‘Empathy allows us to see people whole,’ says Felicity Huffman on racism and her role on American Crime
Felicity Huffman is smart, tenacious, outspoken — she is by no means a timid woman. But in a refreshingly frank interview, the actress admits that even she wasn’t certain at first how to approach her controversial character on ABC’s American Crime.
Or the dialogue it would inevitably create.
The brainchild of 12 Years a Slave visionary John Ridley, American Crime centers on race, class, religion and gender politics in the wake of a racially charged murder.
At the center of the critically acclaimed series’ story arc is Huffman’s character, Barb Hanlon, a woman whose young war veteran son was brutally murdered during a home invasion robbery. Huffman fearlessly plays Barb, a mother hell-bent on getting what she perceives to be justice for her son, and the result is arguably one of the most compelling characters on television this year.
But to say the role is complex would be an understatement. In fact, we don’t honestly know how to describe Barb in a way that truly captures her.
“I didn’t quite, either,” Huffman confides, “and a good friend of mine said, ‘You know, she’s internally parched.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, you know, she is. She’s brittle. She’s been damaged and she’s pissed.’ And of course, one word for that is she’s a racist. But there you see the building of a racist, which I think is the genius of what John Ridley did.”