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What if all the actresses wore the same modest outfit to the Emmys?
Glenn Close’s suggestion to thwart the fashion-obsessed media
prompted unanimous mock agreement from our panel of Emmy-contending
drama actresses, part of a spirited hourlong discussion. “Let’s do
it!” agreed Sandra Oh. “Lets plan it!”
The Hollywood Reporter: What’s the hardest thing about your
job that we might not expect?
Sandra Oh: Being on a network’s 24-episode schedule,
managing time and managing exhaustion. And within that there’s a
lot of stuff that has nothing to do with acting, which is mostly
dynamics and politics, that I find equally exhausting. But just
physically, the amount of hours that you work on a network schedule
is so exceptionally difficult. At the height of “Grey’s,” I had
this sense of, “I’ll give it all up! Really, I’ll give it up.” That
THR: Do you find your show is under a particular microscope?
Oh: That’s a totally different question. We’re going to talk
about that? Okay. It’s a big network show, it’s under a tremendous
microscope, and it changed the sense of what the show was and is. A
lot times, fortunately or unfortunately, that’s what leads a lot of
the show right now is how it’s under a microscope.
THR: Given the tight schedules of TV?production, what’s your
secret for learning lines?
Kyra Sedgwick: My character is particularly verbose. Out of a
46-page script I think I have 30 pages of dialogue. Every sense has
to be accommodated. I have to listen to it, I have to read it with
somebody, I have to look at it every way. It’s all-consuming. I’m
not one of those people who can look at a page and know it. Some
people have that. J.K. Simmons on my show has that and it’s really
Glenn Close: How long do you get scripts before you
Sedgwick: We usually get (scripts) about four or five days
before we start shooting the first episode. But then, you’re still
learning that episode when you get the next episode. I have a 15-,
16-hour day, then I go home and work on the lines. And when I wake
up in the morning, and during lunch, and in the bathtub, and on the
weekends, and going for a hike …
Chloe Sevigny: I try to do all my work at work, and study my
lines in the trailer in the morning.
Claire Danes: The pace of television is extraordinary. I’ve
never found the same kind of demands in film. I did “My So-Called
Life” a long time ago and I definitely remember the strain of it. I
lost my period, actually, at one point, because the stress was just
Close: The thing I find hard is, for the amount of time that
we’re shooting, not being able to say to anyone, “Yes, I can show
up Wednesday night for dinner.” My husband is not in the business,
so that’s the biggest cost. To know that you can’t depend on being
there because the schedule will change and it will go later than
THR: Elisabeth, do you find the secrecy around your show and
your character makes it tougher on you as an actress?
Elisabeth Moss: We don’t get our scripts until sometimes the
day of the read-through, which is the day right before we start the
episode. We hear things here and there, but I would love to know
more. I would love to know the entire arc of my character.
Obviously, that’s what’s really great about doing film or doing
theater, but I’m kinda used to it now.
Close: I never know. We used to have read-throughs but we
don’t. We get the script sometimes at 11 o’clock at night before we
Sedgwick: Oh, forget it!
Close: I’ve gotten so used to learning my lines in the
makeup chair. They are a very organic group of writers.
Moss: That’s such a nice word. (Laughs.)
Close: When I’m looking at the page, I score out all the
stage directions, because my mind will register that there’s a line
there but maybe not a spoken line. So if I just score out all the
stage direction and keep the pure dialogue, I can learn it much
faster and I don’t have little blips in my mind.
Sevigny: Sometimes it’s difficult when you make certain
character decisions and then they throw something at you. “Really,
I thought she was like this?”
Moss: “I’ve been playing the exact opposite thing for six
THR: What was the hardest thing in preparing for your
Sedgwick: I have an accent, but I don’t feel like that was
really hard to learn. In a lot of ways, it’s a really freeing thing
as an actor. You’re like, “Oh well, I’m really not me. I can just
fly and do crazy stuff.”
Close: The hardest thing was not knowing the beginning,
middle and end. Because that’s how I’ve always constructed my
characters. I still don’t know everything about Patty Hewes and I
felt very insecure about it for a while. I went to our writers and
said, “I’ll write my own back story,” and they said, “No, you
can’t.” I went to this wonderful coach, Harold Guskin. Harold had
worked with James Gandolfini and told me that he had the same
problem. You have to fly, you really have to let it all go. And
that comforted me. Then it became a lot of fun. I felt like I was
living a novel week-to-week, like the 21st century version of
Dickens. It’s a really good exercise for an actor.
