High Desert Premiere: Patricia Arquette Details 'Chaos and Drama' of Playing a Drug Dealing, Desert-Dwelling Addict
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: An on-again, off-again drug addict sets out to become a private investigator and find the missing wife of a charlatan guru who happens to have ties to a mafia family, all while said barely recovering addict deals with her imprisoned husband and grieves the loss of her beloved mother. And sometimes, all of that but on acid.
Apple TV+’s High Desert (the first three episodes are now available to stream) stars Patricia Arquette as the messy, yet captivating leading lady named Peggy who lies somewhere between bulls—t artist and scrappy businesswoman. She fancies a fresh start in her small desert town of Yucca Valley, Calif., yearning for a career that will make her legitimate, but unable to get out of her own way when it comes to her finances, relationships, and well, everything else.
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“She’s got a really great heart, but she’s a hustler,” Arquette tells TVLine. “She’s a bit of an addict and she makes up her own rules for the world, for sobriety. She’s kind of dabbling with spirituality. She loves the arts and the opera. She collects people that are a little broken. She likes to be like a mother hen, but she also just creates chaos and drama wherever she goes.”
As Arquette mentions, there are many — let’s go with quirky — sides to her character, but it’s that heart, drive and caregiving nature lurking deep inside that make Peggy so damn compelling and watchable. You want to root for her success despite all of her delusion and outlandish flaws (of which there are many!).
In the opening installments, we ride shotgun as Peggy day-trips to a methadone clinic despite her love for hallucinogens (“it’s acid, it’s not drugs!”). She works as an actress of sorts at Pioneertown where she helps put on wild west reenactments for tourists. While helping one of her coworkers out of a pickle, she crosses paths with a self-declared guru who’s in the business of selling stolen art. When she learns that his artist wife went missing and that there’s a 70 grand reward, she pitches the case to a private investigator (Brad Garrett’s Bruce) and forcibly inserts herself onto his payroll. Then, like the true enigma that she is, she skips all of her P.I. certification classes so she can crack the case. (Seems legit!)
If that wasn’t enough for Peg to juggle, there’s also her husband, Denny (Matt Dillon), who’s doing time when the series begins for one of his many assorted criminal activities. He refuses to sign off on the divorce she so desperately wants so she can at last move on.
“Denny is complicated,” Dillon tells TVLine. “They’ve got a long history together. He and Peggy are cut from the same cloth, but he’s loyal and he loves her. Denny didn’t have a great background and her family kind of adopted him, even though they’re dysfunctional.”
With her mom sadly deceased, Peggy leans on her brother and sister (played by Keir O’Donnell and Christine Taylor) who are beyond tired of paying her way when her schemes fall flat. They want their older sister to sell their mom’s house, so they can cash out and not be financially responsible once Peggy’s life further implodes, which from these three episodes alone seems like an inevitability.
“At this point in their life, they’ve had it with Peggy,” says Arquette about siblings Stuart and Dianne. “They’ve had it with Peggy’s promises. They’ve had it with Peggy’s schemes. They’re sick of taking care of a grown adult and providing for her. They’ve seen her get high, get sober, get high too many times to really fall for it. So there’s a lot of history and damage. The problem with addicts is they don’t remember stuff when they’re high. You remember the stuff they do or say or how they let you down, but they don’t really remember it.
“She wants them to love and respect her and yet she keeps making these life choices that are infuriating to them, and again, are from her skewed perspective of how to go about living life. In a selfish, addict kind of way, she makes a lot of choices that create a lot of damage even when she’s trying to help things.”
Peggy’s friction with her siblings pulls her closer to Denny, and despite the fact that he’s in the slammer, we catch a glimpse of what made them work in the series’ opening scene. Everything appears hunky dory until police crash their beautiful California home in a wild Thanksgiving Day drug raid.
“He knows they’re meant to be together,” says Dillon. “The problem with Denny is that he has a problem being honest. He’s constitutionally incapable of being honest, but he also has a good heart. He’s got a spiritual side to him, but he’s a criminal and that’s something he can’t change. There’s so much duality there. There’s a lot of conflicting sides to Denny and that’s one of the things I liked about the script.”
She may be battling herself, her siblings, Bruce, her boss at Pioneertown and this makeshift guru guy, but for Peggy, it’s just another day in the desert. (And yeah, she’s frequently high, hence the show’s name.) But things get even more complicated in the third episode’s final moments when she arrives home to find that Denny has been sprung from prison early and he’s standing in her kitchen wearing her bathrobe. So about that divorce…
What did you think of Arquette and Dillon’s new series? Vote in our poll below, then let us know in the comments!
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