Leading ladies in Emmy contention

As any fan of FX’s “Damages” can see, what drives Glenn Close’s Patty Hewes is obvious: her win-at-all-costs mentality.

But to Close, it’s not so simple.

The actress quotes a female New York district attorney: “She said, ‘I’ve never thought of myself as ambitious, but I am highly competitive.’ That’s an interesting distinction. For whatever reason, Patty needs to win, and the stakes get higher for her every time.”

Without seeing a script, Close was drawn to the series, partially based on her other FX experience.

“I had such a great time on ‘The Shield,’ where everybody’s not all good and not all bad, which is the kind of storytelling FX does. They really want to explore what power does to people in our culture, and when they made this powerful person a woman, I thought that was an unusual chance to explore that whole dynamic.”

Close enjoys the complex nature of Hewes’ character, who is both powerful and manipulative, and typically thinking five steps ahead of those around her.

“She’s a real student of human psychology and behavior,” explains Close, who must get into the minds of not only her work colleagues but her family as well. For her troublesome teenage son, she unexpectedly offers a written contract to free him of the burden of being raised by a mother he dislikes.

During a favorite scene, in which Hewes deposes her ex-mogul nemesis, Ted Danson’s Arthur Frobisher, she preys on the usually stolid executive by drawing a parallel between the failure of his company to the then-very recent failure of Frobisher’s marriage.

“She knows how to psychologically get to somebody in an unexpected way,” Close says. “It’s the one thing he can’t deal with.”

Close didn’t have the opportunity to learn about Hewes’ history, but had to trust the writers to know where she is now, rather than where she came from.

“For me, I always know the beginning, middle and end and can build a backstory to create a character, which we didn’t have here, so it made me feel very insecure,” Close notes. “Then I realized it was just about being in the moment and just saying, ‘OK, what are we going to do this week?'”

Favorite scene: “I love the scene in the pilot where she’s telling Ellen, ‘Don’t have children, it’ll ruin your ambition. They’re like clients; they want all of you all the time.’ You don’t know how much she’s bullshitting or not.”

What you like most about your character: “She has wit and is highly intelligent. What I like about her is probably the same reason people are intrigued by her, by why she does things. That’s still my journey to discover.”

TV guilty pleasure: “It’s shocking how little TV I watch, but when I’m up in Maine with my daughter-in-law, we watch ‘Dancing With the Stars’ — for the costumes alone.”

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