The Legend of Jessica Lange is Soaring with American Horror Story
King Kong was an inauspicious beginning with one horrific review piled on top of another. But legends aren't built on stumbles. They're built on kicking your critics to the curb, not in words but actions.
Jessica's actions have been loud and clear, with critically acclaimed performances in movies like Tootsie, Country and the must-watch-on-Netflix-this-weekend, Men Don't Leave.
Jessica is no stranger to TV, either. She won an Emmy in 2009 for HBO's delightfully nutty Grey Gardens. She won a second Emmy for Ryan Murphy's recently renewed American Horror Story, a series that changes its storyline each year. This season, Jessica is Sister Jude whose life as a drunken singer lands her in an Asylum.
Jessica spoke with TVFirstLook about American Horror Story: Asylum, HBO's Grey Gardens and finding voices.
TVFirstLook: Your character Sister Jude on AHS: Asylum is fantastically complex. How did you develop this character?
Jessica Lange: Recently, I am trying to work in an immediate fashion. I'm relying more now than in the past on pure imagination that comes up in the moment.
I just follow that through, rather than try to plan anything or design anything.
TVFirstLook: You have played fictional characters like Sister Jude and real-life people like Frances Farmer and Big Edie. What is the difference in playing those roles?
Jessica: With fictional characters, you rise and fall on the strength of your imagination. With a character like Big Edie, I had a wealth of resource material to draw from.
But what I have tried to do more and more lately is find the character through the voice.
TVFirstLook: How did you develop characters in the past?
Jessica: Sometimes, I would find the character through their emotional core, which is still mainly how I do it. But I would also find it through movement of the body.
TVFirstLook: Is that how you developed the real-life character of Big Edie in HBO's Grey Gardens?
Jessica: Every day when I came to the set, I would listen to her voice. I would put on the DVD of [the documentary] Grey Gardens. I wouldn't look at the images. I would listen to her voice. As soon as I found it, I would drop into the character.
TVFirstLook: How do you do that with Sister Jude?
Jessica: I found her voice. As soon as I find it again, I sink into the character. I've done something with Sister Jude as we've gone along. She is changing as she goes down this rabbit hole.