LOS ANGELES – In 1987's "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors," Patricia Arquette (search) played someone with psychic powers. Now, she'll do it on a weekly basis.
In "Medium," which premieres 10 p.m. EST Jan. 3 on NBC, Arquette plays Allison Dubois, a real-life Arizona woman known for her apparent ability to communicate with dead people.
Married to an aerospace engineer and the mother of three, Dubois was studying law when she discovered her psychic abilities could provide research in solving murders and missing-person cases.
Arquette says she asked many questions of Dubois to try to fully grasp the mystery of her powers, learning the information "doesn't come to her in a linear fashion ... you are just getting snippets of images of something in the future and something in the past ... That is part of what the show's episodes are about — her trying to piece together the whole picture and figure out, `What does this really mean?'"
Easier to grasp was Dubois' family life.
"She has a funny relationship with her husband (played by Jake Weber)," Arquette explained. "They are flirty and funny together — they kind of mess with each other and enjoy each other's funkiness and sense of humor. They are good friends and great partners."
Arquette did change one aspect of Dubois' character: "She seems very self-confident. I wanted my Allison to be a little more affected by the judgments she makes."
She reasons this will provide viewers with more insight because some people "still feel like it's evil and devil work or whatever, so you want to be as open as you can, so people can empathize with you and feel like they can come along with you on this journey."
Executive producer Glenn Gordon Caron, whose previous credits include the romantic private-eye series "Moonlighting," says he's less interested in capturing "the extraordinary part" of Dubois' life than "the ordinary part of it."
He says the show probably skews 60-40 in favor of "how to be a functional human being when you realize your perception of reality is different from everyone else's."
But this is mainstream television, so there will, of course, be crime-solving action each week.
Caron believes Arquette is perfect for the version of Dubois he has created, whose "incredible intuitive powers lie in her incredible lack of vanity. You have the sense this is a person who doesn't spend an inordinate amount of time looking in the mirror, because so much of her energy goes outward, and that's something you instantly feel with Patricia. She's not a vain person at all."
Arquette won a CableACE award playing an epileptic girl in the 1991 TV movie "Wildflower," directed by Diane Keaton, but this is her first starring role in a network series.
Now 36, she continues to carry on a family legacy. Grandfather Cliff Arquette (best known as Charlie Weaver) and father Lewis were both actors. Siblings Rosanna, Alexis, Richmond and David all act.
Born in Chicago, she was 18 when she gave herself a year to find work in movies.
"I was really shy and one of the hardest things to deal with in acting is rejection," she recalled. "So I had to create a way for myself to get rejected all the time and yet feel all right about it. So I told myself I was going to try hard every day for a year, even if I fell flat on my face each day."
She made it, of course, starring in an eclectic variety of films for innovative directors such as Tim Burton in "Ed Wood," David Lynch in "Lost Highway," Sean Penn in "The Indian Runner" and John Madden in "Ethan Frome."
Formerly married to Nicolas Cage (search), Arquette is engaged to actor Thomas Jane (search), and they have a daughter, Harlow, who will be 2 in February. She also has a 16-year-old son, Enzo, from her relationship with musician Paul Rossi.
And, no, she can't see into the future.
Her joke is: "I'm not psychic. I dreamed John Kerry won the election!"