'Private Practice' star Caterina Scorsone on addiction, rehab and Amelia's downward spiral

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caterina-scorsone-private-practice-intervention.jpgAmelia Shepherd's downward spiral began last season on "Private Practice," and has only gotten worse since Season 5 began. Tonight (Nov. 17), the neurosurgeon's descent into painkiller addiction comes to a head as the Oceanside Wellness crew holds an intervention for Amelia.

Caterina Scorsone spoke to Zap2it about the very powerful two-part episode, and how she feels honored to be able to bring this storyline to life on screen.

Zap2it: How has it been to play Amelia as she goes on this downward spiral?

Scorsone: It's been athletic; It's been exhausting; It's been creatively incredibly fulfilling. I felt really buoyed and supported by the whole cast. Everybody thinks it's such an important storyline. Everybody's been really supportive the whole time, so every time I'm getting a little tired there's always someone to give me a pep talk. But it's been an intense ride. She's kind of bouncing back and forth between depression and anger and denial and all of these really extreme behaviors to cope with where she's at emotionally, and with the disease of addiction that she suffers from.

What has it meant to you to play an important part like this?
It's a huge responsibility and it's a great honor. I feel really privileged to have been given this material to work with. I've just been putting one foot in front of the other. I wanted to make sure I was treating the subject with sensitivity and accuracy. I think it's a really important story and I wanted to be sensitive to how many people for which this story hits close to home and how many people have experienced addiction or love someone who has gone through addiction. With each script I was meticulous about going through it with addiction counselors and people who have suffered from addiction themselves, going through all the physical manifestations and many of the psychological motivations behind the coping mechanisms Amelia's using throughout this whole journey. So it's been really informative and really juicy as an actor.

How is this going to affect Amelia and Charlotte's relationship?
Charlotte is, of course, heartbroken watching Amelia going through all this, but I think of all the characters she is the least baffled by it because she suffered from addiction herself. She knows that you can have somebody who's fantastic and loving and warm and brilliant who can be in the grips of this disease, and all of their normal behavior is out the window and suddenly they're acting in ways that seem so counter-intuitive and that are so self-destructive and that are so destructive to other people. As much as it's painful to watch, I think Charlotte understands what Amelia is going through more than any of the other characters on the show would be capable of understanding. She understands from the inside, and I think she's going to be a great resource for Amelia because she can speak to her as a peer. She is someone who has also gone through a similar thing.

Will Amelia be receptive to the intervention?
I think that she is deep in the throes of an addiction, and she is using drugs for her very survival at this point. She believes the drugs are helping her to survive. These are a whole bunch of people who love her and are trying to take away from her the thing that she thinks is helping her to survive. So, no. She's not going to be very receptive to that situation. [ Laughs] She's also in a place where she's isolated herself and she's so destructive of herself that she's not receptive of love at this point! These are people who really care about her in a time where she doesn't care about herself. Love shining on her is awful for her right now. So she becomes very defensive and very belligerent. She feels like if she lets this love in it will destroy her. So she's going to fight tooth and nail to make sure that doesn't happen. It's not a pretty picture. The intervention is not pretty. But hopefully that love will get into some of the chinks in her armor and help her to find her sobriety.

In rehab, Amelia bonds with an 18-year-old girl she meets in rehab played by Debby Ryan. What was it like working with her?
We had such a good time! Debby Ryan is such a fantastic actress. She was just great at this role. What's really lovely about this relationship is that the first time Amelia got sober she was a teenager. Here Amelia is after the intervention back in rehab, and she encounters this girl who is about the same age that she was when she got sober for the first time. They get to really support each other and be a mirror for one another. Th,ey get to encourage each other. Amelia got sober at that age, but then she went on and did med school and saved lots of peoples' lives and did really wonderful things. I think often with people who have suffered from addiction their esteem is so battered and their sense of self-worth is so destroyed that having someone say "You are a valuable person and you can go into the world and do amazing things" can be the difference between life and death. So I think this relationship is really a beautiful one.

How do you think Amelia's going to come out on the other side of this? What do you want for Amelia?
I hope that Amelia starts to allow for the possibility that she is deeply lovable. Because I think that that is often if not the cure, the treatment for addiction.

Photo/Video credit: ABC