Robin Weigert expands her gallery of distinctive TV characters in ‘Dietland’

Los Angeles Times

Robin Weigert sees parallels between her first acting role as the fairy tale villain in her elementary school’s production of “Hansel and Gretel” and the silken-voiced therapist she plays on AMC’s “Dietland.”

The dramedy, an adaptation of Sarai Walker’s 2015 satirical novel, revolves around Alicia “Plum” Kettle (Joy Nash), a ghostwriter for high-powered magazine editor Kitty Montgomery (Julianna Margulies). Weighing in at 300 pounds, the insecure and withdrawn Plum is tormented by her body image and is saving up for weight-loss surgery when she meets Verena Baptist (Weigert), the scion of a weight-loss empire who runs a commune of sorts for women called Calliope House.

Baptist, who uses tough love and unconventional methods, is “a self-styled feminist Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Weigert says. Whether she’ll turn her newly woke Jedi knights into Darth Vaders for the #MeToo era remains to be seen, however.

“Is she a good witch or a bad witch?” Weigert asked recently at her West Hollywood home, comparing her childhood character to her current role. “She definitely has an agenda.”

The “heiress with a mission,” as Weigert describes her, is the latest in a string of distinctive roles for Weigert, who critics and costars say doesn’t just step into the shoes of her characters — she inhabits them.

Her impressive gallery includes the hard-drinking, foul-mouthed Calamity Jane from HBO’s “Deadwood,” a disillusioned lesbian mom who moonlights as a sex worker in the 2013 indie film “Concussion” and a savvy lawyer for an outlaw motorcycle gang in “Sons of Anarchy.”