Sergeant Barbara Semanski
Sergeant Barbara Semanski (Diane Delano), a state trooper, is a rough and tumble, take-charge kind of gal. Her gruff ways proved irresistible to Maurice, but Semanski doubts his respect for the law (tax law). However, a union between the two proved to be inevitable before the series' end. (1)
Barbara Semanski is a tough cop, whose martial mindset intrigues and then attracts Maurice. She's a character actress Diane Delano appreciates and enjoys. She returned several times as "Maurice's gal" since her debut on Northern Exposure.
"The producers - Joshua Brand and John Falsey - had specifically asked for me after seeing me on L.A. Law. I played a bailiff on the second season, kind of a tough kind of a gal with a heart of gold," in other words, just what they needed for Barbara Semanski, explained the gregarious actress.
"It was phenomenal role. The thing that makes Northern Exposure so special is the writing. If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage, you know what I'm saying?" Delano said. "Half the battle is the writing. They do a hell of a job."
The writing there is special, according to Delano, because "it's real. It's just enough left-of-center to be interesting. The characters are very likable. [The writers] go out on a limb. They take big, big risks and they pay off with the writing. As an actor, you don't have to look at a script and say, 'Oh, my God, how am I going to make this caca work?' You get a script and say, 'Oh, my God, bless you and thank you."'
Barbara Semanski wasn't Diane Delano's first brush with Iife in Cicely. "When the pilot first happened, when they were first doing Northern Exposure, they called me in for another role, a one-shot guest starring role. Thank God I didn't get it because then they called me back for Barbara," Delano revealed.
"They set me up as a possible love interest for Maurice," Delano remembered. "I believe at the time I knew that [I] would appear on more than one. I just didn't know how many. Up-to-date now, I've done four. From what I hear, I'm going back this season, but I'm recurring so I don't know until they call me. They call me and I'm there in a heartbeat.
"It just keeps getting better and better. I love doing Barbara and I think they like having me up there. I think the public likes it too. I also do the stunt show on the Universal Studios tour. Everybody comes up to me who sees the stunt show and knows that I'm Maurice's gal. It's big time, honey. It's Hollywood!"
Delano has nothing but positives to accentuate about work on the show. "The experience is great, the cast is terrific, the crew is marvelous. You're in God's country working. It's beautiful up where they film, especially in Roslyn where Cicely is supposed to be."
And Delano loved being Maurice's gal. "It's wonderful because I get to play with his head," she said. "I get to say, 'Come here, go away. Come here, go away. Come here, go away.' I get to be this by-the-book cop, but every once in a while maybe just a [tiny bit] of vulnerability might slip through. First and foremost, she's a cop, but I don't really know. We really haven't cracked her shell yet.
"You've seen maybe just a smidge of something brewing underneath. She's could be this big ol' trollop underneath all that. I'm hoping this season they might break her down some more. They might let her have some kind of an emotion. I'd love to end up in bed with Maurice. I'd love to let her let her hair down and go to town - get wild. But I'm not the writers. They definitely have their thoughts about Barbara as they do about every member of the cast."
Besides the writing, Delano relates to Barbara. "She's very close to who I am. Physically, she's right on the money, because that's who I am. I'm a pretty big gal, and I don't take any bullshit. I'm a puppydog, but I don't take crap from anybody. As an actress, I've always had to prove that big women can be sensual and can act and [you] don't have to have tits and ass, so to speak. You can be large, you can be overweight. You can have a physicality that isn't considered gorgeous or glamorous and still be considered a serious actress and sexy or sensual.
"You can't play anything on one level as an actress or an actor. If you do, you're boring. You have to try to slip a lot of juicy stuff in, even if you're playing a big ol' steamroller, you've just got to lighten it a little bit. I have a great time with [Barbara]. She's delicious.
