PASADENA, Calif. – Connie Britton did a lot of research before she signed on for Fox’s new series “9-1-1.” Britton plays a 9-1-1 operator on the show and spent time in a call center to learn how to play the high-pressure part.
She said initially she was “overwhelmed” by the role.
“The first day we tried to shoot with six computer screens, which is what they have [in call centers]… I think I announced ‘I am not the right actress for this job,’” she told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour.
She said the role required her to show very little emotion.
“So many of the 9-1-1 operators that I spoke to said they don’t get emotionally involved… That’s a really interesting challenge because you’re managing so much. As an actor to walk the line between being completely focused and present and doing your job in the best-possible way, and at the same time still being human. That is the truth of who these people are. I love to explore the truths of characters.”
She said she felt “really shocked” listening to real-life calls come in while she prepped for her role.
“I sat in the 9-1-1 call centers and listened to the calls come in, and… some of it still haunts me, some of the things that I heard,” she revealed.
Keeping her emotions in check was tough.
“I’m kind of an emotional girl so it’s a good challenge for me,” she said.
The actress said the role in the procedural show is taking up a lot of her energy.
“This has been a lot of fun and a lot focus.”
Britton has insisted that her character, Abby Clark, needs to be steady under pressure.
“I’ve had people… come in and say ‘maybe you could do it a bit more earnestly,’ and I am like ‘nope, not going to happen.’”
“9-1-1” is directed by Ryan Murphy, the man behind “American Horror Story,” which earned Britton an Emmy nomination.
The 50-year-old said thanks to streaming services she gets recognized for a wide-range of roles these days. Some fans come up to her and want to talk about “Friday Night Lights,” while others are excited to see her because of “Nashville.”
“Now people have really been finding ‘Nashville,’” she said.
The show is set to wrap after its sixth season. Britton doesn’t anticipate she will return for the finale, though the show holds a special place in her heart.
“I certainly would, but I think it would be very difficult. I don’t know that there would really be a place for [my character].”
“9-1-1” airs Wednesdays on Fox.