It is hard to imagine, once one views Dana Delany as brilliant, sexy, tart-tongued and tragic Dr. Megan Hunt in ABC's new Body of Proof, that the character was not built as a star vehicle just for her. The neurosurgeon-turned-medical examiner was originally written with a 35- to 40-year-old in mind.
Her casting was hailed by Deadline Hollywood Daily as this season's most dramatic example of TV "aging up."
Delany says she didn't know about the age change until she read of it.
Dr. Hunt's age "really didn't even enter my mind," adds the 55-year-old actress. "I'm not tooting my own horn here, but they said they were finding it hard to find someone you could believe was a neurosurgeon. That was the biggest challenge."
Notes the brainy Delany, who has viewed four autopsies so far, "I love the science of it. I'm fascinated by it."
She has drawn glowing reviews for her portrayal of Dr. Hunt. Her legs, shown off in lingering shots in the opening episode, drew glowing reviews, too.
"Those are my father's legs. I got them from him. My dad looked great in skirts," jokes Delany.
In Hollywood, where actresses feel pressure to look young, Delany subscribes to the view that women who are healthy and fit can look attractive at any age. Yet certainly, her appearance belies her years.
"Obviously, I'm lucky that my whole family is young-looking with good genes," she says. Beyond that, she eats healthy foods and does yoga daily, "the basic yoga I've been doing for 30 years."
"I drink a lot of water," she says. "I just live in moderation. I don't believe in denying myself. And I truly believe it's mental — if you do what makes you happy, the rest will follow. It will show."
The victim of a Botox shot that hit a nerve in 2003 ("That was minor; I talked about it so it was blown out of proportion," she says.), she has no intention of ever having plastic surgery.
"I have this theory about plastic surgery and actresses. Even when somebody looks great in life after they've had work done — interesting that we talk about it as 'work' — you see it on screen and it doesn't look good. There's something about the two-dimensionality of the screen that flattens out the image and it looks fake," says Delany.
Delany has played doctors before, but she notes that medical shows have changed since her China Beach days, when "I would say, 'Intubate him' and 'Don't die on me' and that was about it. They didn't sling medical jargon around as they do now. I think ER started it."
The new show is "a procedural and there is a different mystery every week. We also have my character's development. Her relationship with her daughter develops, her relationship with her ex-husband is growing and constantly changing. She finally gets a little love interest by the 12th and 13th episodes. A quirky FBI agent comes in. I got my friend Cliff Curtis to come in for that," she says.
Whether the future of her latest series endeavor is long or short, Delany is sanguine.
"I've been working for so long now, I have a different perspective than I did earlier. As anyone over 50 knows, as you get older you're not as attached to things. If something works out, great. If not, then I'll do something else."