Untitled Magazine: “Catching Up with the Incomparable Elizabeth Perkins”
Elizabeth Perkins’ performances in Big, The Flintstones, Weeds, This is Us, and Curb Your Enthusiasm have always been memorable. And it looks like there’s no slowing down for this incredible talent – and we’re thrilled. Next up she’s starring alongside Amy Adams in the HBO drama Sharp Objects premiering July 7th. Then she’s back to work on a new project, Are You Sleeping, co-starring Aaron Paul and Lizzy Caplan. Tune in and catch up with this funny, one of a kind, beautiful lady.
Tina Turnbow: Congratulations on joining the cast of the Octavia Spencer’s TV thriller “Are You Sleeping.” Can you share any thoughts that come to mind about this exciting upcoming project?
Elizabeth Perkins: It’s an amazing group of actors that Nichelle Tramble Spellman has put together for this show…Ocativa, Aaron Paul, Lizzy Caplan. The opportunity to work with such talent doesn’t come along very often and it’s the kind of work, script and creator, that an actor always thinks, “Wow. If I could work with these people…it would be the personification of greatness.” And I’m doing it.
My character is striking—a woman who has suffered through unimaginable loss and yet continues to fight for truth everyday. Plus, to have Hello Sunshine & Reese Witherspoon producing with Peter Chernin – we are in extraordinary hands. It feels like I’ve landed in a beautiful utopia. It doesn’t get any better. Grateful.
Tina: The premiere of your other project, Sharp Objects, is coming soon. What did you find most compelling and unique about that experience?
Elizabeth: Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, the novelist and screenwriter Gillian Flynn, being produced by Marti Noxon, it was an incredible, female-driven exploration of those intricate relationships that only come through the history and delicate nature of the relationships between mothers and their daughters. It is unbelievably scary, profound and deeply dark.
I play Jackie, one of the matriarchs of the town of Wind Gap, MO, who may or may not know why two young girls have been murdered in the small town. It’s hot, sticky and Amy is absolutely mesmerizing. It was a rough shoot—southern Georgia in the summer, a lot of swamps and chiggers, but definitely a project where the actors came together in support of each other and truly bonded in a somewhat challenging situation. Our director, Jean Marc Vallee (Big Little Lies) was meticulous in his vision.
Not always easy for an actor but pieced together, it is a shadowy web of a story about the past, what our aging reveals or chooses to hide, and how deep the bonds of family can delve.
Tina: Working alongside such talent as Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson and Chris Messina, did you find yourself quite inspired?
Elizabeth: Beyond inspiring. Watching Patrica Clarkson act is like watching Isaac Stern play the violin. A consummate, acutely aware actor who makes the most subtle of choices that then completely bowl you over. You never see it coming – it’s like a silent freight train that comes barreling through in the middle of the night and then is gone so quickly you never knew it hit you.
Sometimes you get the chance to work with people that take your breath away like that, where you forget that you’re acting and you’re just watching them for a minute going, “Wow. What an exquisite force!” Chris Messina and Amy Adams gelled immediately, having worked together a lot before. It was old home week for them, two great friends having complete trust in each other, always knowing the other one was there to catch them as they waded through the swamps of Georgia. And Matt Craven, my dear friend, is also on board as the Sheriff of Wind Gap. I adore him. I’ve known him for over 20 years. Nothing like working with friends, the greatest safety net of all for an actor!
Tina: You seem to work non-stop. Would you say that not only are you grateful for that, but also that you wouldn’t want it any other way?
Elizabeth: I go through periods where I don’t work, either because there’s nothing compelling or interesting being offered to me or because I have chosen to stay home either for family reasons or when my children were younger, to keep the home life more stable. My husband is a DP who works quite regularly and we usually take turns…I had a farmhouse in Western Mass where my mother lived until she passed away a year and a half ago. I would retreat there and collage, paint, have coffee with Mom, grow tomatoes and work toward finding good material or an amazing role to take on.
I love to work. I am beyond grateful that at this point in my life I am still afforded the opportunity to do what I love and earn a living doing it. I am turning 58 this year and have always been an actor, professionally since I was 23. The fact that I’ve been given the chance to do this for that long is absolutely brilliant. I love what I do, and love every opportunity. if I don’t work for a period of time, I get bored.
I have lots of other creative outlets but none that inform and propel me as much as acting. It soothes me, stimulates me, makes me feel alive and invigorated. I wouldn’t want it any other way. People talk to me about when I think I would retire and I always answer, “Probably…never?” Why would I when I am still being given the chance to find something new to learn about myself, about who I am, what makes me tick – everything an actor takes along on their journey creating characters.
