Hit & Miss - Chloë Sevigny interview
Compiled by Jack Foley
FOLLOWING its successful run on Sky Atlantic, Hit & Miss is released on DVD on Monday, July 2 and its main star Chloë Sevigny talks about some of the challenges involved in playing a transgender hitwoman.
She also talks about getting into character, learning how to look convincing while shooting a gun, why she feels drawn to certain roles and what she hopes people will take away from the series, particularly about the transgender issue.
Q. How did you get involved in Hit & Miss?
Chloë Sevigny: My agent and manager called me, and together on the phone they said: “Chloe, we have this insane script…” I mean they were like: “We don’t really know what to make of it because we’ve never read anything like it before!” They said it was really intense and really crazy but an amazing read and the characters are like nothing we’ve seen before. So, they sent it over to me. I had it in my hand for couple of weeks before I read it because I was going on holiday and I knew I would want to do it so badly, so I’m just going to leave it on the side, you know from just what they told me about it. When I tore into it, I just read through it, flipped through it, flew through it as you say and yeah I fell in love with it, fell in love with the character, her story, her trajectory and it was like nothing I’ve read before, the writing was… I don’t know, shocking but really heartfelt. There was just so many different layers of things going on.
Q. Who is Mia?
Chloë Sevigny: Mia grew up with an Irish traveller’s family and she had a lot of abuse in her childhood whilst growing up, from her siblings, her brother and her father. She grew up gay and knowing perhaps that she was not the right gender. So, she ran away from her family and tried to have proper relationships with women and one woman in particular and realised it just wasn’t her and that she really was a woman. So, she ran away from everyone and isolated herself and went through the process of transforming herself. It’s a long story; I’m really bad at condensing it plus we are still working on it.
Q. How do you as an actress portray someone that was born as a man?
Chloë Sevigny: The director and the writer and I sat down and we had a meeting, talking about how Mia should carry herself and I felt like it was always a tell-tale sign when a transgender person has to learn how to be a female, so their femaleness is very exaggerated. It’s a lot of hands, a lot of ultra femininity and I wanted to play it like that… more of a character and they wanted me to be more natural. They showed me lots of YouTube clips of women they had found online, who moved just like me or very casual and not this ultra feminised kind of thing.
So, we did all these practices of walking and sitting and how I would carry myself. It was more of a group effort. I would have gone more girly if I could of. I was like this is going to be the most glamorous, kind of female-like sexy role and I am playing a man playing a woman.
Q. I know a woman that was born a man and they became the frumpiest lesbian…
Chloë Sevigny: I know, it is very complicated. I’ve been doing a lot of research and read a lot of books and there’s so many different takes. I think a lot of transgender people just know from a very early age. I just think what these people go through, the pain inside of them knowing they are not in the right body, the physical transformation, the surgery and how much goes into it. It’s really overwhelming. I feel for them.
Q. So she’s an assassin?
Chloë Sevigny: She is, a hit woman.
Q. Have you ever done that before?
Chloë Sevigny: I’ve never used a gun in a film before. In real life, I’ve shot a couple on farms or whatever. I had to do some gun training and some fight training. That was pretty fun I have to say. I think one of the hardest parts of shooting this whole thing was not blinking when you are shooting a gun because we did all these slow-mo shots of me doing these hits and of course I’m really girly doing these hits, squeezing the trigger being like ‘ahhh!’ So, you have to be really calm and breathe. It’s very hard not to flinch when you are shooting a gun because it is really loud.
We had a few little fight sequences. I got pretty banged up, pretty bruised up but I worked with the… I guess, world champion kick boxers from Liverpool, these two really cool girls and they taught me a lot. There was a lot of cheating, making it, selling it, making it look better than it is and now I want to go home and continue with the fight training because it was pretty cool. It was really empowering.
Q. Do you think you are going to do some action movies next?
Chloë Sevigny: Who knows? You never know. Maybe this will open a whole new world for me for my career.
Q. Whilst we are talking about your career, you’ve never shied away from people with difficult lives, you like to play these characters. What draws you to these characters?
Chloë Sevigny: I don’t know, I don’t think all my characters have been….
