“She inherits the studio and she makes movies for gays, minorities and women,” explains Patti LuPone about her role as Avis Amberg, a wife turned studio executive on Netflix’s “Hollywood.” The period drama from Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan is a revisionist look at the film industry in the 1940s. The series provides the two-time Tony winner– for her roles in “Evita” (1980) and “Gypsy” (2008)– her biggest role in a Murphy project, following guest appearances on “Glee,” “Pose” and “American Horror Story: Coven.” Watch our exclusive video interview with LuPone above.
LuPone connected her own struggles in the film and television industry with Avis’s struggles to be taken seriously. “My career hasn’t been the easiest in the world,” she says. She describes coming out to Los Angeles to audition for film and television roles and being rejected because she didn’t fit the mold of the perky all American girl. “It was really depressing,” she recalls. “Everytime I’d get to L.A. I would fall into this huge funk because I was constantly rejected.”
She also describes the appeal of playing a woman who refuses to be cast aside by men who won’t acknowledge her power. “I think that’s true of a lot of women that are working mothers, that might feel in some way diminished,” she claims. “There seems to be a lot talk about working mothers and not so much talk about working fathers. How perhaps we shouldn’t do what we’re doing or we can’t possibly do it will. And that’s ridiculous, quite frankly.”
As a veteran stage actor, LuPone says the atmosphere on the set of “Hollywood” was particularly fun because so many of her fellow actors — including Holland Taylor, Joe Mantello, Jeremy Pope and Harriet Harris — came from the theater. “We had a ball,” she exclaims. “When the theater actors were working together, it was fast. We were prepared, we knew the intention of the scene and we were fast in the delivery of it.” LuPone recalls a scene opposite Pope, playing a black gay screenwriter who plans to bring his boyfriend to the Oscars, as being particularly difficult because of LuPone’s own connection to the LGBTQ community. “Three-quarters of my friends are gay and are in partnerships or in marriages and you see this love connection open and complete. Back in 1946, when this was so not the case and so not acceptable, to realize the consequences was hard for me,” she says. “I had to prevent myself from crying in the scene.”
LuPone argues that the show’s revisionist approach to history provides an uplifting viewing experience for audiences. “It has a happy ending,” she exclaims. “Here’s something that gives hope and inspiration, and again, escape. What better combination– hope, inspiration and escape– in this time we’re in right now?”
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