Sedgwick: It’s a living organism. It’s a living, morphing,
Oh: You have to constantly let go. Things sometimes don’t
actually make sense. “I thought this,” or “Well, four episodes ago
I was doing this.” You have to let that s*** go.
THR: When you watch your performances, what bothers you?
Sedgwick: I watch the first cut because I have to give
Moss: That sounds really nice. (Laughs.)
Sedgwick: I go, “I know there’s a better take,” or “There’s
a moment when I did that and you need to show that.” My biggest
criticism is I sometimes go, “Can you make that a little smaller,
Kyra?” (Laughs.) Sometimes you go, “God, I really wish I’d made
another choice there.”
Danes: I often find that some of the best moments in my
performances are the ones that I didn’t really fixate on — the
inconsequential scene. It’s always the scene that I’m sure will be
the defining one that I completely get wrong, because I overthink
it, or I psych myself out. So I’m often surprised by the more
transitional moments that aren’t supposed to count. I find that I
do something most fresh there.
Moss: The ones where you’ve had four hours of sleep and
you’re not even paying attention end up being important.
THR: Kyra, you produce your show. Do the rest of you grapple
with issues of control?
Oh: Don’t we all? You sign on to do these series after only
reading a pilot. You put so much trust in the creators and
sometimes you aren’t excited about what they’re doing with your
character or where the story’s going, or the tone of the show
changes a little bit. And you just have to go with it.
Moss: A lot of trust is involved.
Close: We sign our lives away for a few years on the
strength of one script. I did. It’s almost incredible.
THR: Glenn, you probably could have been a producer on
“Damages.” Why not?
Close: I didn’t want to be. I’ve been a producer. I just
wanted to not worry about all that other stuff. You do anyway,
because you’re very much part of a team. And I’m always aware of
every member of that team. But they’ve treated me like a producer
and are highly collaborative.
Oh: I really hope to get there. Being on a show for six
years now and not having the type of power you’re talking about,
you have to learn how to let go of control all the time, whether
it’s the schedule or the script or dynamics with other people. I
don’t watch my show because when I’m like 60 and vacationing
somewhere, I’m going to watch it all back-to-back and be like,
“That’s good. Fun times.” One time a couple of seasons ago — it
was a tremendous experience — I was invited into the writers’ room
when they were breaking the next season and they were like, “What
would you like to tell us? What would you like to see in the next
Moss: (To Sevigny) We keep looking at each other: “Wow, this
is awesome.” (Laughs.)
Oh: I really took that opportunity. One of the things that
frustrates me is when (producers) make those internal cuts or they
cut the s*** out of stuff, it drives me insane, because I’m mapping
out A, B, C, D and if it goes from A to D, just tell me that! I’ll
do something different.
Sevigny: Or when they do rewrites and they have to cut a
scene and they just smoosh one scene to another scene, and it makes
no sense. (Laughs.)
Oh: I don’t have the right to that protection, but boy, that
sounds really great. To have your opinion considered on a constant
basis, that’s something I really strive for.
THR: Do you have someone on set or off whose opinion of your
performance you trust?
Oh: Mark Jackson, our camera operator. Our relationship with
the operator is extremely intimate. He’s the first eye that sees
what I do and he knows me and he has moved with me for six years.
There are moments when I look over at him and he makes certain
sounds or I?see his physicality and it absolutely registers. There
are times when I look over at him and he’ll give me something and
I’ll either go and do another take or I’ll go kick him.
Sevigny: I ask the other girls on my show, Jeanne (Tripplehorn)
and Ginny (Goodwin), whenever we have scenes together. They’re
really tough critics, but they’re also really open. I really trust
them, which is rare, I think, between actresses. It’s always us
against the director. (Laughs.)
THR: Chloe, Claire and Elisabeth, you all started working
very young. How do you think that impacted you?
Moss: I’ve been working for so long, most of what I’ve learned
has been from doing. By working with other actors, working with
directors and writers and different writing styles. I’m just happy
that I never really got that famous when I was little because I got
the chance to get better before anyone knew who I was.
