Thursday, October 18, 2007
Glenn Close Talks All-Things ‘Damages’
PTR Staff Writer
Two words: Glenn Close
Need we say more?
Can we say more?
It’s not every day you get the opportunity to speak with one of the legendary actresses of our generation. Then again, it’s not every television season you have the opportunity to experience a show the caliber of Damages.
So it’s fitting both go hand in hand.
PTR was invited to speak with the immensely talented Glenn Close about her role as Patty Hewes on FX's (and PTR fave) Damages. The first season will wrap up Tuesday (October 23rd), and with a second season not yet firmly decided, we had a wonderful opportunity to hear Glenn’s insight into not only what makes Patty tick, but also what she has gotten out of the role and how the overall experience ranks in her very illustrious career.
In thinking back on all the great characters she’s had the opportunity to portray, PTR specifically asked Glenn where does Patty Hewes rank on the list – could she be considered a favorite, most unpredictable, most challenging?
"I think she’s remaining one of the most challenging for the very fact that I don’t know everything about her yet," says Glenn. "As an actor, I find that to be very challenging. I’ve kind of gotten used to [not knowing her entirely]. I cling to the knowledge that most of us cover up 99.9% of what’s really going on all the time. I think human beings are masters at not showing what’s in their head or in their heart [whilst at the same time being able to] show the opposite of what’s really going on. So I think up until now, my behavior as Patty has been pretty valid. And I really look forward [to more] – I think it’s just going to get more and more emotionally complex for me, and that’s a thrilling proposition."
On preparing for her role, Glenn spent time with another Patricia – Patricia Hines, a real-life top woman litigator in New York City. The challenge, Glenn says, was figuring out how to play a man’s game in a man’s world as a woman.
"I was very impressed by Patricia Hines, and [I] sat down with her to learn some extraordinary things about what it means to take on a huge case that might go on for five years. She reads over 10,000 documents. And when she gives her opening and closing statement, it’s all extemporaneous, which I find mind-boggling. I said, ‘I want to be like that.’ I also read certain things written by [other] women litigators, [and what I determined was] there [was and is] always a gender issue - that it’s problematic to be a woman and go into a courtroom against very, very aggressive males.
Of all the characters I’ve played, Patty is probably most like Marquise de Merteuil in Dangerous Liaisons in that she is playing a man’s game in a man’s world, and she ultimately gets censured for it. There are times when she’s feminine and there are times when she’s aggressive. But [either way], she’s going for it. I think there’s a certain anger in her, which I sensed in some of these women [given] that what it took [for them] to get to where they are [forced them to go through] some unpleasant things. [So] once you have a character like this and [of whom is a] woman, everything changes. That was one of the really fascinating aspects of this character that pulled me in – what does it mean to be in power, ahead of your game, the top of your game and be a woman?"
On the back-and-forth debate about whether Patty Hewes is a free and loose, morally inept, inherently evil individual hell bent on having only the worst of intentions, Glenn disagrees.
"I have the belief that truly evil people [are genetically] evil," says Glenn. "I only have the experience of exploring the landscape of some of the characters I’ve played that people have labeled as evil; [but] I don’t think they’re evil. [Only] Cruella de Vil (101 Dalmations) is evil, because she’s the devil. [In] all the other characters, I [have been] able to find a common humanity with them somewhere, knowing where they’re most fragile, where they’re most vulnerable, knowing some of the things that happened to them might have formed this kind of behavior. As an actor, I really feel you cannot judge a character. You have to totally commit to that character. And for me to totally commit to the character, I have to find those places where I understand the sequence of behavior. So, I do not think Patty [is evil]. I don’t think she’s even a hero in her own mind. I think she’s very vulnerable, as far as her son is concerned. I think she realizes that she truly is not a great mother. I think she has regrets. I don’t think she’s a settled soul, and I don’t know if she ever would be a settled soul. I think she’s very conflicted, and I really like that about her."
On her influences and inspirations, Glenn says it’s simply all about good work.
And good writing (score one for us writers).
"Good work – work that moves me, that I connect with – always inspires me, no matter where I see it," says Glenn. "Whether it’s some little tiny Off-Broadway thing or some actor that does something surprising, I’m always inspired by my fellow actors. That’s a constant for me. I have huge respect for our profession and our craft. In my work, I seek to create connections first for me with the character, and then the character with the other actors, and then ultimately, all of us together connecting with the audience in a way that sometimes is subliminal. I think everybody wants to connect. There is nothing worse than feeling disconnected. And stories that really move people and make people care are the ones where they feel some sort of connection.
Good writing [also] inspires me. And [I try to stick to the] decision to only do something that I think will challenge me and that I, personally and very subjectively, think is good. [I don’t want to] do something because I think it will bring me a lot of money or bring me a lot of awards. I’ve tried to very, very rigorously be highly subjective about what I do."
As more and more renowned actresses make the jump to television, and specifically ones that are at home on the cable networks (e.g., Kyra Sedgwick/The Closer; Holly Hunter/Saving Grace), Glenn believes the reason for the shift is simple: it’s the opportunity to take on a great role.
"There used to be a huge snobbism between the film industry and the television industry," says Glenn. "The first thing I produced and acted in was Sarah, Plain and Tall, and the only place to go at the time for really quality television was Hallmark Hall of Fame. Television has changed much since then. I also personally have always thought, ‘Well if the English can do it all, why can’t we?’ What should make someone decide whether they want to do something or not is the quality of the writing and the people involved, not whether it’s a film or television. I also have always felt that television has a huge potential for the kinds of audiences that some films would never dream of or ever be able to have. That is very exciting to me.
As far as the difference for me between television and movies, I really thrill to the pace of television. As exhausting as it can be, it’s an incredible mind exercise. You have to have stamina, but you really feel like you’re feeding your mind. I love the rhythm of it. And when you’re with a great crew like we had, it becomes a thrilling collaboration, which is to me one of the great aspects of the process that you go through. I find myself at this point in my career, getting potentially, incredibly bored if I stand around a lot, so that’s why I really like the pace of television."
As this first season of Damages is now wrapped up from a production perspective, and as we viewers await the first season finale, PTR specifically asked Glenn what has been the best part of her experience working on the show – did she feel as if she’s grown, learned something new, or been challenged in a particular way?
For her, it was still all about the challenges.
"I feel I’ve been very challenged. That was fun. It’s been so complex, and the writers have been really writing [almost] up until the last minute [at times]. For example, the deposition scene between Ted Danson and myself we got [about] 11:00 p.m. the night before. There were a lot of words [for the scene], [so] you kind of sit back, separate yourself from your brain, [and say] let me see if [I] can do this. That’s the kind of challenge I like.
The writers are [so] good in that [what they write] is easy to memorize. Good writing has an innate rhythm to it, and I’ve always felt that [good writing with an innate rhythm] is easier to get in your head than writing that has mind busting moments. Moments that I find mind busting [are like] when there’s a word that I find in a weird place. I love the process of going to the writer [to] work that out. [It’s] the challenge of not only learning the lines but [also] learning them to the extent that you assimilate them so that you’re not worried about what the next word is coming out of your mouth when it comes to doing [the] scene. Also, [being] in the trenches with the writers – just in the wonderful kind of back and forth of how is it best to say something, even if it involves four or five words. I love that kind of thing.”
And so do we.
PTR would like to thank FX Network, Sony Pictures and especially Glenn Close for her time and thoughtful responses to questions.
If you have missed any of the first season of Damages, tune into the marathon this Saturday (October 20th) on FX beginning at 8 a.m. The first season finale will air next Tuesday (October 23rd) at 10 p.m.