'Boss': Connie Nielsen on the allure of power and working with Kelsey Grammer

connie-nielsen-boss.jpgThe primary focus of Starz's new series "Boss" is Tom Kane ( Kelsey Grammer), who's the mayor of Chicago and an expert at using the power -- both legitimate and on the margins -- his office affords him.

His wife, Meredith, is no slouch at those games either. As Connie Nielsen, who plays the character, explains, Meredith Kane grew up around power -- her father was one of Tom's predecessors as mayor -- and is intoxicated by it.

"She's someone who has basically substituted any other human emotion in her life, or any other need in her life, with this need for being on top and being able to decide how the world around her functions," Nielsen ("Gladiator," "Law & Order: SVU") tells Zap2it. "She's someone who I think has found motherhood and being a wife challenging, whereas her way of navigating the waters of privilege and who gets to have it is something she really loves to do."

Nielsen also talked with us about the relationship between Meredith and Tom, whether she knows about the debilitating medical condition Tom is revealed to have in Friday's (Oct. 21) series premiere and where her character is headed this season.

Zap2it: What is Meredith's back story?
Connie Nielsen: She's been married to the same guy for 25 years. She has a daughter [ Hannah Ware] who's got an addiction, an addictive personality. So therefore she also has to protect her relationships -- both her family, from this wreckage that addiction is, but also their position, from someone who has the power to ruin everything. ... She's lost the ability to love someone at this point, or at least it's not in any relationship [of hers] right now. She's driven by this fierce loyalty that she feels for her husband and loyalty to her father and his legacy.

Her relationship with Tom is pretty cold at this point, but there must have been something there in the past, right?
There has been love. And there are many times where you see they're sort of jockeying for a moment where they might be able to step over the chasm that's opened between them. You see moments of real vulnerability that each of them only shows to the other. But then they keep closing the doors to each other. ... It's very painful at times. You can tell they're suffering.

Is she aware of Tom's medical issues?
She has a sixth sense -- she can tell something's going on, but they have this issue. They don't trust each other with any personal stuff that's going on anymore. They've obviously hurt each other so much that they don't trust each other with any information that allows the other person to hurt them. She keeps trying to find out what's going on, keeps trying to suss it out from other people. She's sort of like a dog with a bone and won't let it go, but she can't find out because he keeps covering his tracks.

Can you talk in broad strokes about what happens with Meredith in the first season?
The loyalty between husband and wife is going to be sorely tested. The grip on power they have will be -- it's going to be almost lost. And through this, they'll come to a reckoning with things about themselves.

How has it been working with Kelsey Grammer?
He's a really lovely guy. He's a consummate actor. He's someone who really loves acting and actors. ... I wasn't sure in the beginning if we were going to keep up the kind of couple they are [off camera]. Some people are really Method-y and can't talk to you if they don't talk to you in the script. But what we found was because we had such a genuine rapport, I felt we could use that to build some moments in our relationship where you can really see what once had been there -- and what could be there if only they could get over their hangups. That brought a new aspect to their relationship that made it much richer.

"Boss" premieres at 10 p.m. ET Friday on Starz. You can also watch the premiere online now.
Photo/Video credit: Starz