Tough lawyer Patty Hewes is about to have her life upended again . . . along with virtually everyone around her.
After receiving Emmy Awards for each of the first two years of "Damages," and recent Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations for its second round, Glenn Close starts the third season of the engrossingly complex FX drama series Monday at 10 p.m.
As another personal mystery envelops Patty, playing out through the show's trademark back-and-forth timeline, she oversees the assets of a wealthy family blamed for a Madoff-like Ponzi financial scheme.
Other impressive "Damages" supporting cast members include Lily Tomlin and Broadway veteran Len Cariou as the heads of the accused family, Campbell Scott ("Dying Young") as their guilt-ridden son and comedy veteran Martin Short in a rare dramatic turn as their attorney.
Additional intrigue is supplied by such returning characters as Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) - a covert Patty enemy now working for another law firm - longtime Hewes associate Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan), and fallen-from-grace tycoon Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson).
Keith Carradine also joins the series, shortly after ending his run on Showtime's "Dexter," as a mystery man interested in Patty; former "24" regulars Reiko Aylesworth and Sarah Wynter factor in, too.
"I still don't know what I'm getting with Patty from one week to the next," Close says of playing one of the most twisty-turny parts in television today. "Everyone will see, from the first episode, where we are six months ahead. How we get there, I have no clue."
Which comes as no surprise to Close, having been through the process twice before. She knows not to expect more than Daniel Zelman and his fellow "Damages" creator-producers, brothers Glenn and Todd Kessler, are ready or willing to give her at any moment.
"I just shot a scene that involved a piece of paper," Close says, "and I didn't know what was on it. They said, ' very upset by it. It's like a murder weapon.' And I'm OK with that.
"What was very hard last season was the climactic scene that was shown all the way through, where Rose had a gun pointed at me. We reshot that at least three times, and that was extremely difficult. You had to put yourself back in a place emotionally that you had last been in maybe two months before, or three weeks before. You'd have to look at the footage of that. That's just a technical challenge, how to get back there."
While Close was excited that "Damages" reunited her last season with "The Big Chill" co-star William Hurt, she also finds the newest "Damages" ensemble thrilling.
"I mean, Len Cariou, the original Sweeney Todd? I've known him a long time," she says. "And the first scene I had with Lily and Martin, when we sat across the conference table, was a very surreal moment."
Someone who also relishes variety, as proven by projects as diverse as "Fatal Attraction" and the "Sarah, Plain and Tall" trilogy, Close - who began her relationship with FX with the season she spent on the police drama "The Shield" - is gratified that "Damages" continues to give her so many shadings to play within a single role.
"One's major fear about playing the same character, now going into the third year, is that you'll bore yourself," she says. "The writers are keeping this at a level where it's still fun and interesting, and it's also a real luxury to have a history with a character. It's nothing you have to trump up or think about."
MARTIN SHORT STRETCHES ON 'DAMAGES'
Previously featured with Glenn Close in the 1996 movie "Mars Attacks!," Martin Short says he's happy to be developing a "Damages" character from scratch, having been a fan of the show from the start. The "SCTV" and "Saturday Night Live" alumnus known for such aliases as nerdy Ed Grimley, recalls, "I was at my cottage in Canada last summer when they phoned and asked me about this, and I thought, 'This is so odd.'
"I only watch about three things on television, and 'Damages' is one of them. I kept saying, 'Guys, I have to be honest. It's very hard for me not to say yes, because it's a brilliant show.' I think Glenn's doing the work of her life on it, so it was very easy for me to accept."
Viewers may deem Short's "Damages" turn a departure from "Father of the Bride," "Three Amigos!" and his other movies, but he doesn't necessarily agree.
"I think what you end up doing," he reasons, "is that you just use different tools. You're always trying to get to the end result. If you're the Mad Hatter, you have to approach it with a different energy or mind-set than if you're playing a lawyer to the Madoff family. It's not that you're reinventing yourself as much as creating a different character." - JAY BOBBIN