Patti LuPone on Early Career Rejection and Why Theatre Actors Are Always Prepared


“When the theater actors were working together, it was fast. We were prepared. We knew the intention of the scene and we were fast in the delivery of it.” – Patti LuPone on ‘Hollywood’

After a career primarily defined by her Tony Award and Laurence Olivier Award-winning work on stage, Patti LuPone has been seen increasingly more on television on television shows like Penny Dreadful, American Horror Story: Coven, Pose and the Netflix series Hollywood. Several of those series involved LuPone working with producer Ryan Murphy, who cast LuPone as former silent actress Avis Amberg, the now-wife of the head of Ace Studios. Speaking with Gold Derby about her role on the series, LuPone reflected on her own experience in Hollywood early in her career and why she enjoyed working with other theater actors on the set of Hollywood.

LuPone points out that she’s all-too-familiar with the endless audition cycle that actors face in Los Angeles, because she lived it herself as a young actress. She recalls:

“My career hasn’t been the easiest in the world and when I started out when I was a kid and I’d go out to California for pilot season, I was roundly rejected because of my looks. Probably my personality as well (laughs). But more often it was my looks and I would come back to New York City and go, ‘Well, this is where I belong because I look as gritty as the streets.’ That’s, of course, changed. I don’t know when it changed, but when I was a kid, it was still the very pert, blonde, perky nose, nonthreatening ethnic face American girl, which is not me. So it was real depressing. Every time I’d get to L.A., I would fall into this huge funk because I was rejected, constantly rejected.”

Hollywood features a number of actors who, like LuPone, have received their greatest acclaim on the stage. She reflects on that by citing a particular scene in which she felt empowered by acting with her fellow theater veterans:

“I think there is a little bit of that. It could have been because we were seasoned, there was less self-indulgence, do I want to say? We just got to get on with it, because that’s what we’re used to doing onstage. And I don’t know whether it influenced anybody except that when the theater actors were working together, it was fast. We were prepared. We knew the intention of the scene and we were fast in the delivery of it. One of the moments that people talk about to me, because I’m primarily a stage actor, is the scene with Holland [Taylor], Joe [Mantello] and Harriet Harris as Eleanor Roosevelt. There are four theater actors acting in a scene together, which is unheard of. Ryan is such a champion of actors. He loves them. He trusts them and he puts together these amazing casts. And in this particular case, there were four veteran stage actors in a really crucial scene and we had a ball. Actually, we didn’t even think about it. It was like, ‘OK, this is our scene. Let’s just do it.’ And as I said earlier, it was efficient. It was fast. There was just no stuff around it. No kind of distraction around it. This was what we were supposed to do. This is what we did. “

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