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Chloë Sevigny Is Totally Worth The Wait

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

Chloe Sevigny stars in “The Wait.”

Chloë Sevigny

Is Totally Worth The Wait

by Jay S. Jacobs

We've been watching Chloë Sevigny since she was literally a kid: playing a standout role in Larry Clark's Kids, the hard-hitting 1995 cult drama about wasted youth Nearly twenty years later and the quirky actress still fascinates.  As an actress, she is an odd contradiction: pretty but not traditionally beautiful, somber but with an offbeat sense of humor, dead serious and yet playful. 

This odd sense of contradiction extends to her adventurous choices in roles.  She fits in to all genres and moods: from tragic real life drama (Boys Don't Cry) to downbeat hyper-realism (Trees Lounge) to surreal cultural commentary (Dogville) to pitch black comedy (American Psycho) to sophisticated wordplay (The Last Days of Disco).

In recent years she has taken her offbeat talent to television, playing the wife of a bigamist in HBO's acclaimed Big Love, a tortured nymphomaniac in American Horror Story: Asylum, a transgender in Hit and Miss and currently is recurring on the popular sitcom The Mindy Project.

That's only a taste of what Sevigny has on her plate, though.  She currently is co-starring with Jena Malone in the gorgeously filmed family psychodrama The Wait.  In that film Sevigny and Malone play sisters whose mother has just died.  However, literally seconds after mother has taken her last breath, Emma (Sevigny) receives a phone call from a mysterious woman who insists that their mother will soon be resurrected.  Therefore, much to the horror of her younger sister, Emma insists upon keeping the death to themselves and leaving their mother's body in her bedroom and wait to see what happens.   

Sevigny also is starring in A&E's new crime drama Those Who Kill, which is loosely based on the Danish series Den som dræber.  The show, set to premiere in March, has Sevigny as a Pittsburgh detective who has to work with a forensic profiler (James D'Arcy) to solve a series of serial slayings.

A few weeks before The Wait had its premiere, we gave Sevigny a call to get the lowdown on her new projects and her career. 

This is the second time you and Jena have worked with M. Blash, on his first two features.  What is it about him artistically that intrigued you and made you want to give him a chance on his debut?

Well, actually he's a personal friend of mine.  We have a relationship outside of working together.  We've been friends for years.  We first met, I think it was like in 1999 or 2000, at friends of mine's apartment.  He had just moved to New York.  He had this short film that he had made with these two girls, really awkward, in the kitchen wearing Laura Ashley dresses.  He showed it to me.  He was like, "I'm trying to make this as a feature."  I was like: send me the script.  The short is amazing.  I think shorts are really hard to make.  Through talking about the feature that never got made, we became friends.  I think that Jena and M also had a relationship outside of working together prior to us doing his first feature, Lying.  Just being around him and being close with him and knowing what he's into and going to see art together and bands together, I loved him as a person and trusted him as an artist.  I feel like, for me, whenever I work with friends, it's always the most empowering and the most freeing.  Also challenging, in the way that they always know when you are being you and when you are not.  Like, "Oh, you always do things like this" because he's so familiar with my work.  "You should just try something you haven't done."  It's easier to push it.  I feel really safe when I'm working with people I know and love. 

The death of a loved one is obviously a very difficult thing to deal with, and your character certainly had an extreme reaction.  Do you think she really truly believed the woman on the phone saying that her mom would be resurrected or that she just needed time to come to terms?

I think that she was deflecting.  Doing anything she could.  After having cared for her mother when she was sick for so long – because she was a hospice nurse – I think that sometimes people just snap and lose the way.  This is the way that manifested in that character.  I can't even remember the character's name right now, for Christ's sake.  (laughs)  It was just a way of avoiding what was actually going down, because the character... what's her name?  Do you remember the name?

I believe Emma...

Emma.  She is very practical.  She's a nurse.  Nurses are almost like someone in the military.  Always by the books.  This was her chance to kind of lose it and spiral a bit. 

It seems the sisters almost have an opposite trajectory.

They do and then they swap.  They change 3/4 of the way through.

Your character starts out believing and slowly comes to terms with the fact that it was not going to happen, while Jena starts off cynical and slowly starts to believe.  Why do you think they took such different paths?

I don't know.  I think they just have different roles within the family.  They are at different places in their lives.  I guess that's more a question for M, but I think it just makes for a more dynamic story as well, if they are not in the same [place].  It also serves the movie.  (laughs)

You had some very emotional scenes with Jena.  What is she like to work with?

