Oscar-winning actress Holly Hunter plays a hard-living cop who is given one chance to change her ways by a guardian angel in the new US drama Saving Grace

Oscar-winning actress Holly Hunter moves to the small screen this week when she stars in her first TV series, More4’s US cop drama Saving Grace (screens on Mondays).

The actress, who won an Oscar for the film The Piano, takes the title role of Grace Hanadarko, a heavy-drinking, cigarette-smoking Oklahoma detective who has no qualms about sleeping with married men, whose life takes a sudden turn when she is involved in a car crash.

As she stumbles out of the car, a tobacco-chewing guy in a lumberjack shirt appears. He tells her his name is Earl and he’s an angel who has been sent by God to save her soul…

How would you describe the show?
“It’s a cop show, but you really get to know who Grace is. Often, all the viewers get to investigate in a cop show is a crime, but with her you get a really in-depth investigation into who she is, more than what she does. And, of course, she’s being followed about by a guy with wings…”

What do you like about her?

“Her humanity, which is a kind of humanity not often expressed. There’s a darkness to it which is important to encounter on screen because we all have darkness within us. In some people it’s more dormant than others, but in Grace it’s very much alive. She’s very much a force of nature – she lives in the moment and I find that compelling.”

Grace is a mess, yet she’s still a great detective…
“I think Grace’s personal demons are useful to her in her work. She’s used to operating instinctually and impulsively, and I think that a lot of people who commit crimes do that too. She knows how to think like a criminal.”

You’re best known as a movie actress. Why did you decide to do TV?
“I’ve been offered television series before but I’ve always said no until now. It was the script. I got to page six and I thought, ‘I can’t have anybody else doing this but me’.”

How different is it doing TV?
“The intimacy you get with working with actors on a series is amazing. One of the things I’ve always wanted was to work with people who I like more than once, and with films you rarely get to do that.”

What is Grace’s relationship with Earl?
“It’s fascinating and multi-faceted. Earl is absolutely essential to the story because he provides the external conflict for Grace. He confronts her with the idea of faith when she fully lives a life without faith.”

Are you religious?
“I would say I’m a spiritual person. Is there an energy that’s higher than mine? Yes. But would I claim it as God? I would say no.”