New Emmy Winner Ann Dowd Embraces Her (Late) Rise to Fame

Good Behavior Still Episode 204 - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of TNT

At the age of 61, Ann Dowd’s career is taking off.

If you don’t know the newly minted Emmy winner’s name yet, you almost certainly know her face. Over nearly three decades, the actress now best known for her turn as the draconian Aunt Lydia on Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale (for which she took home the gold) was the quintessential working actress. Her performances in such films and TV shows as Philadelphia, Freaks and Geeks, Garden State, and four different iterations of Law & Order (a franchise in which the actress played a total of nine characters) were never less than solid. And yet stardom remained elusive.

Then came Compliance, writer-director Craig Zobel’s button-pushing drama in which Dowd starred as a hapless fast-food restaurant manager whose blind trust in a debased prank caller leads to the sexual assault of one of her employees. The film debuted to some controversy at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival but rose above the noise on the strength of Dowd’s performance, which garnered her the National Board of Review award for best supporting actress and even spurred talk of an Oscar nomination.

For herself, Dowd is under no illusions about how she’s ended up where she has. Genetics, talent, and luck all inevitably played a part (and are irrevocably wound together), but when you keep at something for as long as she, it’s impossible to underestimate the role of good old-fashioned doggedness. Whether innate or learned, it gave her the edge she needed to keep moving.

“There were times of despair, no question, where I'd sit howling on my porch and say, 'When, and how?'” she says. “And then you get over that, and then you go to the audition, and you get the part. It's just literally one foot in front of the other.”

Good Behavior season two premieres Sunday on TNT.