I can imagine not having that outlet in my life – what would I do with all that energy?
Tina: You are a radiant ageless beauty. With your busy schedule and long days filming, can you give some tips that keep you looking and feeling good?
Elizabeth: Thank you for such a compliment! For me it’s working out, doing Pilates, weight training five days a week when I’m allowed. I know that sounds cliche, but its true for me. I have to sweat, I have to hurt a little in my muscles. It keeps me feeling like a well oiled machine, it boosts my spirits and helps me remain positive.
If I can’t work out, I take super long hot showers and try to meditate. I have latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA) type 1, having been diagnosed in 2005, so it is important that I watch what I eat and don’t allow my blood sugars to spike and fall. I eat mostly low carbohydrate vegetables and fresh protein to keep myself even keeled, but I love avocados and brazil nuts (my fatty foods!).
My cheat foods are anything insanely salty and crunchy, like pretzels. Because I no longer produce insulin and have to inject daily depending on my carbohydrate intake, I really watch myself. High blood sugars are fatiguing and damaging, so I manage it quite tightly. I gave up sugar a long time ago and no longer miss it…I rely on fruit, usually low glycemic like blackberries to satisfy whatever sweet cravings might come along.
I’m totally addicted to coffee though. I have a Nespresso machine and its my greatest source of early morning comfort. I’ll never be able to make coffee as good as you’ll have in Italy but I’m determined to try. But for each cup of coffee, I try and drink an 8 ounce glass of water, as its very dehydrating.
I also use a ridiculous amount of moisturizer—but really cheap, time honored moisturizers. I use Cetaphil, Argan oil with lavender and whatever is on the bottom shelf at the beauty supply store. I also get facials quite often and living in LA, where it’s a desert, I am constantly drinking water and hydrating all day long.
I love moisture sprays. I keep them in my purse, in my glove compartment, nightstand (along with a steady stream of Chapstick). It’s all about staying hydrated. No alcohol and I love to exfoliate.
Again, cliche, but I love a good scrubbing. I’ve also found that at this age, I have really settled into a confidence that I never had when I was younger. Confident in my choice of comfortable clothes and shoes (I despise high heels—terrible for your feet!) I don’t have a huge wardrobe and instead go in for some sturdy, vintage pieces that travel well and can be easily mixed and matched. I love simple tailored suits, side zipped pants and a great, flat Oxford shoe.
I adore overcoats and jackets, soft colored or muted tones. I scour Etsy for them, the well-made, older styles that really stand the test of time. I’m OK not being the most trendy of people and have settled quite wonderfully into an easy, casual style that doesn’t wrack my brain each morning when I dress.
Comfortably but well-put together keeps it simple and easy. I like who I’ve aged into and I’m going to wear what feels good, confidently.
Tina: Because we are all die-hard Weeds fans, any buzz about a possible reunion for you guys ahead?
Elizabeth: I like you’re play on words there! I miss Mary-Louise Parker and the whole gang from that show. Kevin Nealon and I got into a groove there that was so absolutely fun and raucous and ridiculous. I would love coming to work just to see what he was going to do next as Doug.
Mary-Louise was stunning in that role and I always had wished that Celia and Nancy had gone out as friends, the baddest bitches in the land. That they would come full circle as two women who started out as friends, became mortal, bitter enemies and then reunited to take on everyone else who had done them wrong. It was like the ultimate F-U.
Celia just kind of disappeared and I received a lot of messages from fans asking, “What happened to Celia?” and I still don’t know. I’m assuming she’s still out there wondering if Nancy likes her and wants to be her friend! Jealous and lonely, screwing somebody else up with her needs. She was a gift to play. Outrageously busted and constantly broken, she was her own worst enemy when all along the only thing she every wanted was to be loved.
Everyone hated Celia and she knew it. And she had no idea how to change it because she was so angry and alone. Just a God-send of a role. So, a reunion? I’d give anything to work with Mary-Louise again. We would get on rolls as those two women that were simply delicious and fun and completely round the bend.
Mary-Louse Parker constantly surprised me – it was the ultimate in hand offs. She knew exactly where she was in every scene she played and would just toss off moments, and I’d catch them and throw them right back.
That’s the meat of it all and why I act. To have that energy with another actor, to swirl it around and play with it like a cat with a mouse. To have that kind of unity and delight all at the same time and wrapping up at the end of the day feeling, “Wow. That was incredible!”
Interview, photography, makeup: Tina Turnbow!