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Hope Davis on In Treatment and Upchucking in God of Carnage

The newest addition to In Treatment, Hope Davis, has long been a critical favorite for her turns in About Schmidt, American Splendor, and Synecdoche, New York. In the HBO show, which premieres this Sunday, she plays Paul Weston’s [Gabriel Byrne] former patient Mia, who returns to therapy as a 42-year-old, childless attorney. Davis is currently getting raves for her role in Broadway’s God of Carnage, and Vulture caught up between performances to chat about her character, what happens when Byrne gets antsy, and, yes, her onstage vomiting.

How did you get involved in the show? Did you watch it last season?
I watched some of it last season. I was away working for a few weeks and I was in a nice hotel and I got completely sucked into the show. I found it deeply engrossing, and I just couldn’t take my eyes off. Then the guy who ran the show this year, Warren Leight – we’ve known each other for a long time. We ran into each other on the street, and I said, ‘What are you doing?’ And he told me and I said, ‘I love that show. I watch it.’ And then he called and said, ‘Do you want to do it?’

What interested you about Mia?
It’s a story line for any person who’s ever been single in the world. You can relate to that feeling of, ‘I’m alone and I’m always going to be alone and this is not what I want and I don’t know how to change it.’

How did you deal with the show’s intensity?
It is a very intense show, it’s not meant to be watched hours at a time. But we had a lot of laughs, especially near the end when Gabriel started getting really punchy. I mean, the man sat in that chair for almost four months and listened to people’s problems, and by the end, he was getting a little wacky. He would pretend at the end to throw little fits, or he would pretend that somebody stepped on his foot.

Does being on a show like this make you more prone to self-analysis?
Nooooo! [Laughs] No, it’s not where I tend to go personally. I have not spent years in therapy; I tried therapy in my mid-twenties, and it did not go very well. I just thought, ‘This is so not for me. I would rather talk to one of my girlfriends.’ I’m not at a point in my life when I’m analyzing too much. I have young children, and I’m just pretty much crazed.

You play a Brooklyn mother in God of Carnage. As a Brooklyn mother yourself, do you relate to her?
No, I mean, she’s a Wall Street person. I don’t have an iPhone or BlackBerry — I couldn’t possibly exist in that world. I’m way too disorganized. Neither character particularly resembles me as far as the way I lead my life.

A lot has been said about your vomiting scene. What’s been the audience’s reaction so far?
They’re completely shocked! I’m sure there are people who find it off-putting, but if you’ve had children, it’s like vomit and poo — none of these things upset you anymore. Even though they’ve read the reviews and they know it’s coming, I think they forget about it. You’re not expecting it to come when it comes, and they are just rolling in the aisles.

I know you’re secretive about how the vomiting’s actually done, but what was your reaction when you first saw that in the script?
Well, you read it and you think, ‘Oh, I wonder if she squirts some stuff into her mouth and then yaks onto the table.’ When Matthew Warchus, our director, explained to me how catastrophic the spray is, I laughed for about five minutes solid. I mean, it takes four people to make that vomit happen. Yasmina Reza, the playwright, said, ‘I don’t want someone just like spitting out a mouthful of goo. I want a real projectile vomit.’

Have your kids seen the show?
No, my children are too little, 4 and 6. This is about marriages falling to pieces and lots of bad words.

Hope Davis on In Treatment and Upchucking in God of Carnage