“Sharp Objects” Interview: Elizabeth Perkins is a good drunk!

A not-so-young-adult moving from the city to suburbia in 2018 might not face Betty Draper levels of drudgery and repression, but according to HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Hulu and FX, she’ll face a bunch of other modern indignities. Despotic wellness, interminable kid-shuttling, open relationships that are more work than fun. One small consolation is that she might live next to an Elizabeth Perkins character.

Perkins, 57, has perfected the art of upper-middle-class, dark-comedic relief. Audiences might remember her as the mom/friend from ‘90s movies like Miracle on 34th StreetThe Flintstones, and Must Love Dogs. Her long-running performance as Celia Hodes, Nancy Botwin’s drunk, sick and unfiltered BFF, earned her multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. On Sharp Objects as Jackie O’Neill, Camille Preaker’s (Amy Adams) godmother-figure, Perkins leverages her hard-earned lightness to draw audiences into the dark psychology of small-town BFF-dom.

“I always thought of Jackie as a ghost on Scooby Doo,” Perkins told ELLE.com. “She just weaves in and out in giant muumuus going, ‘Woooooo.’”

The ghosts on Scooby Doo are always fakes—janitors in sheets who spare the gang from the true horror of the paranormal. Jackie serves a similar role on Sharp Objects. Just as Wind Gap becomes too dark to handle, Jackie swoops in offering gossip and spiked sweet tea. If Perkins were your neighbor in this hellscape, you think, you might actually be able to cope.

ELLE.com talked to Perkins about the freedom of playing drunk and Jackie’s hidden pain.

Jackie begins Sharp Objects as the lovable town lush, but this week we get to see her dark side.

You come to realize that she’s hiding a lot. I think she’s always medicating some really deep pain. She’s in so much pain because of what she knows. With Camille back in town, she’s not able to hold it in because she loves Camille. She’s probably the only person in town who really loves Camille.

I made the decision that Jackie’s always medicated, always on an opiate or a benzo or a mixture. Alcohol and benzo is probably her game. And I love playing drunk and inebriated.

You play a very believable drunk! What do you love about it?

The freedom. You can make choices that are so off the wall and nobody will question it. They’ll be like, well, she’s really high. I have a tendency as an actor to go too far, anyway. A lot of time I have to be restrained. There’s nothing more fun for an actor than to have the freedom to say, “Maybe I’ll just jump off this bed.” I’m a good drunk. And I don’t even really drink! I’m kind of a one-and-a-half glasses of wine girl.

I tend to be drawn to people struggling with a dark past but dealing with it through humor and giving in to their outrageousness. There are shades of Celia [Hodes from Weeds] in Jackie, probably because they were both always inebriated.

On Sharp Objects, it’s hard to tell whether Jackie is protecting someone or covering up for them.

The way Jean-Marc Vallée edits makes everything more ambiguous than it was originally, as a way to tell the story from Camille’s point of view. Even the scenes that Camille’s not in are left a little ambiguous.

Jackie flat out says she’s not the kind of person that talks about people’s touchy areas, but she’s sitting on the whole story. She tells the detective, “You’re getting closer.” Why she’s sitting on the story is to be determined. Her connection to Adora is so deep and goes back so long. You know, originally she had said to the detective in the bar that she and Adora were just like the skater girls.

There are pieces missing from all our performances, which is fine. With Vallée, you anticipate that. He’s going to choose a narrative and go there.

Sharp Objects is part of a wave of murder, mystery and crime shows, as is your next project, Are You Sleeping?, a crime podcast drama.

There’s such a shift from film to television right now. A lot of these mysteries or dramas or serious explorations are in place of the Marvel movie series, which is all you’re getting at the cinema at the moment. It’s nice to have an audience that can’t wait to see what happens next. People are drawn to Sharp Objects because there’s references you can’t figure out. All of it is reflected in what she’s carved into her skin and the words that sometimes lead you nowhere or lead you to something really profound.

Once you invest in Camille you can’t not watch. That’s a testament to Amy Adams, and her subtlety. She’s just sort of in charge of her—I don’t want to use the word craft but I will. Even the way she walks. Amy doesn’t walk like that. As Camille, she has a completely different gait. Amy’s very light. She’s very extroverted and kind and affectionate. The hardness that she had to bring to Camille as well as the deep, deep, deep vulnerability—she’s remarkable.

I HAVE A TENDENCY AS AN ACTOR TO GO TOO FAR ANYWAY. A LOT OF TIME I HAVE TO BE RESTRAINED.

Amy Adams reportedly won’t play Camille for a second season. Would you revisit Jackie?

Nobody’s talked to us about it. It was talked about on set. We’ll get to that in season two, we’ll get to that in season two. Of course I’d be open. I love Jackie. I love to walk around in muumuus.

Source: ELLE Magazine 

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