Oh, Jena's great.  She is just very open as an actress.  Really loves acting.  Loves the movies.  Such a cinephile.  She's very spiritual and connected.  Always coming with these very strange ideas out of left field.  Inspired by colors and weird shit.  Because I'm so not that, it's pretty exciting to work with someone that is.  (laughs)  Kind of kooky in that way to feed off of their energy.  It's almost like we should have been playing each other's characters.  She should have been playing the Emma character and I should have been playing her character, if we are going to play people that are more like the people we are in real life. 

One nice thing about the movie is that your character took the time waiting to sort of get to know her daughter a little better.  Were the scenes escaping with the actress playing your daughter almost like an escape from the bleakness of the situation?

I guess so.  It's always hard with children and she was a first-timer and so young.  She was also related to the director.  (laughs)  But, yeah, I guess I never really looked at it like that.  I just wanted her to relate to the daughter in a way that the daughter was like, "Why are you acting like such a weirdo?"  You know, being more palsy with her than she normally is.  More treating her like a friend.  I imagine as a mother she's pretty stern and disciplined.  You don't see that.  That's all back story.  I wanted there to be [the feeling] that's why she looks at [mom] like she's a total weirdo.  She's like: You wanted to get our hair done?  You want to hang out with me?   Like hang out with me?  What mom says that?  I just wanted it to be in a way that mom really wouldn't perhaps behave normally.

I have to admit, when I was watching the film, I was wondering if your mother's body was starting to smell after a while.  I don't think the potpourri would cover that up.  Did the cast and M. discuss that kind of thing and come to decisions about it?

That's why they kept the air conditioning up so high.  The dried lavender in there.  When you see the little girl in there, she's wearing her Seabee coat to try and keep warm.  They shiver.  I don't know if it plays.  It's all very subtle, but the movie over all is very subtle, I think. 

How much did M. tell you about the back story of the daughters with the mother, or did he prefer to leave those hazy?

We sat down and all talked about it probably for like an hour or so.  Not so extensive, but I think we talked about where we all were in our lives and our relationships with our mom.  The dad.  Things like that.  He's pretty complete.  I think that he has intentions for almost every line of the script.  So if you ever had a question concerning anything, he's pretty dialed in to what you want. 

The town that the movie was filmed in was pretty incredible.  Where was it filmed and how did the area add to the feel of the story?

It was filmed in Bend, Oregon.  M, the director, is from Portland and that's a vacation town where he grew up going.  There were all these houses in the woods that were inspired by sci-fi.  You have all these really sharp lines and modern houses amongst all the beautiful nature.  I found it very inspiring visually.  It does make a great backdrop. 

You also have the new series Those Who Kill coming up on A&E.  What can you tell us about that show?

Well, I play a detective.  (laughs)  It's pretty creepy.  It's pretty subversive, because my character is hell bent on bringing down a judge who is her stepfather and who she believes molested and possibly killed her brother when they were children.  In the way Emma is grieving, people grieve in different ways.  Especially when you lose someone like a sibling or a loved one to a violent crime that hasn't been solved.  There's been no justice.  It's really hard to let go.  My character is definitely trying to bring this guy down and she can't function in life outside of that.  Until she finds some justice, she just can never live her life fully.  She's totally closed off and shut down from the world.  And there's also some crimes.  We're following serial killers and stuff like that.  But the main storyline is my character and her story.

Did you see the original Danish series it was based on? 

No, I chose not to.  I think really it wasn't really based on it.  It's not really stringent, you know?  I think it was more of a premise.  I don't think that any of our crimes follow any of the crimes that they did.  It's very different.  It was more just having the female protagonist. 

I interviewed James D'Arcy a few years ago.  He was a really nice guy.  What's he like to act with?

He's awesome.  He's awesome.  He's so smart.  He's never worked in television before in America.  He's totally new to the process.  He was really bringing a lot of ideas every day and every scene he was in.  Really challenging the directors, but in a good way.  I found him just a pleasure.  Thank God I liked him.  If I didn't, it would have been really horrible.

You've obviously also done Big Love and American Horror Story: Asylum.  How is TV work different from film work and how is it the same?

I like working, which is why I've been working a lot in TV.  Because of just the opportunities that have been given to me.  I haven't really had a lot of great film opportunities as of late.  I've been holding out more, I guess, in that department.  But I just love acting.  I've been interested in different projects for different reasons.  Like, The Mindy Project, for instance.  Doing that kind of comedy is a thing that I never do.  It's more of a challenge.  I love that Mindy has her own show and the writers act on the show.  For them the actors are also the writers and producers and creators.  I guess the acting is a little more freeing, because it feels less precious, because there is so much more TV.  It's not like, oh my God, I have to make this scene or it's not going to happen.  You have so much more time and so many more scenes, so you're like, well, I don't have to hit it so hard on the scenes.  I'm going to maybe do something that's more dramatic three episodes down the line.  So it's kind of like a long-distance runner instead of a sprint. 

