Maura Tierney talks to the “Times” about her return to acting

Around Christmas of last year, we were happy to report that Maura Tierney was doing very well in her recovery from breast cancer, which was diagnosed in June 2009.

This week, in her first interview since treatment (surgery and chemo), she talked to The New York Times about the theater work she’s been doing and shared her thoughts about dropping out of Parenthood.

As it happened, Tierney heard about the Wooster Group, an experimental New York theater group, while she was still doing ER. When she finished her last season in May 2008 after nine years on the show, she decided to visit the troupe and ended up spending two days watching the actors in action — and loved what she saw.

The next year, the group asked Tierney to be in a planned revival of its play North Atlantic, which “depicts life on an aircraft carrier through song, dance, vaudeville-esque dialogue and jokes far bluer than the ocean.” Nobody knew at the time that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Tierney decided to accept, believing that the role would be a good way to challenge herself after treatment was complete.

The Wooster Group’s approach is to focus on “technical precision and stylized line reading over emotionally wrought acting,” something Tierney felt was a good fit. “What appealed to me was that the focus of North Atlantic was more about performance rather than emoting, because I was at a point in life where it was nice not to have to emote all over the place,” she told the Times.

She also felt that the stage was a much better place for her than television. “I felt terrible leaving the Parenthood team in the lurch, but doing the show would have been very stressful because I didn’t want that phase of my life documented on film. There is no HD in the theater.”

Tierney likes the fact that her role, Cpl. Nurse Jane Babcock, is not at all like her serious role in ER. The character is “whimsical and sexually curious” and often joins the other women characters in a chorus of lewd, flirtatious comments to the men on the ship.

North Atlantic ends its New York run this weekend and she doesn’t know what’s next (she’s already taped her episodes of Rescue Me). But Tierney is grateful that she was up to the challenge. And we’re grateful that she’s back.

Read the rest of the interview here and join me in celebrating Tierney’s return — and her good health.