2022 Emmys Limited Series Actresses Talk Real Women

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A television star violated by the public eye. A whistleblower with ulterior motives. An inventor who was not as revolutionary as she announced. A woman whose shocking death became a sensation. A crook with a flair for the dramatic. A young mother taking care of her daughter one housework at a time.

As disparate as these characters may seem, two threads unite them – they’re all based or inspired by real women, and they earned those who played them Emmy nominations for Lead Actress in a Limited Series or of anthology.

For the first time in over a decade, each category nominee played a character inspired by, if not directly based on, a real person. The last time that happened was in 2009, when Jessica Lange picked up the win for HBO’s “Grey Gardens.”

The category sweep isn’t exactly surprising given the slew of fact-based candidates who flooded this year’s ballot, a crowded field that ultimately had no room for heavyweights including Julia Roberts. , Anne Hathaway, Viola Davis and Michelle Pfeiffer.

As distinct as the nominated characters are, so are the reasons why and how each actor brought them to life. Variety went straight to the nominees and those who worked closely with them to learn how they navigate the blurry line between fact and fiction.

Julia Garnier“Inventing Anna”

If Anna Sorokin was mistaken for a fictional creation by Shonda Rhimes, no one would think twice. The fact that she was a real con man who cheated New York’s elite out of money and dignity by posing as a German heiress named Anna Delvey made her the perfect subject for the first show created by Rhimes in the under its contract with Netflix.

As Anna, Garner’s undeniable charisma and biting classist superiority proved she was up to the dubious challenge of portraying a woman who has earned a reputation as an enigma. She also did it with an inflection that can’t just be described as an accent. More specifically, it’s an experience to behold – and memorable. Executive producer Betsy Beers notes, “She, like Anna, is a chameleon and has the uncanny ability to truly become whatever character she plays.”

Colin Firth and Toni Collette in “The Staircase”.
Courtesy of HBO Max

Toni Collette“The Staircase”

Collette plays Kathleen Peterson, a North Carolina woman whose grisly death in 2001 sparked a media frenzy. Whether in news reports or in the now famous 2004 documentary “The Staircase,” which closely followed the trial and sentencing of her husband, Michael (Colin Firth), for his murder, Kathleen has too often been treated as a presence in the past. Collette wanted to change that, harnessing the memory of the victim to give the woman a voice.

“I definitely felt a responsibility to Kathleen and her current family,” says Collette. “Really, our job as actors is to make it all as honest as possible. Whether a story is based on something that happened or is fiction, the challenge remains. the same: to bring the truth.

Creator Antonio Campos places Kathleen at the heart of the series through flashbacks, while Collette embarks, quite literally, on recreating three brutal and harrowing death scenes – each testing a theory of what could have happened. In this series, Kathleen is ultimately not just a name spoken at the helm.

Sarah Paulson“Indictment: A History of American Crime”

Paulson often calls on a valuable piece of advice her “12 Years A Slave” director Steve McQueen gave her as she prepared to play a vindictive female slave owner: “You can’t judge this woman.”

She summoned those words again while playing Linda Tripp, one of the most judged women in American history. Whether it was Tripp, who got Monica Lewinsky to expose her affair with President Bill Clinton, or Marcia Clark, who Paulson once won the Emmy for starring in “The People v. OJ Simpson,” she says playing a real person is about finding their own understanding of their motivations, without changing public opinion.

“There is a wonderful plan of facts that you really know about a person that allows me to be free somehow, because I have a real backbone and a backbone of what I know how to be irrevocable,” she said.

Amanda Seyfried“The Stall”

The story of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes needs no embellishment for drama. The Silicon Valley prodigy went from god to disgrace in spectacular fashion, and Seyfried says changing anything would have been, well, a crime.

“You always have to be careful when doing something based on factual events and letting the eccentricity of the real story speak for itself,” she says. “Truth is always, always stranger than fiction and if you twist things too much, you lose something.”

Encouraged by factual performances in her class, Seyfried says there’s a thirst for stories that authentically tell a woman’s lived experience, not a man’s notion of it.

“I think women, regardless of their political leanings, are tired of being discussed, legislated, imagined, lectured and marketed by men who haven’t bothered to listen or learn,” adds- she. “So we see a lot of stories about what it’s like to be a woman, in all of our many ways, in this world, rather than what a man thinks it’s like to be a woman. in its very limited ways.”

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Margaret Qualley in “Maid”.
RICARDO HUBBS/NETFLIX

Margaret Qualley“Housemaid”

Qualley had the trickiest balance to strike. “Maid” is inspired by Stephanie Land’s memoir, “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive,” but the series follows a distinctly different character whose experiences mirror Land’s. Alex Russell, a young woman who escapes an abusive relationship, takes a job as a maid to support her daughter; Qualley had to take what was etched in Land’s experience and chart his own course. Creator Molly Smith Metzler says it would have been easier to just extract Land’s compelling source material, but that didn’t do justice to her or the woman Qualley sought to portray on screen.

“Margaret and I had to allow Alex to be his own person, with terrible decision-making skills, a gallows sense of humor and rocky relationships with his family,” says Metzler. “Throughout our work creating Alex and his arc, we sought to honor the emotional backbone of Stephanie’s experience while making it our own.”

Lily James“Pam and Tommy”

James’ transformation into ’90s Pamela Anderson might have been an eye-catching but otherwise superficial recreation of a cultural moment of exploitation. Instead, she always saw it as an opportunity greater than herself and became “fiercely protective” of it.

“It’s such a feminine experience, and I knew the show was going to explore how a violation like this affects women,” she says. “The way we victimize women shocks me. I felt passionate about exploring this bravely and honestly. I constantly felt a huge responsibility and wanted to capture something about the essence of Pamela Anderson while revealing a lot of me too.

She also had to be aware of never losing herself in responsibility for any of this: “The tightrope existed in constantly feeling like a guardian of the person I was playing and simultaneously trying to exist and respond only in the moment. .”

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