‘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.”
Felicity Huffman has revealed that acting opposite her husband William H Macy forces her to up her game.
The couple will next be seen as parents to a troubled son going through the juvenile court system in Stealing Cars, which premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
Speaking on the red carpet at the premiere, the Desperate Housewives actress said the pair don’t look for parts together, but working with her husband brings out the best in her.
“I love working with him, it raises the level of my game but we don’t go out there looking for it.”
Huffman, who found fame as housewife Lynette Scavo, is also slated to appear in Macy’s next directorial effort Krystal, opposite Sienna Miller, Jane Fonda and Josh Hutcherson.
“It feels like you have street cred when you do independent films and it’s where the exciting work is being done,” she said.
Felicity Huffman has officially scored a hat trick at ABC. From “Sports Night” to “Desperate Housewives” to her recent turn on limited series “American Crime,” Huffman has had critics and viewers raving in wildly diverse roles. She picked up an Emmy in 2005 for the first season of “Housewives,” and one of the joys of that night was sharing it with her husband — and fellow Emmy winner — William H. Macy.
What do you remember about day you won?
What was exciting was Bill and I got a hotel room — my kids were 2 and 3 at the time — which meant we could sleep in a little bit. I didn’t know how to get a dress, no one really wanted to dress me. Kevin Hall came out and said, “I’ll give you a dress” and very kindly the costumer from “Desperate Housewives” came. I liked my dress but I was sitting there in hair and makeup thinking, “There’s not a chance in hell I’m gonna win a comedy award. I feel about as funny as anthrax. I wish I could just be in this hotel room with my husband and order room service and get in our pajamas.” I was just so tired from being a mom.
Did you prepare a speech just in case?
I remember my husband came in and said, “Have you thought of anything to say?” And I said, “Oh, honey, no, I’m not gonna win.” He said, “Well, you’ve got a one in five chance. What’s really bad is when you stand up there and you’ve got nothing to say.” So I sat there, and in my mind I came up with what I said about Bill taking me out to a pasture. Part of it was, “Boy, who knew that that girl — who was a such a dork — would be here today?”
American Crime stars Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton are set to return for John Ridley’s ABC anthology crime series’ upcoming second installment. I hear talks with other cast members are ongoing, and there are expected to be a number of new regulars. “It’s a completely different scenario and a completely different crime, even placed in a different part of America,” ABC’s Paul Lee said of Season 2 earlier this week, noting that Ridley has created “very specific new roles” for “some of these iconic actors from Season 1.”
Details about the storyline of Season 2 and Huffman and Hutton’s characters are being kept under wraps. Season 1 followed the aftermath of a murder in Modesto, California, with Huffman and Hutton playing the victim’s parents. Like the first installment, Season 2 will film in Austin Texas, with production likely to begin in July.
While ratings have been very modest, American Crime has been widely praised by critics and is expected to garner awards attention for Ridley as well as Huffman and Hutton in the limited series Emmy categories.
Like was the case with the maiden season of another anthology series, FX’s American Horror Story, I hear the actors on ABC Studios-produced American Crime all had one-year deals going in, so new contracts need to be hammered out.
Another November, another hard-fought election, but at the Mark Taper Forum “November” means laughs about a U.S. president running for re-election.
Starring Ed Begley Jr. as a rather craven chief executive named Charles H.P. Smith, “November” is a farce written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet. Smith is the type of politician who sees the annual pardoning of a Thanksgiving turkey as a potential fundraising scheme, but Mamet is careful not to make Smith a Republican or Democrat.
138 Photos added in the gallery.
Stars turn out for the “Variety’s Power of Women” 4th Annual Luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills.The goal is to inspire and encourage people from all walks of life to get involved, give back and make a difference.
Felicity, who received an award for her work with breast cancer awareness, said: “Allowing me to be part of a solution gives me hope.”
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The Entertainment Industry Foundation and Stand Up To Cancer (Felicity Huffman) – The Entertainment Industry Foundation, as a leading charitable organization of the entertainment industry, has distributed hundreds of millions of dollars to support charitable initiatives addressing critical health, education and social issues. For more information, Visit the organization here.