Q. No, but you’re certainly not afraid of it…
Chloë Sevigny: Well, I think just because the controversial films I’ve done always stand out; they just seem to have got more attention. Yeah, I don’t know… it’s just a case by case basis, you know this was just six hours of television to play this incredible role; she goes through a total transformation on screen. In the beginning she’s been totally isolated, she’s almost autistic, she doesn’t know how to communicate with other people, she is just so cut off from the world.
She does her hits and she goes back to her apartment. She leads this really lonely existence and then she inherits this family and she blossoms through them and opens up and learns how to love and meets a man. She just finds happiness and joy in her life where before there was only pain and this wallowing and hiding from everything and you know it was just a great part. It’s a great journey to see her go through on screen, and in the end you see that as much joy as the family brings her she really only brings pain upon them as she brings her business into the family and there are a lot of repercussions because of that.
Q. Where’s Mia from?
Chloë Sevigny: Mia grew up in a travelling community which is mostly Irish descent, even though they travel all over England and the UK. They have very strong accents because she escaped from there when she was around 15 or 16, and she’s tried to lose it so we decided to do a soft southern Irish accent, also because the whole cast is doing northern England and if I was to do it next to them I would totally sound ridiculous. We built this whole story of where she came from and doing this soft Irish and because the soft Irish is closer to America, I guess it is easier to do.
I’m terrible at accents first of all and I’m really scared about the criticism that’s going to come out after this. I’ve only done one on stage, one on film but I didn’t really have training, anyway, I don’t really have the ear for it, so I said whatever you think will be easiest for me. Find someone and I’ll talk to her, and whatever you think I can do convincing. So, I worked really hard with this voice coach, Sandra, who was amazing… not only did she help a lot with accent but she also talked a lot about where the character was from and the motivation of the lines.
There’s all these amazing things like the key words, that she would be really comfortable saying, so we are in the film business so any jargon about film, we say them really strong because we are really confident with these words, like ‘Mia’, ‘gun’, ‘kill’, certain words she would really own. There are all these amazing tricks that she taught me, that really opened up a whole new thing for me.
We met like once a week or more, we went through the script over and over again, which was really good because then I became very confident with the dialogue even though Mia doesn’t talk very much at the beginning, as I said before, because she is so shy and cut off. But there are the larger chunks that we just drilled, drilled, drilled and she would send me e-mails with the dialogue every day that I would just listen to in my trailer over and over again.
Q. So Manchester, you’ve been here almost half a year now…
Chloë Sevigny: Manchester is pretty miserable I have to say. I’m sorry crew if you are around, but it rains! I guess we are in some sort of valley, and their big export was cotton. It was a big industry here because of all the moisture and it just rains here. I mean it rains almost every day since I got here in June… five months ago. You realise why all that great music came out of here in the late ’70s and ’80s, well throughout, but you can feel that old industrial vibe from the city. There’s a lot of students, there’s a lot of cute places to go, there’s lots to see, but I don’t think I’ll be moving to Manchester anytime.
Q. Does it help you get into character quickly?
Chloë Sevigny: I guess so because Hit & Miss takes place in an… it’s meant to be an anonymous Northern town, so I guess being in the North, yeah I think that helps. I’m happy that we are up here and isolated in this world. If we were down shooting in London or somewhere there would be more people around, lots more distractions. It’s been good to be up here and the city and the size, you can just get it, and it’s easy to walk around. I think it’s been good for the project.
How do you think people are going to respond to Mia?
Chloë Sevigny: I think the transgender issue is a big issue right now, even within the gay and lesbian transgender community. I think transgender people are still really misunderstood. I think there is so much about gay and lesbian culture in the media now. In television and films you see so much but you don’t hear as much about transgender people and what they go through, their struggles, and I hope it brings a little bit more tolerance to them. I think they have a hard battle, they are really misunderstood in a lot of ways, it’s a real struggle for them. I hope people can watch it and have a little more sympathy or understanding.
Q. From reading the scripts it seems that with all the things she struggles with that might not be her most dominate problem..
Chloë Sevigny: No, no , no I mean she is a sociopath. There are bigger issues, obviously, with her than just her gender. What’s so great about the character is there is so much going on from her family history, and what she does for a living. She’s completely autistic and sociopathic. She’s a killer… she kills someone and then gets in a car and says: “Do you want to go and get some chips?” She doesn’t process things. It’s really interesting.
Hit & Miss is released on DVD on Monday, July 2, 2012.