Danes: I also think we were so lucky to have that success
10, 15 years ago, before there was this media craziness. I was
entitled to a great amount of privacy. I could get it wrong, and
now that just doesn’t exist. I don’t know how kids today do it.
It’s really crazy. I did a movie with Zac Efron recently and the
kind of paranoia that he experiences is justified because people
have cameras all on their phones and everywhere. It’s a different
THR: Glenn, you didn’t become famous until you were in your
30s. Did it help that you were allowed to grow up first?
Close: I don’t think I’ve ever grown up and I don’t think I
ever will. One of my favorite books about acting is by Richard
Eyre, called “Utopia and Other Places.” He spent years directing at
the National Theatre (in England) and has great respect for the
process of actors. (Laurence) Olivier said, “If you scratch an
actor — you’ll find an actor!” But he disagrees: If you scratch an
actor, you’ll find a child. It’s not that they’re childish, but you
have to maintain a certain openness, and if you don’t maintain
that, you lose something vital as an actor. It’s how we’re wired,
and it’s not a bad thing. It’s actually a good thing.
THR: Is there a personality trait that all actresses
Close: Actresses are different from actors. Don’t you find
Sevigny: I find actresses more low-maintenance than actors.
THR: Men are conditioned for control, so being child-like might
be harder for them.
Sevigny: Oh boo-hoo.
Oh: It’s harder for men to be childish? (Laughs.)
Moss: No, child-like. Very different.
THR: What bothers you most about actors?
Sedgwick: Oh my gosh, that’s a terrible question. I’m
married to one!
Danes: So am I!
Moss: We all have to go back and work with our male actors.
Close: I love actors. I call myself an actress. Why call
myself an actor? That was back when it was all about being
feminist. But I call all of us an alien nation and I love my fellow
actors. You go to some terrible play, some off-off-Broadway play
and you see somebody being not very good, and I love them even
more. It takes a certain type of bravery.
Moss: Yes, I think bravery would be the personality trait
that we all aspire to.
Sedgwick: We get to explore what it is to be human. And all
that it means. I find that very profound.
THR: There seem to be more interesting female roles on
television these days. Do you agree?
Sedgwick: Absolutely. Broadcast, cable, both.
Sevigny: Certainly the films that HBO puts out.
Danes: “Temple” wouldn’t have come out in theaters. Nobody
would have funded that.
Close: What used to be going on in theater or independent
film is now going on in cable.
Danes: I’m a lady so I like watching versions of the female
experience represented on any screen, big or small. Women have been
underrepresented for a long time.
Oh: We’re at this section of the conversation. (Laughs.) But
absolutely, being the one woman who isn’t white, I actually don’t
know (when that will) translate into more mainstream features. When
“Grey’s” first happened, people were like, “Oh my God, things are
going to change, la la la la.” And I don’t really think so. I feel
welcomed in television. (But) I would like to see more people who
are not white and women. And I’m personally interested in seeing
the existential woman and what she is going through, as opposed to
the woman (whose) experience (you see) in relationship to her
family or her husband.
Danes: That’s what was so great about playing Temple. She
was not defined by a relationship with anyone. Having just come out
of my 20s, I was just playing falling-in-love all the time. I love
falling in love, but my experience is broader than that.
THR: Sandra, why didn’t the success of “Grey’s” lead to more
minorities on network TV?
Oh: You tell me. You write about it! (Laughs.) I’m not the
right person to ask.
THR: There are fewer jobs these days. Do you feel more
competitive with your fellow actresses?
Danes: It’s harder to get a job right now, but I don’t feel
more competitive. I feel really lucky. I have a lot of female
friends who are actors and I’m very supportive of them.
Moss: With “Mad Men,” even though we’re starting our fourth
season, we still can’t believe anyone watches the show. So I feel
like we actually hold on to each other even harder as we get more
acclaim, as the pressure mounts. It’s a good thing if you can turn
to each other rather than turn against each other.
Oh: With the girls on my show, before events we’re always
texting each other. “What are you doing with this? How far away are
Close: You become very close with these people.
THR: But that doesn’t always happen. Sandra, on your show
you had the situation with Katherine Heigl —
Oh: I’m not talking about that.
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