Jeanne Tripplehorn speaks for all three “Big Love” actresses when she admits knowing “only the more salacious aspects” of polygamy before filming began on the new TV series.
But along with her compatriots in Early Mormon matrimony, Chloe Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin, she took to reading books like “Under the Banner of Heaven” and “Growing Up in Polygamy” to get into character.
“There are so many negative things you can attach to polygamy,” says Sevigny. “Since my character is a believer, I tried to focus on the more positive aspects.”
“We all dove in in that fashion,” says Goodwin. “I found pamphlets on running a polygamist house, essays written by women who think this lifestyle is heaven. It gave us real insight.”
What the three actresses found of value in multiple women sharing one husband was the “support group of the sister wives,” says Sevigny.
Tripplehorn, the mother of a four-year-old child, could relate to her character’s sense of freedom. “Polygamy is very child-centric, that is the main focus and priority,” she says. “Their children are always with family. But when I work, I have to leave my son with someone other than a family member. I don’t have family in L.A. who will take care of a child.”
That said, Tripplehorn admits to the show’s dark side: “When we finished this first season, we were all tired of being in our characters’ skin, I think.”
Goodwin concurs: “When I step outside (the show), I have different opinions. Everyone is being terribly irresponsible and selfish.”
Although it is generally agreed that Sevigny’s manic, proud and indulgent Nicki is the juiciest role, it is expected that Goodwin’s simple, confused and childlike Margene may evolve the most in the coming season. “She causes chaos and yet finds a way to assign blame to everyone else,” says the actress. “Her arc will be a small rebellion, which is finding friendship and crossing some lines. Her journey is to reconcile a little girl trapped in a woman’s body. She will be forced to grow up.”
Viewers are especially intrigued by Margene’s many flirtatious encounters with her husband’s eldest son. Will they ever consummate that relationship?
“Hey, I’d like to know that as well! I’m as in the dark as Margene,” says the actress.
For the three actresses of “Big Love,” a personal favorite episode has Sevigny’s Nicki calling the real-life Suze Orman for advice regarding her $60,000 credit card debt. Tripplehorn told her costar, “I’m so jealous that you got to talk to Suze Orman. I’d like to talk to her about my own money situation. Can I get her for a minute in between takes?” Even though Tripplehorn didn’t appear in the sequence, she calls it “brilliant.”
For her part, Sevigny did take the opportunity to talk to the TV’s financial guru between takes. “We spoke via live feed,” the actress recalls. “It was funny, I asked, ‘Can I get some free tips?’ And she had millions of problems on how I was handling my own money.”