Toni Collette, latest reason to love Showtime

When Steven Spielberg‘s concept for a dark comedy about a woman with dissociative identity disorder originally

got press, Showtime exec

Robert Greenblatt expressed confidence

that The United States of Tara would attract “an extraordinary actress looking for a real tour de force opportunity.” Turns out he was spot on;

news just came out that the indeed extraordinary Toni Collette is

set to star as the mum of two whose multiple personalities emerge under stress.

My first response to the news was to cheer; I adore Collette and can think of few women

whom I’d rather see on a regular basis. Once I stopped grinning, though, I had to be surprised — both because Collette has been

so very film-centric and because I think of her as a dramatic actor more than a comedian. But the film focus hasn’t stopped Holly Hunter,

Glenn Close or Mary-Louise Parker, so why shouldn’t Collette join in this

golden age” for women on cable? And as for the comic aspect, I needed only think of my introduction

to Collette, Muriel’s Wedding, and I became as convinced as Greenblatt that

“when you’re casting a show that requires an actress to not only play one complex character, but in this case several, the road begins and ends with Toni Collette.”

In her earlier post about the show, roc claimed to be no good at playing predict-the-star,

but her suggestion of Edie Falco doesn’t seem so far off base now.

Let’s compare: serious talent, down-to-earth beauty, and sizable lesbian fan base? Sounds about right to me.

roc was also right to be skeptical about whether it could be funny if the kids were young; according to the Variety report, Tara’s kids are teenagers, and the

combination of that detail and Collette’s talents give me high hopes that the show may just be brilliant rather than offensive. The Little Miss Sunshine and

Japanese Story star really does have such range that I can

see her pulling off the switch from Martha Stewart–style housewife to biker (male biker, sadly) to teenage girl. I do hope that she’ll get to

be in on some of the jokes rather than being strictly the object of laughs, if only because her own laugh is irresistible.

The Tara pilot won’t shoot until 2008, so in the meantime we can look forward to Collette’s upcoming films, which may reach us slightly sooner even though

neither yet has a U.S. release date: Alan Ball‘s Nothing Is Private

and Australian drama The Black Balloon.