We've been watching Chloë Sevigny since she was
literally a kid: playing a standout role in Larry Clark's Kids,
the hard-hitting 1995 cult drama about wasted youth.
Nearly twenty years later and the quirky actress still
fascinates. As an actress, she is an odd contradiction: pretty
but not traditionally beautiful, somber but with an offbeat sense of
humor, dead serious and yet playful.
This odd sense of contradiction extends to her
adventurous choices in roles. She fits in to all genres and
moods: from tragic real life drama (Boys Don't Cry) to
downbeat hyper-realism (Trees Lounge) to surreal
cultural commentary (Dogville) to pitch black comedy (American
Psycho) to sophisticated wordplay (The Last Days of
In recent years she has taken her offbeat talent to
television, playing the wife of a bigamist in HBO's acclaimed Big
Love, a tortured nymphomaniac in American Horror Story:
Asylum, a transgender in Hit and Miss and
currently is recurring on the popular sitcom The Mindy Project.
That's only a taste of what Sevigny has on her plate,
though. She currently is co-starring with Jena Malone in the
gorgeously filmed family psychodrama The Wait. In that
film Sevigny and Malone play sisters whose mother has just died.
However, literally seconds after mother has taken her last breath,
Emma (Sevigny) receives a phone call from a mysterious woman who
insists that their mother will soon be resurrected. Therefore,
much to the horror of her younger sister, Emma insists upon keeping
the death to themselves and leaving their mother's body in her
bedroom and wait to see what happens.
Sevigny also is starring in A&E's new crime drama
Those Who Kill, which is loosely based on the Danish series
Den som dræber. The show, set to premiere in March, has
Sevigny as a Pittsburgh detective who has to work with a forensic
profiler (James D'Arcy) to solve a series of serial slayings.
A few weeks before The Wait had its premiere,
we gave Sevigny a call to get the lowdown on her new projects and her
is the second time you and Jena have worked with M. Blash, on his
first two features. What is it about him artistically that
intrigued you and made you want to give him a chance on his debut?
Well, actually he's a personal friend of mine. We have a
relationship outside of working together. We've been friends for
years. We first met, I think it was like in 1999 or 2000, at
friends of mine's apartment. He had just moved to New York. He had
this short film that he had made with these two girls, really
awkward, in the kitchen wearing Laura Ashley dresses. He showed it
to me. He was like, "I'm trying to make this as a feature." I was
like: send me the script. The short is amazing. I think shorts are
really hard to make. Through talking about the feature that never
got made, we became friends. I think that Jena and M also had a
relationship outside of working together prior to us doing his first
feature, Lying. Just being around him and being close with
him and knowing what he's into and going to see art together and
bands together, I loved him as a person and trusted him as an
artist. I feel like, for me, whenever I work with friends, it's
always the most empowering and the most freeing. Also challenging,
in the way that they always know when you are being you and when you
are not. Like, "Oh, you always do things like this" because he's so
familiar with my work. "You should just try something you haven't
done." It's easier to push it. I feel really safe when I'm working
with people I know and love.
The death of a
loved one is obviously a very difficult thing to deal with, and your
character certainly had an extreme reaction. Do you think she
really truly believed the woman on the phone saying that her mom
would be resurrected or that she just needed time to come to terms?
I think that she was deflecting. Doing anything she
could. After having cared for her mother when she was sick for so
long – because she was a hospice nurse – I think that sometimes
people just snap and lose the way. This is the way that manifested
in that character. I can't even remember the character's name right
now, for Christ's sake. (laughs) It was just a way of
avoiding what was actually going down, because the character...
what's her name? Do you remember the name?
I believe Emma...
Emma. She is very practical. She's a nurse. Nurses are
almost like someone in the military. Always by the books. This was
her chance to kind of lose it and spiral a bit.
seems the sisters almost have an opposite trajectory.
They do and then they swap. They change 3/4 of the way
starts out believing and slowly comes to terms with the fact that it
was not going to happen, while Jena starts off cynical and slowly
starts to believe. Why do you think they took such different paths?
I don't know. I think they just have different roles
within the family. They are at different places in their lives. I
guess that's more a question for M, but I think it just makes for a
more dynamic story as well, if they are not in the same [place]. It
also serves the movie. (laughs)
You had some very
emotional scenes with Jena. What is she like to work with?
Oh, Jena's great. She is just very open as an actress.
Really loves acting. Loves the movies. Such a cinephile. She's
very spiritual and connected. Always coming with these very strange
ideas out of left field. Inspired by colors and weird shit.
