Actress finds personal inspiration for cancer film

Actress Jeanne Tripplehorn plays an oncologist whose life is shaped by breast cancer.

Story highlights

  • Jeanne Tripplehorn knows how preachy and awkward cancer movies can get
  • "Five" tells stories of different women coping with breast cancer in five vignettes
  • Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore and Alicia Keys each directed a vignette
Jeanne Tripplehorn's movie is about women and breast cancer. And it's airing on Lifetime.
Uh oh, this could get weepy.
Tripplehorn, who has starred in cable show "Big Love," knows how preachy and awkward cancer movies can get.
"This was something different," she said, of the film ,which airs Monday at 9 p.m. "I spoke with Lifetime and they wanted it to be a new approach and a new way of looking at cancer."
The actress has seen the disease's toll.
"Like all women, I had been affected," she said. "Women in my family dealt with breast cancer. They all survived. It was important for me to do this on a lot of different levels. It wasn't just a paycheck."
The movie, "Five" tells stories of different women coping with breast cancer in five vignettes. Tripplehorn's character, an oncologist is the tie that binds the five stories together. Her character loses her mother to breast cancer as a young girl and becomes an oncologist.
The project has a bevy of star power. The executive producers are Jennifer Aniston, Marta Kauffman, co-creator of the series "Friends" and Kristin Hahn, who was the executive producer of "The Departed." Aniston, Demi Moore and Alicia Keys each directed one of the vignettes. The ensemble cast includes Patricia Clarkson, Rosario Dawson, Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Holloway, Tracee Ellis Ross, Tony Shalhoub and Jeffrey Tambor.
Tripplehorn answered a few questions for CNN not long ago.
CNN: Did you work with an oncologist, or consult a doctor for your role?
Jeanne Tripplehorn said breast cancer hits close to home because family members have been affected.
Tripplehorn: I consulted an oncologist. I read a lot.
The thing that I found confusing and frustrating is once you have this diagnosis, there is this maze of doctors.
There wasn't one particular way of dealing with a diagnosis. I was just very confused to the journey that one takes after a diagnosis. You have your mammogram, your radiologist, your oncologist.
Jen [Aniston] and her producing partner Kristin [Hahn] toured a clinic that hopefully will become a model for clinics across the country. It's almost a one-stop shop with everything a woman needs - the doctors, radiologists. It's all under one roof. And hopefully that will simplify before we get a cure.
CNN: What resonated with you about the story?
Tripplehorn: Just the way they were telling the story -- the five short films dealing with different women with the diagnoses.
I thought it was an interesting way of telling stories. Five directors who are women, for me, personally, it was a great experience to work with each of these directors. Alicia Keys is a first time director. You would never know it when you see her film.
CNN: Did having family members who've had breast cancer influence you in taking part in this project?
Tripplehorn: I had two women on my mother's side of the family; both went through bouts of breast cancer. Both survived.
My grandmother was a two-time survivor of breast cancer. She passed away of something different 15 years after her last diagnosis.
It's close to my heart and experience.
CNN: Having family members who've had this disease, does it make you concerned about your risk?
Tripplehorn: It's a constant reminder. It's always in the news. It's always out there. So, it's just what you live with. It's what you face.
You try to watch your diet, you're constantly aware of it. Some people put their head in the sand and I'm not that kind of person. I'm very aware of it.
CNN: Your character in the movie gets genetic testing for breast cancer. Have you ever thought about it?
Tripplehorn: I think it's a personal thing. It's not something that I'm thinking of doing. It's very personal.
CNN: What's your message through this movie?
Tripplehorn: No woman should have to go through this. I've seen it up close and personal. The fact that we're airing this during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it's a small part that I could do -- if I could raise awareness, if women see this and get a mammogram.
When I started this project, it had been two years since I got a mammogram, because I was so busy. That's what happens with women. They are so busy taking care of other people, they don't put themselves first. You have to go out and do these small things. Getting a mammogram, doing your monthly self-exam, your diet, just taking care of yourself. If this film will remind women out there to do just that, that's a step in the right direction.
It's not every project that you can do this -- that can possibly directly impact somebody's life. And that was my hope.