Delano calls Northern Exposure "a breath of fresh air" on television. "It's so different from the norm of television. It's so risky and quirky and offbeat that it's tantalizing. It grabs you. It reaches up and sucks you into it. The characters are all so different and so likable and so non-mainstream. They're left-of-center, yet people can relate to the character. It's perfect in its kookiness. It's kooky without being weird and totally off the mark."
Working on the show made Delano a convert. She hadn't seen the series until her job as Barbara. "I didn't see it until they hired me. I had auditioned for it in the very beginning and didn't get it. Then I did a lot of other things—I've probably done fifty other television episodes. So I work quite a lot on other shows as well. In the beginning I didn't see it. When I went in and auditioned for the part, then I started watching."
Delano loves the people she worked with on the series. "They love me and I love them. We get along great. We're always talking—the makeup people and the crew—they're always pulling for me to be a regular. I would love to be a regular, but for now, I have to go with what they say. Keep your fingers crossed. Maybe I can work out a deal and be a regular and be Cicely's town sheriff. That would be the greatest."
Delano also loves working in the environment of Roslyn, but sees the intricate relationship the series has with the town. "It's a fabulous little community. I think there's like 888 people who live in this little town. It's an old mining town. The locals who live there, I'm not that well-acquainted with them. When I worked there, it was 'Hello, how are you?' and whatnot.
"I know Northern Exposure has been very good to the town. They bought [the town] a firetruck. They fed 100 families at Christmas and Thanksgiving. I know it's probably very much an intrusion, but [the town's] built up their revenue probably ten times. A lo of tourists have come up, but I guess that goes with the territory. I'm sure there are some people that poo-poo it and would rather not have [the show] there, but I think the businesses like it.
"The townspeople I've [met] in the little businesses on that little strip that you see, that street, seem very happy that they're making a whole lot of money: the pizza place, the ice cream parlor, the Roslyn Cafe does a great business. They all seem happy."
Delano is obviously highly supportive and protective of the show, and she is equally vocal about last season's controversy when Rob Morrow was threatening to walk out. "I think for the viewing public who don't know what an actor goes through and they only hear, 'Oh, he wants more money, well how wrong of him to do that.' They don't know the whole story. I don't have all the details in particular. All I can say is, if you have a number one hit series and you have good people, you should bump them up paywise.
"You just do it in good faith in saying, 'Thanks for the fine work you do.' There's extremes: if somebody says, 'I want $200,000 an episode,' you say, 'That can't be done,' but to me, what's $40,000 from $20,000? That's nothing, absolutely nothing when you've got an enormous hit on your hands and you're making money hand-over-fist.
"Rob Morrow's good, and I'm sorry, it is a show about a doctor that's a fish-out-ofwater: a New York, Jewish doctor going to Cicely, Alaska. It is about him. Yes, there are other characters on the show who are great, and I don't know if they'd last if they recast [Morrow's character]. I really don't. Why chance it? Everything pivots from Dr. Joel Fleischman.
"Actors go through a lot. Actors lose their privacy, first of all. You never have a private moment, especially Rob. You have interviews and you do charity functions and you talk to people and you're and you're there. So I think asking for a little more money is not out of line. [The cast] didn't make a whole lot of money to begin with, which is neither here nor there, but in relation to any other series, no he wasn't making anything."
Another bonus for Delano has been a growing friendship with Barry Corbin, her onscreen love-interest. "Barry has invited me to the Golden Boot Awards on Saturday. He's going to be presenting an award out here in California. It's an awards ceremony to honor all cowboys in film and television and theater. Pat Buttram is the honorary chairman. It's good 'ol cowboy fun. You know, Barry is a real-life cowboy.
"He's a doll. I love him. He's a man's man, but he's sweet and soft and and kind. He's got a good heart. He's a great kisser," Delano quipped. "He's got cushy, cushy lips. He's sweet, he's very charming. I love the character he plays, I love Maurice. And I love Barry, I love the actor. So, I've got it made, made in the shade."(3) (top)
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12/28/01 Updated 3/19/02
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