don't be afraid to break outside the box."
Tune into The 19th Wife on Lifetime Monday Night at 9/8c.
To see a slideshow of the cast of The 19th Wife visit Examiner.com.
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