When you were making Kids about 20 years ago, did you ever imagine it would become such a classic and you'd still be acting all these years later?

(laughs)  I hoped I'd still be acting.  I'm thrilled that I've been able to maintain for this long.  But, no, when we were making it, we had no idea.  I feel like after it came out and there was all the controversy and it became such a huge hit, I kind of was like: wow, that's cool!  Then I thought it would just fade.  Now people come up to me all the time still talking about Kids.  I just am blessed the movie has had such legs and has become this kind of cult classic.  People dream that in our careers that they would make at least one movie that would impact society in a huge way.  I believe that Kids did.  It still influences young kids today – from filmmakers to people who just to wild out and watch some crazy kids doing stupid shit, you know?   It's a great movie.  Like The River's Edge or Over the Edge, I imagine that it will go down in the annals as one of the greatest coming-of-age films.  I think it can compare to any of those.

I think you've done a few of those over the years, like Boys Don't Cry and Trees Lounge and personally I just love Last Days of Disco.

Oh, thank you.

Is there one character who was most like you or one who was particularly hard to get a handle on?

The one that was hard to get a handle on, I did this series in England last year called Hit and Miss, which is on Netflix right now I was playing a transsexual.  I just felt so much responsibility towards people that go through that.  I was doing an Irish accent and I was playing a boy who is a girl.  That was one of the more difficult characters I've ever tried to play.  Just because I wanted to go about it with respect and reverence.  It's such a fine line between how I wanted to do it, how the producers saw it.  It was very real.  It was the most challenging thing for me.  And the furthest from me, I think.  As far as the characters I related to the most, I don't know.  I can't think of anybody right now.

You've worked with so many great directors, like Kimberly Peirce, Steve Buscemi and Whit Stillman in the films I just mentioned.  What have you learned from these very individual talents?

You learn different things from different ones.  Everybody says that, I know, but it's true.  I can't think of one thing.  I remember doing this acting exercise with Lars von Trier when he had us all do these improvisations and he was going to grade us at the end.  I got the lowest number and I was afraid that I had done the worst, but he said I actually had done the best, because I tried the least.  I was being the most natural because I wasn't trying to steal the show or something.  That was a learning experience as far as improv.

When did you first know that acting was what you wanted to do with your life?

I think I knew in kindergarten, when I went to see Annie on Broadway.  Then after I made Kids and other people were approaching me to make movies and then I did Tree's Lounge – then it became a reality.  I thought that this is something that I actually could do.

Who were some of the actors who also inspired you?

When I was older, in my late teens / early twenties and started watching a lot of movies, it was all the [Rainer Werner] Fassbender movies and Hanna Schygulla.  Shelley Duvall and all the interesting quirk that she was doing in the 70s.  Sissy Spacek.  Sandy Dennis.  Anna Magnani.  Mia Farrow.  All these really strong, interesting women were always the most inspiring to me.

What was the first movie you ever saw that really blew you away?

Tootsie.  (laughs)  When I was young I fell in love with it.  I saw it like 500 times.  Then I remember in high school I saw Down By Law.  Really, I was: Wow!  Movies can be like this?  This is a really strange movie.  Smart and cool.  God, what an inspiration.  I saw it as a freshman in high school.  That movie may be a better thing to say than Tootsie.  Though Tootsie is a great movie.

Is there a certain movie that if you are in a bad mood it automatically cheers you up?

I don't have anything that I pop in all the time, but... I don't know, The Breakfast Club?

Is there something you watch when you need a good cry?

I like America, America by [Elia] Kazan. 

If you weren't acting, what do you think would you be doing?

I'd like to do costume designs.  I still like to do it.  I did it once for Gummo with Harmony [Korine, who also wrote Kids].  It's still something I'm really interested in.  I think it can be a great contributor to how a movie looks.  I would still like to try and do that.

I heard that in The Wait you were involved in planning your character's wardrobe.  You've worked in fashion over the years, so was that why M trusted your instincts?

Yeah, I just think it's a really fun way to express yourself.  Doing the fashion that I do outside of film is just another way to make income for me.  Something that keeps me busy that I enjoy and that I'm pretty okay at.  I like empowering girls by giving them things that they can feel good in. 

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I'm actually more square than they might think.

How would you like for people to see your career?

I would like for people to focus more on my work as an actor.  I think that all the fashion stuff sometimes gets in the way.  I'd like to have respect for my work as an actor.  For my varied roles.  And for taking chances.

Are there any misconceptions out there you'd like to clear up?

Misconceptions?  I don't know.  I try not to focus on those.  Otherwise I'd get really depressed.  (laughs)

Copyright ©2014 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.Posted: January 29, 2014. 

Photo Credit © 2013. Courtesy of Monterey Media. All rights reserved.

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