“That is the fun of episodic directing is that you go from a personal, totally inventive drama like ‘This is Us’ to something as stylish as ‘Feud,'” says Helen Hunt about her experiences directing three series this year: the NBC family drama “This is Us,” the FX biographical limited series “Feud: Bette and Joan” and the CBS sitcom “Life in Pieces.” Hunt adds, “I love working with actors, so between those shows you’ve got Dianne Wiest and a host of brilliant actors, and then Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon, so it’s been an embarrassment of riches.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“I’m still reeling from what Ryan Murphy has accomplished, just to put his big, giant arms around everything from bullying to violence against women, to women trying to stay relevant in the business. It’s thrilling,” says Hunt about “Feud,” which addresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford‘s battles against each other, but also their battles against a sexist industry. “He put his money where his mouth is,” Hunt explains about Murphy’s production; the leading ladies of “Feud” were also producers of the series, and half of the eight episodes were directed by women.
Hunt adds about female directors in the industry, “I acted in [‘Shots Fired’] with Gina Prince-Bythewood this year. There was a moment on the set when there were six female members of the DGA, and I said, ‘We’ve got to take a picture because I don’t know that this ever happens.’ And I said to Gina, ‘What should I post?’ And she said, ‘#JustHire’ … and that’s what Ryan Murphy and Gina have done.”
“Shots Fired” tells the story of the racially charged investigation into a police shooting. Hunt plays Patricia Eamons, the governor of North Carolina. “Everybody’s looking for what to say about the hundred-pound gorilla in the room that is race in America,” says Hunt about why she was drawn to the series. “Nobody knows what to do and it’s terribly awkward, not to mention lethal, so I was glad that I could put my awkward pain somewhere. I could put it into this show.”
Hunt has established herself behind the camera, which is no mean feat, especially for an actor as well established in front of the camera. She won an Oscar for Best Actress for “As Good as it Gets” (1998), and she won four straight Emmys as Best Comedy Actress for “Mad About You” (1996-1999). That NBC comedy is where she got her start as a director, and now almost 20 years later it’s possible that directing might bring her back to the Emmys.
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