Interview: Stana Katic Talks Castle

From Shakespeare to “Moonlighting,” it’s always a swoony pleasure to watch a well-matched man and woman verbally spar their way into love. The ABC TV series “Castle” continues that tradition — with a twist. The show may be named after mystery novelist Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion), but it’s the gal, NYPD detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), who’s calling the shots. She’s his superior — the one with the expertise, the steely resolve and the murky, painful past. He fell hard for her, but she made him wait — only when she was good and ready did she show up at his door.

“Beckett’s one of those Hawksian dames — strong-willed, intelligent, capable,” Katic says during a break in this fashion shoot. (Note: She loves the clothes’ ’70s bohemian vibe: “There’s a great feeling of strength and woman in them,” she says.) By “Hawksian,” she means the fast-talking, rapier-witted characters favored by “Castle” director Howard Hawks in films like “Bringing Up Baby,” “His Girl Friday” and “To Have and Have Not.”

“Characters that Kate Hepburn and Lauren Bacall built, that Slim Keith was known to be like, those were the women we modeled Kate after,” Katic says. “She’s capable of playing with the boys while still being a woman and enjoying her sensuality.”

As embodied by Katic, Beckett has sensuality to burn — cascading hair, melted-chocolate eyes, mile-long legs showcased in slim pants and fitted jackets. She also has something her TV predecessors had to fight for: the unwavering respect of the men who work for her. “Andrew Marlowe, the show’s creator, feels that the world is available to my generation of women, and the women after us, in a way that it wasn’t for our mothers,” says Katic, 34. “I’m not saying that women don’t still face sexism. But there’s never a question of, ‘Can I be president?’ It’s, ‘Of course, I can do what I want.’ ”

That’s the attitude that Katic’s parents — Serbs from Croatia who met as students in London before moving to Hamilton, Ontario, and later, Aurora, Ill. — instilled in her from the start. “They encouraged debate, conversations about politics, history, mathematics,” Katic says. Her delivery is thoughtful and measured; she pronounces each word as precisely as if she were speaking a new language — which makes sense, since she speaks six: English, Croatian, Serbian, Slovene, French and Italian. “I was always allowed to have an opinion and a point of view, and to voice it and to dig into it. That’s the history of my family. Everyone had to be strong. As immigrants, they had to overcome language barriers and start off without any financial security in a totally new world.”

Her parents built a furniture-manufacturing and retail business that served as Katic’s first stage. She and her five younger siblings (four brothers, one sister) turned the family’s huge warehouse into their playground, building multistory castles and obstacle courses out of furniture boxes. Imaginative and dreamy, she encouraged her siblings to put on plays, and at school.

“I was always asking the teacher if we could do a play. It’s so goofy now that I think about it,” Katic says, laughing. “But it’s so much a part of what makes me tick. I love exploring what it means to be alive through the imagination, delving into other people’s psyches. I feel that every human has the capacity to express every emotion. It’s either more or less accessible to us, depending on how we’ve grown up or experienced life. It’s about empathizing with another person, but also recognizing yourself in that person. Which are maybe the same things in the end.”

After studying acting at Chicago’s Goodman School of Drama, Katic bounced between Los Angeles and Canada, doing TV guest spots, independent films and small roles in movies (including “Quantum of Solace”) before landing “Castle” in 2008. But her career still feels somewhat unreal to her. “It feels like it could go away at any second, so why not enjoy it for right now,” she muses. “And it feels like we’re playing. There’s something unadult about it.”

The film she shot on her recent hiatus, “CBGB,” due out this fall, took her into the punk-rock New York of the 1970s and ’80s, and the Bowery club that was at the heart of it. She co-stars as Genya Ravan, a rock singer and close friend of CBGB owner Hilly Kristal (Alan Rickman). “That club was nuts,” Katic says, grinning. “I got to see unpublished photos, and hear stories from older punk rockers about the incredible stuff that went on down there.” She also got to spend time with Ravan, who still lives north of the city, and still sings, Katic says, “in this deep, gritty Janis Joplin voice. A lot of people assumed she was African-American, but she’s this wonderful immigrant Jewish girl from Poland whose family survived World War II. She has a long list of rock lovers, concerts she did — amazing stories.”

When she’s not working, Katic loves traveling, most recently to India and Mongolia. “It was interesting to have absolutely no connective tissue to a language,” she says. “But I love going off the grid, to places where I can experience an authentic, almost untouched world. I’m like an anthropologist by hobby. I spend a lot of time in the imaginary world, so after a long season or a film, it’s nice to come back to ground level and see people who are experiencing life in a simple and honest way.”

The only ingredients she needs for happiness, Katic says, are her friends and family. “I love loving them, and being loved back by them,” she says. “The rest of it can all go away.” That’s why she refuses to talk about her personal life, and won’t even say if she’s in a relationship. “The magic of my personal life is private and wonderful and I’m very protective of it,” she insists. “I like to have that to go home to, with joy.”

She will admit that she’s pleased with Beckett and Castle’s romance, after years of flirting with it. “I didn’t think those characters could hold off any longer without it being false,” she says. “Now I just hope the show stays true to the strength of my character, her sense of individuality. For any relationship to be interesting, you have to be able to challenge each other and encourage each other and love each other as equals. That’s what’s interesting to me, that's the character I've invested in. So I hope she doesn't just become the pretty girl hanging on the funny guy's arm." With Katic playing her, there's no chance of that.

Captain Founder, Administrator, Editor and Writer

The moment that I met you, my life became extraordinary. You taught me to be my best self, to look forward to tomorrow's adventures. And when I was vulnerable, you were strong. I love you, Richard Castle. And I want to live my life in the warmth of your smile and the strength of your embrace. I promise you I will love you. I will be your friend and your partner in crime and in life, always. - Kate Beckett The moment we met, my life became extraordinary. You taught me more about myself than I knew there was to learn. You are the joy in my heart. You're the last person I want to see every night when I close my eyes. I love you, Katherine Beckett. And the mystery of you is the one I want to spend the rest of my life exploring. I promise to love you, to be your friend, and your partner in crime and life, 'till death do us part, and for the time of our lives. - Richard Castle

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