Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning actress Patricia Clarrson has enjoyed an eclectic career taking on roles from motion pictures, television and the theatre. She recently worked with Woody Allen in his acclaimed Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and now stars as Marietta in his new movie Whatever Works. Born and raised in New Orleans, she immediately gravitated to the role of Marietta, a strait-laced Southern woman, whose life drastically changes when she comes to New York to visit her daughter Melody (Evan Rachel Wood). Meeting Melody’s friends leads her into a sexually-liberated lifestyle.
How was it going back to your Southern roots?
Divine. It’s always nice to be home in spirit, and with such a delicious character.
It’s a character who required all my Southern-ness in all its glory, and all its fanaticism. It was very nice, because sometimes I have to be careful about my accent, especially when I get tired and have a bourbon or two; not that drink on sets. I could let it all hang out, so to speak.
Did you base her on anyone you’ve known?
No. I certainly have known women like Marietta, but she is just a mix of many women I have known through my lifetime. I’ve met women from every spectrum in the South. Woody wrote such a stunning character, I just showed up and in some ways I brought things of my past.
You’ve worked with Woody before, what is that experience like?
He has theatrical roots, so he does very big, long takes. You have to be prepared. You have to do your homework. You have to know your lines, you have to be able to improv. An actor prepares; and you really do with Woody. There’s no short takes. Let’s say there’s a 10-page scene. He will shoot the entire scene from beginning to end. Let’s say you were at the second to last line and you screw up, you go back to line one.
He’s notorious for being very quiet and not interfering with what the actors are doing. Do you like the way he works?
I think his genius is he has such trust in you as an actor, it’s a beautiful thing. You walk in and he doesn’t feel the need to say much and I like that because he steps in at just the right moment.
As an actress was it liberating to play a woman who is experiencing a sexual awakening?
Yes, characters who undergo transformations are always yummy, because you get to make a journey and get to have two different looks. I was born and bred in the south, and I know big hair, and I know tight clothes and really bright colors.
How did it feel to be in bed with two men?
I’m thinking of trying it myself. I’ve never done it, but never say never. The night is young. It was thrilling. I thought, ‘Oh, it’s exciting and sexy,’ and two delicious actors. I was fortunate that he let my character have that. [she laughs] It was a good time, but it was a set and it’s acting. It’s not like I lay in bed all day with these men!