Because I'm so not that, it's pretty
exciting to work with someone that is. (laughs) Kind of
kooky in that way to feed off of their energy. It's almost like we
should have been playing each other's characters. She should have
been playing the Emma character and I should have been playing her
character, if we are going to play people that are more like the people
we are in real life.
One nice thing
about the movie is that your character took the time waiting to sort
of get to know her daughter a little better. Were the scenes
escaping with the actress playing your daughter almost like an
escape from the bleakness of the situation?
I guess so. It's always hard with children and she
was a first-timer and so young. She was also related to the
director. (laughs) But, yeah, I guess I never really looked
at it like that. I just wanted her to
relate to the daughter in a way that the daughter was like, "Why are
you acting like such a weirdo?" You know, being more palsy
with her than she normally is. More treating her like a friend. I
imagine as a mother she's pretty stern and disciplined. You don't
see that. That's all back story. I wanted there to be
[the feeling] that's
why she looks at [mom] like she's a total weirdo. She's like: You
wanted to get our hair done? You want to hang out with me? Like
hang out with me? What mom says that? I just wanted it to be in a
way that mom really wouldn't perhaps behave normally.
have to admit, when I was watching the film, I was wondering if your
mother's body was starting to smell after a while. I don't think
the potpourri would cover that up. Did the cast and M. discuss that
kind of thing and come to decisions about it?
That's why they kept the air conditioning up so high. The
dried lavender in there. When you see the little girl in there,
she's wearing her Seabee coat to try and keep warm. They shiver. I
don't know if it plays. It's all very subtle, but the movie over
all is very subtle, I think.
How much did M.
tell you about the back story of the daughters with the mother, or
did he prefer to leave those hazy?
We sat down and all talked about it probably for like an
hour or so. Not so extensive, but I think we talked about where we
all were in our lives and our relationships with our mom. The dad.
Things like that. He's pretty complete. I think that he has
intentions for almost every line of the script. So if you ever had
a question concerning anything, he's pretty dialed in to what you
The town that the
movie was filmed in was pretty incredible. Where was it filmed and
how did the area add to the feel of the story?
It was filmed in Bend, Oregon. M, the director, is from
Portland and that's a vacation town where he grew up going. There
were all these houses in the woods that were inspired by
sci-fi. You have all these really sharp lines and modern houses
amongst all the beautiful nature. I found it very inspiring
visually. It does make a great backdrop.
also have the new series
Those Who Kill
coming up on A&E. What can you tell us about that show?
Well, I play a
detective. (laughs) It's pretty creepy. It's pretty
subversive, because my character is hell bent on bringing down a
judge who is her stepfather and who she believes molested and
possibly killed her brother when they were children. In the way
Emma is grieving, people grieve in different ways. Especially when
you lose someone like a sibling or a loved one to a violent crime
that hasn't been solved. There's been no justice. It's really hard
to let go. My character is definitely trying to bring this guy down
and she can't function in life outside of that. Until she finds
some justice, she just can never live her life fully. She's totally
closed off and shut down from the world. And there's also some
crimes. We're following serial killers and stuff like that. But
the main storyline is my character and her story.
Did you see the
original Danish series it was based on?
No, I chose not to. I think really it wasn't really based
on it. It's not really stringent, you know? I think it was more of
a premise. I don't think that any of our crimes follow any of the
crimes that they did. It's very different. It was more just having
the female protagonist.
I interviewed James
D'Arcy a few years ago. He was a really nice guy. What's he like
to act with?
He's awesome. He's awesome. He's so smart. He's never
worked in television before in America. He's totally new to the
process. He was really bringing a lot of ideas every day and every
scene he was in. Really challenging the directors, but in a good
way. I found him just a pleasure. Thank God I liked him. If I
didn't, it would have been really horrible.
Big Love and
American Horror Story: Asylum. How is TV work different from
film work and how is it the same?
I like working, which is why I've been working a lot in
TV. Because of just the opportunities that have been given to me.
I haven't really had a lot of great film opportunities as of late.
I've been holding out more, I guess, in that department. But I just
love acting. I've been interested in different projects for
different reasons. Like, The Mindy Project, for instance.
Doing that kind of comedy is a thing that I never do. It's more of
a challenge. I love that Mindy has her own show and the writers act
on the show. For them the actors are also the writers and producers
and creators. I guess the acting is a little more freeing, because
it feels less precious, because there is so much more TV. It's not
like, oh my God, I have to make this scene or it's
not going to happen. You have so much more time and so many more
scenes, so you're like, well, I don't have to hit it so hard on the
scenes. I'm going to maybe do something that's more dramatic three
episodes down the line. So it's kind of like a long-distance runner
instead of a sprint.
