Patricia Clarkson on How She Finds a Character and Why She Doesn’t “Dwell on the Script”

“I cling to one thing the character has said, and I think of it all day. And once I feel the emotional life, then I start to look at the words.” – Patricia Clarkson

Emmy Award-winning actress Patricia Clarkson first gained recognition from a series of impressive performances in Far From Heaven, HBO’s Six Feet Under, Dogville, The Staton Agent, and Sharp Objects. In just a few short years she became a go-to actress for powerful performances in key roles.

Perhaps her greatest acclaim has come for her performance in the celebrated HBO miniseries Sharp Objects as Adora, a role which she won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress — Series, Miniseries or Television Film. She recently was interviewed by actress Michelle Williams (her co-star in The Station Agent) for Variety.

During the interview, Williams asked Clarkson how her thinking about a role evolves over the course of a production. Clarkson answered:

What’s most important for me is — with enormous respect for writers — not to dwell on the script. The lines will come. It’s most important that I have an emotional center of this character. That I know the character’s demons and angels; you’re going to need both at the drop of a hat. And a director can’t help you with that often. I call it walking the part. I cling to one thing the character has said, and I think of it all day. And once I feel the emotional life, then I start to look at the words.

With Adora, I realized that I couldn’t really think too far out with her. I had to take her in an unusual way as an actor. I had to take her one day, one week, one episode at a time. It’s very emotional for me to talk about it because the depth of where she goes is unforgiving and unforgivable. So the night before, I tried these dark journeys I was on; I’d stay as high as I could. It’s odd. I tried not to sink because I knew so much was coming that I tried to stay almost vain about her, keep the vanity about her until I got on the set and then let it all fall. Some people would say it’s a French way to work.

About Author

In college, overachiever Christopher McKittrick double-majored in Film and English because he loves to read, write, and watch movies. Since then Chris – who was born and raised on Long Island, New York and currently lives in Queens – has become a published author of fiction and non-fiction, a contributor to entertainment websites, and has spoken about literature, film, and comic books at various conferences across the country when he’s not getting into trouble in New York City (apparently it’s illegal to sleep on street corners...) For more information about Chris, visit his website here!

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