After a bit of a rough start, Damages has hooked me again this season. And a major reason is because of the character of Patty Hewes, as played by Glenn Close.
Patty is the latest in the long line of edgy and complex roles that are Close’s specialty. The Guardian, which interviewed Close recently, said the parts have “a touch of the masculine.” Around here, we say “slightly butch.” And it’s an attribute that draws me to any screen showing Glenn Close.
In Damages, Close somehow manages to make Patty sympathetic, despite her ruthless, often scary behavior. I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that the role was written specifically for Close.
It was their idea to explore what power does to people. That’s what interested me. Because I think for a woman it’s always a very, very tricky position to know how to maintain your power, in a world that’s mostly dominated by men.
She was approached for Damages shortly after her guest turn in The Shield, a remarkable performance for which she received an Emmy nomination.
When the role ended, Close told FX that if the channel ever filmed something on the East Coast, she’d love to discuss it. When she saw the Damages script, which was written by a team from The Sopranos, Close signed on. And she found the transfer to the small screen challenging:
I found it very hard in the beginning, just because it is so different. You don’t know your back-story, you don’t know how it’s going to end, so you have to really trust the writers. I still don’t know stuff about my character, because the writers want to keep their options open. … You get so many last-minute revisions to the script that you have to learn to be very flexible, and you don’t have as much time. It’s got to the point where I don’t even learn my lines until the day of shooting. [This is] the first time I’ve ever worked like that, and I felt quite insecure about it at first, but now I think it’s a very good acting process. It keeps you on your toes, and I love it.
Not every film actor is ready for that kind of shift. William Hurt, who is in the current season of Damages, hated the pace and won’t return. Women, however, seem to be moving to television more and more. In fact, Close refers to the group, which includes Sally Field and Holly Hunter, among others, as “the sisterhood of TV drama divas.”
Is TV a consolation prize for the lack of strong film roles for older women?
Oh no, I don’t think so at all. I could do five movies and I would still take this role; it’s an extraordinary role. I think the days when there was this big divide between movies and television no longer exists. You know, I think that view is a holdover of the snobbery that people used to feel about TV. With Damages I was offered a part that was as good as anything I had read as a film script.
The interview mentions Close’s reluctance to call herself a feminist, although she seemed to be talking about political activism more than feminism, as well as how she has kept her private life out of the tabloids. But the thing I was most happy to discover was the website that Close and her husband have: Fetchdog.com.
Close blogs about her terriers, Jake and Bill, as well other celebrities and their pets. She even reveals a few secrets, like the fact that Jake is often under Patty’s desk during filming.
It’s good to know that the real Glenn Close has no interest in a Dalmatian coat.
Give the full interview a read and let us know what you think. And don’t miss Glenn on The View on Thursday.