Anne Heche was a showrunner’s dream. She was a strong and empathetic leader who always showed up ready to do the work. She knew what her job was as No. 1 on the call sheet. She knew how important it was to set the right tone of inclusion and happiness on the set. She was able to give generously and voluminously to her fellow actors.
This is the Anne Heche that I will remember when I think of my friend and collaborator on the dramedy series “Men in Trees,” which ran on ABC from 2006-08. It is hard for me to reconcile the Anne that I knew with the circumstances of her death, which came Aug. 14, nine days after a fiery car crash in West Los Angeles that made headlines around the world.
She was used to headlines. “Men in Trees” came together at a pivotal point in Anne’s life. She knew she had a lot to prove with this show. The character of Marin Frist — a New York relationship coach who ends up in Alaska — was letter-perfect for her, and she knew it.
Anne also knew she had a reputation for being “crazy” and for being unreliable as an actor. In my long experience with Anne, none of those things was ever true. But she knew her reputation — after all, she titled her 2001 memoir “Call Me Crazy.” She knew that I wanted her for the role, but she also knew ABC executives were wary of banking on her as the lead of a primetime network series.
I will always admire her for how she went about getting the job. She said, “I’m going to audition. Let me win it.” And obviously she won it in the room. But there was no pretense in her that she was better than any other actor who auditioned. She knew she had to fight against this perception of her as being the troublemaker.
Once she won that part, she became my incredibly strong No. 1. We shot in Vancouver. We had a large cast, and few folks were from there so she became the den mother. We would go to her house for dinner, to play poker and laugh. It was such a relief for me to know she was there, because I knew that Anne was taking care of the actors, even while taking care of her son Homer, who was 5 at the time. She loved Homer with all her heart.
Despite all that has happened, I wish that more people could understand that about her. She was such a gifted actor. She was so well calibrated. You could give her a note, and she could turn herself like a dial. And she loved notes! She loved the whole process of creating something together. She was a joy to work with as an actor because she was incredibly open and incredibly driven. There was no version of her that was flippant or lazy. She was passionate about what she did. She was insanely bright, and she would bring that intellect to her acting. She had so much more stellar acting work left to do.
Anne never hid from her past trauma. She was someone who could have been crippled by it. For her, it made her stronger. I admire people who can admit what trauma they have suffered and what they still suffer from and make that their strength. For someone who had lived her life so much on her own terms, it’s so hard to process how her life ended. She had to overcome so much, always, because of the constant backwash of what people thought of her.
Anne and I kept in touch after “Men in Trees” ended. I will always remember her for being an incredibly warm, bright light — fun and passionately creative and incredibly present in whatever she was doing. That’s what made her such a good actor. She was always present. Which is so hard to reconcile with the fact that now she is gone.
Jenny Bicks is an Emmy-winning showrunner and four-time nominee whose credits include “Sex and the City,” “Men in Trees,” “The Big C,” “Divorce” and most recently, the Fox comedy “Welcome to Flatch.”