“NCIS” actress and former Roswell resident returns home for film premiere, “Comfort”-ing cheese dip

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There’s an amazing chemistry between Pauley Perrette and Susan Blakely in the new 15-minute short film, “To Comfort You” debuting Monday night at the Atlanta Film Festival.

That’s no small feat considering the two women never actually act in the same scene.

Perrette, a former Roswell resident and Crestwood High School student, is best known to TV viewers as the hilariously quirky goth forensics scientist Abby Sciuto on the hit CBS drama, “NCIS.”

In complete contrast to the hug-dispensing Abby,  in “To Comfort You,” Perrette plays Theresa,  an HIV-positive daughter and Blakely (of “Rich Man, Poor Man” mini series fame) plays Angela, her cake-baking, long-distance hovering mother.

The film, poignantly written by Tom O’Leary and directed with sensitivity by Marc Saltarelli, chronicles the mother’s daily probing phone call to her daughter.

And whether you and your loved ones are counting T-cells or not, the adult parent-child relationship presented in the film, with all its bonds and blemishes, is a universal experience we can all relate to.
 (Raise your hand if you’ve ever allowed a phone call from dear old mom or dad roll to your voicemail…).

Perrette and Blakely first worked together in the 2002 feature, “Hungry Hearts” and had been looking for another joint project.

Around the same time, Perrette lost her mother in real life to breast cancer.

“Susie and I are very, very good friends,” Perrette tells Intel. “It was wonderful to be able to do this really touching and profound film with her.”

And while the actors aren’t on-screen together in the film, Blakely and Perrette were together on set.

“We were there for every second of each other’s scenes,” explains Perrette. “We were playing those scenes together. Sure, we could have had someone else feed us our lines. But to have a friend there who is so invested in the character and the performance? Wow, it really raised everything to a different level for each of us.”

Perrette also brought the spirit of her real mom along to the project.

 The red robe she wears in the film belonged to her mother and the framed mother-daughter photo in the background in each woman’s home is a baby photo of Perrette and her mom as well.

“It works because Susie actually looks so much like my mom,” she explains.

The film just won the Best Drama award and a shared Best Actress award for both Blakely and Perrette at the Beverly Hills Film Festival this month.

The filmmakers hope to reunite everyone for a feature-length version of the short as well.

Perrette will be on hand Monday night at the Atlanta Film Festival for a post-screening Q&A.

The place will likely be packed with “NCIS” fans wanting to grill Perrette about Abby’s big story arc as the hit show heads toward its seventh season finale next month.

We grilled her in advance for you.

“Normally, Abby is at home in her lab and that’s where I love to work the best,” previews Perrette. “But in our last two episodes of the season, there’s some pretty heavy stuff going down. Abby not only leaves the lab, she leaves the country!”

Which meant on location shooting for Perrette.

“I’m not the biggest fan of the sun,” she laughs. “I covered myself in sunblock. But of course, I missed about four inches on the back of my leg between my mini skirt and my knee sock!”

Perrette is coming back to Atlanta with her old Crestwood High classmate Kevin Flatow, who now lives in Los Angeles as well. With Donovan Miller, the pair recorded “Distance,” a song Perrette wrote for and sings in “To Comfort You.”

“I can’t tell you how much it means to have a friend out here who knows your history together like we do,” says Perrette. “And we can’t wait to get back to Atlanta! We keep texting each other about the cheese dip we used to order at El Toro. Or was it El Azteca? Actually, we probably ate our way through it at both places!”

“To Comfort You” screens Monday night at 7:20 p.m. at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema and Thursday at 12:20 p.m. at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.
For tickets, go to the festival’s official website.

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