SEVIGNY: I guess it helped more than anything else. I’m glad I grew up during the last vestige of cool, in the 1990s, when everything wasn’t blogged and on the Interwebs, when things were more on the downlow and underground. I guess I am stylish, but I would rather have people come up and say “I really liked your performance in this or that” than “I really like the way you dress.” That irks me. Anyway, the term It girl gets used too loosely.
PLAYBOY: How do you mean?
SEVIGNY: Today the term is used to describe, say, Peaches Geldof—a girl who doesn’t do anything but is just sort of around. The original It girl was the 1920s movie star Clara Bow; then, in the 1960s, with Edie Sedgwick and Warhol, It girls turned into socialites, ladies of leisure—people who had “it” just for being “fabulous.” But Edie was just a rich drug addict, and when I got called the It girl everyone thought I was that too. I looked like a junkie because it was the 1990s and grunge was the fashion. But I felt I was doing stuff, not just being a socialite.
Sevigny admits that she has done drugs, but notes in the interview, "I don’t think I ever bought anything; it was just sort of there."
SEVIGNY: What’s happened with that is all very complicated. There are a lot of emotions. I’ll probably have to go to therapy at some point. But I love Vincent. The film is tragic and beautiful, and I’m proud of it and my performance. I’m sad that people think one way of the movie, but what can you do? I’ve done many explicit sex scenes, but I’m not that interested in doing any more. I’m more self-aware now and wouldn’t be able to be as free, so why even do it?
PLAYBOY: Sex has been among the more fascinating aspects of Big Love, on which you, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Ginnifer Goodwin play wives of Viagra-popping Mormon businessman and political aspirant Bill Paxton. Why has Paxton exposed more skin on the show than any of you three?
SEVIGNY: Bill likes to get his kit off, and he looks great. The first season, my character was aggressive in bed, but that changed by the second and third seasons, and there was no sex on season four. I don’t know why, and I was confused by that. This season, aside from some stuff with the teen characters, sex is still on the back burner. And although I have done nudity on the show, the other girls won’t do topless. I don’t want to be the show’s Samantha, like on Sex and the City—the only woman who’ll do nudity. So I refused to do any more and there was a lot of back-and-forth about it.
PLAYBOY: The show’s plots have always been packed with rivalries, feuds, betrayals and backbiting. Does any of that spill over offscreen?
SEVIGNY: I wish I could do scenes with Jeanne Tripplehorn and Ginnifer Goodwin all the time. We’re really tight, and it’s always us against the director or the other actors. Bill is professional, very boyish, very charming. I think being just “the stupid actor” on the show is sometimes hard for him because he’s not directing, and he’s a great director. His movie Frailty is a spooky psychological thriller.
PLAYBOY: You once told a reporter that a previous season of Big Love was “awful” and played like a “telenovela.” Now that the show is in its last season, do you regret that?
SEVIGNY: I got into a lot of trouble. It was a huge thing on the Internet. Yeah, I got a little talking-to. [laughs] I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds me. I loved being on the show; I love my character and my co-stars. The whole experience has been great. I just felt it was a weaker season than others. I shouldn’t have said it. I don’t want to offend anybody.
PLAYBOY: What can you say about the upcoming season to give hope to fans who may have agreed with you?
SEVIGNY: The writers are concentrating a lot more this year on the politics within the family. For viewers who keep asking why Bill and the family keep getting away with everything they do, this season the characters start having to face consequences. Since HBO said that viewers respond to how conservative my character is, she becomes stricter and more conservative. They’re dressing me like Hillary Clinton in the 1980s.
PLAYBOY: Has the show’s polyamorous theme made you reevaluate real-life relationships?
SEVIGNY: Just being around Jeanne Tripplehorn has, because she has a beautiful marriage, a wonderful husband and child. That’s something I aspire to after seeing someone with that lifestyle. I want a guy who is masculine, good with his hands and able to build stuff and who has survival skills. Facial hair is a big turn-on. Most of the kids I hang out with in New York are hipster arty types, but I like a stronger, more physically imposing man—like a lumberjack. I’m also into a little hair pulling. I like boys to be aggressive and allow me to be a little aggressive back.
PLAYBOY: What type of guys have you been seeing recently?
SEVIGNY: I’m dating, but I’m starting to feel a little discouraged, actually. I’ve been texting for a year with a couple of guys, without ever going on a date with them. The other day I got a text from a boy, but it wasn’t hot. I mean, if you’re going to text me every day, you haven’t seen me for months and you’re trying to seduce me, you’d better spice up that text and make it more exciting than “How was your day? I hope you’re having a beautiful one.” Sadly, I haven’t been doing a lot of kissing lately.
PLAYBOY: If a guy isn’t living up to your standards of seduction, how do you heat things up?
