For five seasons on HBO's Big Love, she has played the middle wife; but in reality, Chloë Sevigny is no second fiddle. She has opinions, and even when she's afraid to express them, they still find their way of getting out.
Sevigny is that rare bird—an Oscar-nominated and Golden-Globe winning actress who nevertheless finds the time to secure her "indie-darling" status by also starring in smaller independent films. For Chloë Sevigny, it's not about how much fame a project is going to get her. It's about quality—statements on which have gotten her into trouble in the recent past. We sat down to talk about the final season of Big Love, her rumored apocalyptic coupling with a member of Jersey Shore, and why the media just won't let an actress speak her mind.
SAM BELLIKOFF: You're in California right now? Have you been doing a lot of press?
CHLOË SEVIGNY: Yeah, we had a junket today, so a lot of press.
BELLIKOFF: Jumping right in... In the new season of Big Love, something that started in season four is that your character Nikki is finding herself. She's dressing less and less like a woman straight off the fundamentalist Mormon compound. How do you feel about the evolving look?
SEVIGNY: I didn't really like it. I preferred in the first and second season, when she had a really distinct look. It was a real extension of her personality and where she came from. Now, she's trying to play the part more of Bill's wife. She doesn't want to stand out so much. Her dressing less and less compound-esque is her way of distancing herself from her roots. Season five is all about the twin sets, sweater sets. According to the editors and the creators, everybody is raving about the sweater sets. It's a throwback to the '50s, you know, big-chested, sweater sets.
BELLIKOFF: With the bob haircut, I can see that. It comes of as her interpretation of what a housewife should be outside of the compound...
SEVIGNY: It's also a little English countryside schoolgirl, mixed with some Hillary Clinton circa-mid-'80s... the whole mix. It's just basically pretty conservative. She's trying to be an influence on her daughter, in a way that says, "This is how you can dress normally but not still look like a slut."
BELLIKOFF: As we see in the premiere episode, Nikki seems to be willing to do surprising things to protect her children.
SEVIGNY: Oh my god, the scene where I get to bully the bully in the schoolyard was one of my favorites of the season. The kid that I got to act with was so fun.
BELLIKOFF: It was really intense.
SEVIGNY: Did you think it was awful? I like bullying a bully. I think it was kind of funny.
BELLIKOFF: It was really fun, but that's the thing about your character. She's so serious, but you get some of the funniest lines on the show.
SEVIGNY: Yeah, I get a lot of the zingers. In the beginning of the series, Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin) was more of the comic relief. Somehow, they passed the baton to me.
BELLIKOFF: Speaking of this change in Nikki, would you say your own sense of style has evolved recently? What are you really into right now?
SEVIGNY: I'm into kind of body con. [laughs] My girlfriend came over and we were cleaning out my closet. She was trying to get rid of all the floral and she was like, "I think you should only dress body conscious, only body con," so I'm trying to dress more simple, more body con... Maybe just because I'm not going to be dressed that way that much longer, being a single young lady, I don't know, I'm just trying to dress hotter.
BELLIKOFF: So I have to ask you, because you just brought up the issue and I'm sure you've seen the rumors. Are you dating Pauly D from Jersey Shore?
SEVIGNY: No, but I wish, because that would be hilarious. That would be the weirdest couple in the world. It would be like the apocalypse.
BELLIKOFF: Yes! I have read numerous articles that have cited birds falling out of the sky, fish washing up on the shores, and you two together as being signs of the apocalypse.
SEVIGNY: That's funny.
BELLIKOFF: How do you feel about that? Why do you think that is?
SEVIGNY: I think it's because we're both kind of extreme. We represent extremes, in opposite directions. So for us two to come together, it would be a very strange meeting of the minds or colliding of two worlds. I haven't watched that many episodes, but of the ones I have... if I were to pick one of the dudes on the show, I'd definitely pick him.
BELLIKOFF: Really? What is it about him?
SEVIGNY: I've only seen like three episodes, so I probably shouldn't even say, but he seems more affable and kind of funny and easygoing.
BELLIKOFF: Could you imagine being a reality star?
SEVIGNY: That sounds like hell on earth. Even having to do the amount of press that I have to do is dreadful and gives me so much anxiety. After having done this whole slew of press for Big Love, now I'll have anxiety dreams for like a week and a half about all the stupid things I said. I can't even imagine being in front of the cameras all the time. I had a weird dream the other night that I was on Jersey Shore.
BELLIKOFF: Oh wow.
SEVIGNY: One of the girls was like, "You know that the cameras are always on? I can't believe that you're doing that. Didn't you know you were being filmed?"
BELLIKOFF: Did you have this dream after the pictures of the two of you were taken?
SEVIGNY: Yeah. [laughs] But it didn't really have anything to do with him. I just was there.
BELLIKOFF: This is a silly question, but if you had to choose two other actresses in real life to be sister-wives with, who would they be?
SEVIGNY: Maybe Michelle Williams and Amy Adams. They seem to have their heads screwed on straight and seem like they would be easy to get along with. They wouldn't be too diva.
BELLIKOFF: Would you want to be the first wife?