When you were making
Kids about 20 years ago, did you ever imagine it would
become such a classic and you'd still be acting all these years
I hoped I'd still be acting. I'm thrilled that I've been able to
maintain for this long. But, no, when we were making it, we had no
idea. I feel like after it came out and there was all the
controversy and it became such a huge hit, I kind of was like: wow,
that's cool! Then I thought it would just fade. Now people come up
to me all the time still talking about Kids. I just am
blessed the movie has had such legs and has become this kind of cult
classic. People dream that in our careers that they would make at
least one movie that would impact society in a huge way. I believe
that Kids did. It still influences young kids today – from
filmmakers to people who just to wild out and watch some crazy kids
doing stupid shit, you know? It's a great movie. Like The
River's Edge or Over the Edge, I imagine that it will go
down in the annals as one of the greatest coming-of-age films. I
think it can compare to any of those.
I think you've done a few of those over the years, like
Boys Don't Cry
and Trees Lounge and personally I just love Last Days of
Oh, thank you.
Is there one character who was most like you or one who was
particularly hard to get a handle on?
The one that was
hard to get a handle on, I did this series in England last year
called Hit and Miss, which is on Netflix right now. I
was playing a transsexual. I just felt so much responsibility
towards people that go through that. I was doing an Irish accent
and I was playing a boy who is a girl. That was one of the more
difficult characters I've ever tried to play. Just because I wanted
to go about it with respect and reverence. It's such a fine line
between how I wanted to do it, how the producers saw it. It was
very real. It was the most challenging thing for me. And the
furthest from me, I think. As far as the characters I related to
the most, I don't know. I can't think of anybody right now.
You've worked with so many great directors, like Kimberly Peirce, Steve
Buscemi and Whit Stillman in the films I just mentioned. What have
you learned from these very individual talents?
different things from different ones. Everybody says that, I know,
but it's true. I can't think of one thing. I
remember doing this acting exercise with Lars von Trier when he had
us all do these improvisations and he was going to grade us at the
end. I got the lowest number and I was afraid that I had done the
worst, but he said I actually had done the best, because I tried the
least. I was being the most natural because I wasn't trying to
steal the show or something. That was a learning experience as far
When did you
first know that acting was what you wanted to do with your life?
I think I knew in kindergarten, when I went to see Annie
on Broadway. Then after I made Kids and other people
were approaching me to make movies and then I did Tree's Lounge –
then it became a reality. I thought that this is something that I
actually could do.
were some of the actors who also inspired you?
When I was older,
in my late teens / early twenties and started watching a lot of
movies, it was all the [Rainer Werner] Fassbender movies and Hanna
Schygulla. Shelley Duvall and all the interesting quirk that she
was doing in the 70s. Sissy Spacek. Sandy Dennis. Anna Magnani.
Mia Farrow. All these really strong, interesting women were always
the most inspiring to me.
What was the first movie you ever saw that really blew you away?
When I was young I fell in love with it. I saw it like 500 times.
Then I remember in high school I saw Down By Law. Really, I
was: Wow! Movies can be like this? This is a really strange
movie. Smart and cool. God, what an inspiration. I saw it as a
freshman in high school. That movie may be a better thing to say
Tootsie is a great movie.
Is there a certain movie that if you are in a bad mood it automatically
cheers you up?
I don't have
anything that I pop in all the time, but... I don't know, The
Is there something you watch when you need a good cry?
I like America, America by [Elia] Kazan.
If you weren't
acting, what do you think would you be doing?
I'd like to do costume designs. I still like to do it. I
did it once for Gummo with Harmony [Korine, who also wrote
Kids]. It's still something I'm really interested in. I think
it can be a great contributor to how a movie looks. I would still
like to try and do that.
I heard that in
Wait you were involved in planning your character's wardrobe.
You've worked in fashion over the years, so was that why M trusted
Yeah, I just think it's a really fun way to express
yourself. Doing the fashion that I do outside of film is just
another way to make income for me. Something that keeps me busy
that I enjoy and that I'm pretty okay at. I like empowering girls
by giving them things that they can feel good in.
What would people
be surprised to know about you?
I'm actually more square than they might think.
How would you
like for people to see your career?
I would like for people to focus more on my work as an
actor. I think that all the fashion stuff sometimes gets in the
way. I'd like to have respect for my work as an actor. For my
varied roles. And for taking chances.
Are there any
misconceptions out there you'd like to clear up?
Misconceptions? I don't know. I try not to focus on
those. Otherwise I'd get really depressed. (laughs)