SEVIGNY: It’s so stupid, but putting on red lipstick, having a martini and getting a flirt on always makes me feel great. I have crushes on everybody. I’m always flirting with the personal assistants on the Big Love set, boys and girls. I’m open to all ages, all economic backgrounds at this point. I’ve kissed only two actors in my whole life. People would hate me so much more if I dated a celebrity.
PLAYBOY: What’s your pick for the most sensual place to make love?
SEVIGNY: Nature is the best aphrodisiac. I get turned on in the woods or on the shore, like at a beach house, or where you’re isolated. Risky situations don’t excite me at all, though. I feel inhibited. It’s harder for me to get excited and let go if I’m afraid of someone hearing me or if there’s a roommate nearby.
PLAYBOY: Having grown up in conservative, wealthy Darien, Connecticut, how would an edgy indie-movie icon advise would-be cool teens growing up in similar environments?
SEVIGNY: The kids I grew up with were into going to Ivy League schools and playing field hockey and lacrosse. I’d encourage poor children like me to go into Manhattan and broaden their horizons as much as possible, which is what I did as a teenager.
PLAYBOY: What were you leaving behind when you went on those weekend escapes?
SEVIGNY: I was kind of a depressed teenager. I pierced my nose, and my parents thought, Why is she desecrating her body? But they encouraged me to go into Manhattan, make my own clothes, dress the way I wanted and do all the weirdo things I was into. My mom found my bong, which she and my father confiscated and strongly discouraged. There was regular teenage drama at home but nothing extraordinary. I was into hippie culture, but I was pretty responsible and open with my parents.
PLAYBOY: How big into hippiedom were you?
SEVIGNY: Enough to have a Volkswagen bus decorated with batik curtains, which is so embarrassing. I’d drive it with my girlfriends up to Burlington, Vermont for the weekend. Looking back, I can’t believe my dad let me do that, but he was so sweet, always saying there is much more good in the world than bad. I was pretty smart and could read people easily, but I had friends who were attracted to skeevy bad boys. I’d always say, “No, he’s not coming in the bus with us. He’s got to sleep outside.” I was the voice of reason.
PLAYBOY: Did drugs play much of a role in your liberation?
SEVIGNY: It wasn’t like I was a big druggie; it was just kind of a side thing, something that went hand in hand with me falling in with that crowd, the rejects. I don’t think I ever bought anything; it was just sort of there.
PLAYBOY: Were you interested in acting early on?
SEVIGNY: I went to summer theater camp every year and was in a lot of plays with Topher Grace, who is four years younger than I am and also from Darien. He says he has tapes of those shows, which makes sense because he is very organized and type A. When I was eight or nine I did a couple of local commercials and catalog modeling. Acting was something I aspired to, but in high school I lost all aspiration. I took drama, but I didn’t get along with the teacher. Senior year they were doing West Side Story, and I had a shaved head at the time so I auditioned to play one of the gang boys. I didn’t get a part, so I was just like, whatever.
PLAYBOY: Did any interesting sexual propositions come your way after playing Hilary Swank’s girlfriend in Boys Don’t Cry or Michelle Williams’s motorcycle-riding lover on If These Walls Could Talk 2?
SEVIGNY: By the time of Boys Don’t Cry I had already spoken in interviews about my sexual experimenting as a young person. It sure seems that I have a pretty strong lesbian fan base because when I’m out, everybody responds to those films. I get letters. Last year I got a weird note on my car: “If you’re bored, me too. Let’s meet. Your new neighbor,” signed with the person’s initials. It’s kind of creepy. Does this person see me in my rented backyard, smoking and lonely?
PLAYBOY: What vibe do you get from fans when you meet them?
SEVIGNY: I always feel nobody likes me. When I see people on the street looking at me, I get really shy, as if they think I look ugly, but then it always turns out positive. I used to be paranoid I was going to get heckled, and of course that’s never happened. Last year I was at a fun dance party in a downtown L.A. club where it’s drinking and dancing and you’re sweaty and hot. These kids I thought were cool superfans wanted to take pictures with me, but they turned around and sold the photos. I never saw the pictures, but people told me I looked drunk. The next day, everyone was calling me, like, “What were you doing last night? You’re on TMZ.”
PLAYBOY: What about your colleagues in the industry? Do they like you?
SEVIGNY: I’ve never even been nominated for an Emmy, goddamn it. There’s no justice. [laughs] Actually, the Golden Globe felt like a little bit of justice, a real confidence booster, having never felt embraced by the industry. It wasn’t a Sally Field thing—“You like me! You really like me!”—more like, “Yeah, good. I showed them.”
PLAYBOY: Now that Big Love is coming to an end, what’s next on your professional and personal agendas?
SEVIGNY: I can get back to work in pictures. I have a new indie movie with Jena Malone, called The Wait, that I think could go places. On the personal side, I’d like to find someone to procreate with—as sexy as that sounds. If you’re out and about and fit the description, come up and say hi. I won’t bite. Well, maybe a little, if you’re lucky.