In the late ‘90s, flame-haired Scottish singer Shirley Manson ruled the alt-rock charts with her band, Garbage. Though she’s still working on music — a solo record she hopes to record later this year – FOX recently snapped her up to play CEO Catherine Weaver (and the menacing T-1000, when duty calls) in “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.”
Making the move from impassioned frontwoman to actress has been inspiring for Shirley. But to play the role of the bad terminator (one on the hunt for the Connor family) as well as her human alter ego, Shirley said she still needed inspiration, which she looked for in two different women.
“I thought a lot about Glenn Close in ‘Damages’ because I thought she’s very threatening. She’s very powerful in that television show and her performance is incredible. And I think it’s rare when you see a woman on screen, where you truly believe she is capable [of committing] unworldly deeds,” Shirley said Wednesday. “She was a muse and also, for some inexplicable reason, I also thought of Margaret Thatcher.”
So why did Shirley, who spent her formative days in bands in her native Scotland before joining former Nirvana-producer Butch Vig’s band, choose Britain’s former Prime Minister as another source of character development?
“She was really a very powerful and [a] seemingly unassailable character when I was growing up,” Shirley recounted. " I really didn’t think very kindly of her, so I thought she was really someone who was a great inspiration for a CEO of a company, who wasn’t the kindest and warmest of hearts. And so I looked her up on YouTube. My performance is nothing like these two characters, but they certainly informed me.”
Shirley is no stranger to the small screen, having played herself in a host of music videos. But the role of Catherine Weaver is the Scot’s first formal scripted acting part. It wasn’t, however, the first one she has been offered.
“This is the first thing that came along that captured my imagination,” Shirley said. “I’ve been offered quite a few acting jobs over the years and for some reason I’ve just really connected with the Terminator franchise since I was young. I was a huge fan of ‘Terminator 1 & 2’ and so for whatever reason, I guess — I’m not 100 percent sure why it connected with me — I jumped at the chance.”
Shirley feels she’ll always be connected to music, but she has no plans to stop acting now that the bug has bitten her.
And it appears Shirley’s former musical partner and friends have offered their thumbs up to her new gig.
”[Butch] wrote a very quick email saying, ‘F****** awesome! I loved it Queenie!’ so I think he loved seeing me playing a Terminator. I think everyone thinks it’s really funny,” she said.
So does she think the musician image will get in the way of her becoming a successful actor?
“I don’t think once you’ve been in a successful band you can ever truly shed that image,” she said. “But I would also love to do more acting and I see no reason why I can’t. I know that there are a lot of criticisms whenever a musician steps into acting and whenever an actor steps into music and I understand where that comes from. I’ve certainly been guilty of being very suspicious myself of people who’ve done crossovers, but at this point in my life, you know, I’m 42 years old, and I feel like being an active musician on the road is a tough life. And I don’t know necessarily if I want to continue that kind of existence. I want to be continually challenged and excited and acting has provided that for me.”