Actress Kimberly Quinn. Photo Credit: Marc Cartwright.

Actress Kimberly Quinn. Photo Credit: Marc Cartwright.

Actress Kimberly Quinn has been a regular presence in film and television over the past decade, and though she has proven she is more than capable of playing a range of characters, her best roles have not translated into widespread recognition. The projects that brought her acclaim never found their audience, or got lost in the chaos that determines which shows get to take off. But with one of this year’s surprise hits in St. Vincent, Quinn looks to have created her own breakout opportunity alongside big-screen stars Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy and Naomi Watts.

The film, which centers on the relationship between a young boy and the alcoholic curmudgeon who gets stuck babysitting him, is written and directed by her husband, Theodore Melfi, and draws inspiration from their life together. Aside from acting in the film, Quinn helped develop the script and worked as an associate producer from the script’s conception through the film’s post-production. So far, the film has been a critical and commercial success, proving to the West Springfield native that focusing on her own projects has finally paid off.

This is not the first time Quinn’s work is the subject of acclaim. She made a splash with critics, and a very small group of viewers, with her performance on FX’s Terriers (2010), which followed two small-time private investigators Hank Dolworth (Donal Logue) and Britt Pollack (Michael Raymond-James) as they tried to piece their lives together while scrapping through cases that tended to toss them in over their heads. Quinn played Gretchen, Hank’s ex-wife, and conveyed a wary kindness in the role; her character struggled to maintain a friendship with Hank, who she cared for but could not trust. On the surface, the show was working within the framework of a procedural drama, but its foundation was a cast of funny, damaged characters wrestling with their pasts. Despite rave reviews and a vocal fan base, the show was canceled after its first season.

Following Terriers, Quinn made guest appearances on several high-profile television shows, and landed a series regular spot on another short-lived, but well-received show in ABC Family’s Twisted (2013) as Tess Masterson, the understanding and confident mother of teenage daughter Jo. In between these roles, however, the cheery blonde with wavy locks worked diligently with her husband in producing several short films, some of which she also starred in. Melfi was an established director of commercials, but worked to transition into a film director. He began developing the script that became St. Vincent by drawing on the relationship Quinn rekindled with her estranged father and the experience the couple shared raising their niece, whom they adopted. Initially, the couple planned on making the film as a small, personal project, but the quality of the script drew attention within Hollywood and grew to blockbuster proportions. Needless to say, the film made a solid debut at the box office in October and received rave reviews from film critics nationwide.

Following the release, Quinn took the time to talk to GALO about the disappointment of losing Terriers, what it takes to cast Bill Murray, and the real-life relationship that informs the heart of St. Vincent.

GALO: You started to get some acclaim for your performance on FX’s Terriers, which despite being a really good show had less than impressive viewership numbers, subsequently leading to its cancellation. How did you handle the show getting canceled, considering how well-received it was by the few critics and fans who actually watched it?

Kimberly Quinn: It was a huge, huge bummer. We were all so into our characters, and the quality and the richness of the writing was incredible. When you have that kind of writing, you don’t have to work too hard as an actor, you just need to show up, look each other in the eye and say the lines, and everything comes to life. And it’s very seldom that that happens. So it was disappointing that it didn’t get picked up. I kind of blame it on the marketing. When you see a billboard and it’s just a dog — you don’t see any of the cast members — no one knows what it is.

GALO: There was an interview with [Terriers show-runner] Shawn Ryan where he said that people thought the show was a reality series about dog-fighting based on the marketing campaign. That’s a tough sell.

KQ: Right! I had friends asking me if the show was on Animal Planet, and I had to keep telling them it was on FX. And the other problem was that the title barely made sense to the people who watched the show. There was no terrier in the show! There was a dog, but it was a bulldog! The analogy behind the Terriers title was so far-fetched that a lot of people never got it. So, unfortunately, the show just got lost in the shuffle. And it was sad because the people who did watch it were die-hards.

GALO: The one season that aired does work nicely as a kind of mini-series, but it had such a strong foundation with the characters and an equally robust, open-ended concept that it feels like there was still a ton of potential to pursue it further.

KQ: I know. Donal Logue and Mike Raymond-James worked so hard to make it great, and when the leads have that much enthusiasm, energy and passion then everyone else follows, and the cast becomes this great team. We were hoping it would be like Seinfeld, where it could hang around until it found its audience, but it never happened.

GALO: There was some talk earlier this year about Terriers coming back as a TV-movie. Was there any truth to that?

KQ: I keep hearing that too, and I think there is some kind of truth to it, but I don’t know whether it’s truth in people’s hearts or if it’s actually something that will take off. When you’re dealing with Hollywood and show-business it’s impossible to tell. But it’s amazing that people are still interested and hoping for it, even though it’s been a while since it went off the air. That kind of softens the blow of it getting canceled, because it feels like at least we went out on top.

GALO: The script for St. Vincent, which your husband wrote, created a lot of buzz when it started circulating in 2011, and it was considered one of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. How did it finally make its way into production?

KQ: Ted and I developed the script together, and initially we were just going to do it by ourselves as a low-budget indie film. But after he finished writing the second draft and I read it, I told him that he had to get it to someone. And when his agents read it, they agreed. They said, “This is a real movie.” So we got it out and the response was incredible.