SEVIGNY: [laughs] Of course. First wife has all the power. It's good to have the power when you're in a relationship like that.
BELLIKOFF: You've said a lot of positive things about Big Love and its creators over the course of the series. Does it upset you that when you called Season Four "awful," it was so blown out of proportion?
SEVIGNY: Yeah, the media loves negative spin. I feel like it's in all different aspects, not just the one thing I said about Big Love. To me, that is depressing. I think a lot of my frustration over Season Four came out of that there just wasn't enough family. I didn't get enough screen time. [laughs] I wanted it to be more about us. I felt like there were so many storylines.
BELLIKOFF: So obviously, you don't want to bite the hand that feeds you, but I personally think a comment like that is refreshing. It gives greater legitimacy to your other comments praising the show. It makes it seem like everything you say can be taken at face value.
SEVIGNY: Yeah, I thought it created online a great discourse about that. Why can't actors say anything? Why do they have to be puppets? People can't speak their minds? You know, it is true. You sign onto a show for six years off of one pilot episode, so you never know what you're going to get into...
BELLIKOFF: Exactly. It sort of seems like an actress in this industry can't have an honest opinion these days, without being lambasted. Do you feel that's true?
SEVIGNY: I think so. In Hollywood, you can't say anything bad about anybody or everyone is going to attack you. It's like you always have to put on a happy face, be the phony baloney, and I'm so not that. I never was that; I'll never be that. That is part of the business that I don't like. Maybe that will always keep me an outsider, I don't know. But that's fine. I've been an outsider all my life—I don't care.
BELLIKOFF: I mean, I'm obviously perpetuating this by bringing it up again in another interview. But it seems like this kind of stuff won't go away. Moving on... [laughs] Has Big Love finished shooting?
SEVIGNY: Yes, we finished before Christmas. We are done. It's a wrap, which is very sad. I will miss it very much. The environment that they created, the character I got to play, how safe I got to feel playing it there—it will be hard to ever capture that again, or feel that comfortable again on a set. When you play a character over and over and you keep returning to it, it just becomes so much richer. I feel like maybe doing a play, you get that kind of satisfaction or gratification, but I don't know if I will feel that with a movie again.
BELLIKOFF: Are you still considering that Broadway revival of Extremities with Katie Holmes?
SEVIGNY: No, I never considered it. I mean, I read it, but I don't want to commit to something that would be that time consuming. Coming off of Big Love, I need at least a little breather.
BELLIKOFF: Do you have any stories from the last day on set? I assume it was an emotional experience for you.
SEVIGNY: There was a lot of crying. People kept getting wrapped, and I was just kind of feeling, "Why aren't I crying? Why isn't this affecting me as much as I thought it would?" We had to rehearse the last scene. It was just me, Bill [Paxton], Jeanne [Tripplehorn], and Ginny [Goodwin]. During the rehearsal, I lost it. They are the people I grew the closest to. And I just realized, we—I'm going to get choked up talking about it—that was our last time working something out together. We've done so many scenes together, just the core of us. I was a baby crying, I couldn't keep it together. And then we wrapped and I was fine, but I was like, really? During the most creative part of making a show or a film, during the rehearsal, when you're figuring the scene out and figuring out the emotions, and when you're really playing with your fellow actors... I just lost it.
BELLIKOFF: Have you been keeping in touch with them?
SEVIGNY: We text all the time, and we chat. Jeanne and Ginny always say I have a place to stay when I come back out here for auditions, so I'm going to take them up on their offers
BELLIKOFF: Oh, that's great. So, I know you've been asked about this before. There are the parody videos of you done by Drew Droege. I know you met him and said that you're flattered, but that you don't see a connection between you and him. I don't want to push the issue, but there is a name connection, and a lot of people are responding to it. What do you think that connection is based on?
SEVIGNY: I don't know. I feel like it's taken on almost a performance-art level. I haven't watched them.
BELLIKOFF: You haven't watched any of them?
SEVIGNY: No, no. I saw stills, or, like, five seconds of one. I was like, [laughs] "I don't want to watch it, I don't want it to make me angry or depressed." But I was thinking of calling him up and saying we should do something together.
BELLIKOFF: That could be great.
SEVIGNY: My close friends have all seen it, and they tell me about it. I'm afraid. I know he speaks with this affected voice, and apparently so do I. You know, everyone hates their own voice, and I hate doing interviews. I hate hearing my own voice, and even after the end of six months of shooting, I don't want to hear my own voice acting, performance-wise. What can you do about it? [laughs] My friends are like, it's not really you. He says, like, [in an affected tone] "Givenchy" and "Proenza Schouler," high-fashion brands. I don't understand what the appeal is. I mean, is it amusing, is it funny? Everyone says it's not like me.
BELLIKOFF: Maybe it goes back to this idea of taking these highbrow references and parodying them...
SEVIGNY: Yeah, but I don't see myself as highbrow in any way.
BELLIKOFF: How do you see yourself?
SEVIGNY: Oh, God. I'm not that analytical, and I try not to take this outsider perspective of myself. Seeing myself in the third person? No, thank you. I'm me. My friends know who I am. I feel like I'm a good person. How do I see myself? I don't know. I just don't think like that.