Patricia Clarkson: ‘Sharp Objects’ Included ‘Some of the Toughest Scenes I’ve Played’

Patricia Clarkson: ‘Sharp Objects’ Included ‘Some of the Toughest Scenes I’ve Played’

I was in Los Angeles [on set] for five months, and maybe this says it all: I had chunks of time off, but I could never come back to New York as Adora. For some reason, I couldn’t be home in my New York apartment as Adora. Something took over me. I don’t want to sound like a “pretentious actor,” but this character infiltrated me in a way that was very hard — by Episode 5, I could not extricate myself from the sheer brutality, and yet sadness and excruciating pain, that I felt sometimes physically. I had to get those nails off, I had to realign myself. I had to shift my organs. [Laughs.] I had to just let go and come back to Patricia here in New York City, which is a different life than Adora in Wind Gap.

Had you had that experience with a character before?

I have at times, but they are few and far between. I’d say the last time it got like this — of course playing Blanche [DuBois, from “A Streetcar Named Desire” in 2004], because you never recover from playing Blanche. I don’t think it’s anything rare, or special; it’s just what happens in our lives as actors. But Adora, it was episodic, so scene to scene, episode to episode, storm clouds gathered. And I needed a poncho. [Laughs.]

As we get to know her, it becomes apparent that she’s really just an open wound — there’s so much trauma in her life. Which I can imagine is a difficult thing to embody for a long period of time.

It is. I’m fortunate to come from a very good family, very good parents, very middle-class, very All-American. I had unconditional love, which is something that I cannot imagine living without. So that’s where I began with Adora, a woman who I don’t think ever had true, real love, and who had this generational violence, and trauma, and abuse that has been with her for so long. It was literally breathtaking to play her. The air goes out of the room at times with Adora, and it has to. It becomes this claustrophobic, insular world where you think no one will escape.

The scene where she tells Camille she never loved her is one of the most devastating, because it’s also the nicest that Adora is been to Camille up until that point.

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