×

‘The Affair’s’ Maura Tierney on Finding the Humor in Helen’s Suffering

As a jilted wife slowly coming to terms with a life she never had planned for herself, “The Affair’s” Maura Tierney has found a perfect balance of comedy and tragedy in her character Helen’s situation. Whether it’s ill-planned rebound sex, drinking wine while fighting with shapewear or hitting bottom and spending a night in the slammer, this poor little rich girl-turned Park Slope mother of four has become a fan favorite of the Showtime drama.

Speaking with Variety in its Los Angeles office, Tierney said she was definitive on at least one thing about her character.

“I said Helen will have fixed her hair by episode eight,” Tierney laughed, referring to the gray streaks her character winds up with after the aforementioned night behind bars.

She also talked about the series’ overarching mystery of if Helen’s ex, Noah Solloway (Dominic West), actually committed murder and keeping up with its multiple time jumps.

Now that we’re a good ways through the season, can you tell us anything more about the murder mystery?

The mystery’s going to be solved definitely by the end of this season. They’re not going to tease it out excruciatingly long. That’s really all I can say.

There’s this excellent mix of humor and tragedy with Helen.

[The writers] took care of me. I think I worked on Helen being funny this season. I think I contributed in that way so that they knew to write for that, but the writers just did a great job with her.

Anya Epstein wrote episode four [where Helen has her disastrous situation]. I liked it because it was just so sad, but also so funny.

Speaking of that episode, is there an art to dancing in your Spanx?

Just throw your ego out the window. I don’t wear Spanx, like politically I hate them. I really responded to the idea that it’s impossible to take them off and it’s humiliating to do so.

Was it meant to be a feminist statement?

I think she just wants to take them off, but the moment where she looks at herself in the mirror and is like this is it …

How do you keep the storylines in order in your mind?

I think all of it is actual reality. That’s how I play it. People are always like, “What’s the real story?” I think all of it. Or none of it.

From the viewpoint of the performance, I know the critics get upset because they think that the POVs have been diverging too wildly. But that doesn’t bother me. We’re both experiencing this moment in a completely different way and we’re going to remember it in a completely different way. Everyone certainly believes that their memory is the truth.

This weekend has a Helen and Noah episode. Do you feel any pressure or get nervous when you get a script, given how much they’re making you do this season?

Sometimes I read it and hope I can do it justice. I get nervous when people talk loudly in the room with what I’m supposed to do and it becomes a thing I have to do and it’s not organic.

There’s some funny parts in this episode because Noah and Helen go drinking together. I hope it came out funny, but it felt funny doing it.

There’s a turning point for Noah and Helen in Episode 8. They’re coming to terms with a new relationship. In this one, his side is a lot more humorous. They go back to where they went to college.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Emmy Awards Placeholder

    Creative Arts Emmy Awards: Winners List (Updating Live)

    The second half of the 2019 Creative Arts Emmy Awards are being presented this evening at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles. Variety will update the winners list live as the trophies are handed out. Actor in short form comedy or drama series State Of The Union • SundanceTV • See-Saw Films Chris O’Dowd as [...]

  • Hasan Minhaj

    Hasan Minhaj on ‘Winnable’ Student Loan Issue, 2020 Presidential Candidates

    Fresh off testifying at the first-ever US House Committee on Financial Services hearing on the student loan crisis, Hasan Minhaj used his platform at the Tribeca TV Festival on Sunday to continue the discussion around the issue that he says affects 44 million people in America. “This is a huge problem,” the comedian and host [...]

  • Beyonce Knowles'The Lion King' film premiere,

    ABC Announces Behind-the-Scenes Special for Beyoncé's 'Lion King' LP

    ABC has announced a new behind-the-scenes look into the making of Beyoncé’s “The Lion King: The Gift” LP, which is set to air September 16 on ABC at 10 p.m. EST. Titled “Beyoncé Presents: Making the Gift,” the new hour-long special will allow viewers to “experience the process” behind the “Lion King” companion album, according [...]

  • 71st Emmys Governors Ball

    Why the Television Academy Plans to Donate Furnishings From the 71st Emmys Governors Ball

    The Emmys’ official after party is set to impress — and to leave a permanent impression. At the annual press preview of the 71st Emmys Governors Ball, the Television Academy announced a partnership with Living Spaces, Habitat for Humanity and the Hollywood Community Housing Project that will provide more than 80 custom sofas, chairs and [...]

  • 'No Good Nick' Canceled After One

    'No Good Nick' Canceled After One Season at Netflix

    “No Good Nick” has been canceled at Netflix after only a single season, which was split into two parts, Variety has confirmed. Created and executive produced by David H. Steinberg and Keetgi Kogan, the multi-camera comedy starred Melissa Joan Hart and Sean Astin as Liz and Ed, a hyper-competitive career mom and lovable but dorky “fun dad,” [...]

  • Hailee Steinfeld Sets New Single Tied

    Hailee Steinfeld Announces New Single Tied to Apple TV Plus' 'Dickinson'

    Actress, singer and producer Hailee Steinfeld is set to release a new single entitled “Afterlife” on Sept. 19, a track she created for her upcoming Apple TV Plus series,”Dickinson.” “This is a song I’m incredibly proud of, and I feel like after embodying this character, I have a more fearless approach to my writing,” Steinfeld [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content