“Sometimes you wake up after 30 or 40 years and say ‘there’s no me in the world’,” reveals Felicity Huffman during our recent webcam chat (watch the exclusive video above) about her character on “American Crime,” which concluded its third and final season this month. The Emmy winner (“Desperate Housewives,” 2005) talks candidly about playing housewife Jeanette Hesby, and how her story ties in with the overarching themes of the season: “She doesn’t really have a voice. She has no agency in the world.”
“American Crime” is an anthology series that sheds light on different “ripped from the headlines” issues each season. Season one dealt with violent crime, racial prejudice and drug addiction. Last season tackled socioeconomic disadvantage and violence against LBGT people with its story of a rape investigation involving two high school boys. This season the show’s creator, Oscar-winning writer John Ridley (“12 Years a Slave”) focuses on immigration, human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
When Huffman’s character leaves her relatively comfortable life and marriage, her life unravels before our eyes. “The audience discovers it at the same time that Jeanette discovers it. Her helplessness. She realizes that when she leaves her husband, she doesn’t have a credit card in her name, she can’t get a car loan in her name, she has no marketable skills,” the actress explains. “John Ridley is interested in telling the stories of those people that don’t have voices. Who are usually left to the margins. And the stories are usually about them. And I think that holds true for Jeanette too. It’s the story of a simple housewife. She’s not heroic, she’s not well educated, she not special, except for her big heart.”
For Huffman, “American Crime” is ultimately about “the hidden costs of living in America,” she declares. “Can you have the American dream? And not, by the very nature of having the American dream, rob someone of theirs?”
Sadly, after three seasons on the air, ABC decided to end the series this year after ratings became unsustainably low. Huffman is quick to praise the network for its bravery in putting the show on the air, and admits that she will miss it dearly. “Gosh, I think the question is what am I not going to miss. I’m going to miss John Ridley,” she says. “I’m going to miss the brilliant actors I got to play with … and I’m going to miss the opportunity to transform each year and play parts that I normally wouldn’t even get to audition for. I thank Michael [McDonald] and John a lot this year for getting to play Jeanette Hesby because I never would’ve been up for that part and I got to stretch in ways that I have never done in film or television.”
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