Interview: Patricia Clarkson



Greeted by the requisite fanfare of a brass band and second line, actress Patricia Clarkson arrived at the Windsor Court Hotel to begin her duties as the Krewe of Muses' honorary "EveryMuse" for tomorrow's parade. Besides women from the krewe, the New Orleans native's mother, City Council president Jackie Clarkson, was there to say hi to her youngest daughter. Gambit briefly caught up with the Oscar-nominated actress, who's been in everything from smaller independent films (Pieces of April) to blockbuster comedies (Easy A) to a web series (she's adorably wine drunk in an episode of Mike O'Brien's 7 Minutes in Heaven).

Since you're in Muses, who are your muses? Who are the women who inspire you?
I have to say first and foremost my mother, my sisters, my grandmothers. Also, the remarkable teachers I’ve had through my live have shaped me. And then I have, in this business, the women I look up to and the women I’ve gotten to know — and they can be anyone from an actress, to a producer, to a writer. It’s a lot, but it does begin with my family.

You rode in Orpheus once. Did you gain any practical parade riding wisdom you'll use this year?
Yes. I see it starting to rain. We want it to rain now, clear before tonight’s parade, and then not come back ever again till Wednesday. ... You have to preserve the bead arm. You have to stay very hydrated. You have to have a warm coat. I have a very fancy dress I’m wearing atop the shoe — with long black gloves, very glamourous — but I’ll be putting a coat on occasionally, unless it stays 70 degrees.

What do your friends and colleagues who have never been to New Orleans think about you doing this? Do they understand the significance?
I try to explain to them, and I brought one of my dearest girlfriends down with me, and … I think she kind of got a taste of it when the police escort picked us up at the airport and this jazz band greeted us as we got out of the car, I think she gets the sense … this is a real honor. It’s one of the biggest moments of my life to lead this parade through this great city. And I’ve had some big nights in my life, and this is right up there.

What’s on your must-do list every time you come back to the city?
I just always have to have a meal, like a real meal somewhere … I wanna go in the French Quarter, I miss going in the French Quarter. If I’m not staying home I stay in the Windsor — it's my home away from home. I have my little patterns. I love to walk around Audubon park. And I love to take the trolley; I’m going to take it on Friday.

Are there any Carnival traditions you look forward to?
What I love most is those high school bands. Those bands are so good, and they play such stunning marches and music. And when the trumpet section is going, and all the girls are with their flags — I was a Chargerette (at O. Perry Walker Senior High School) — they move me. That’s what I look forward to.

I saw that your mother stopped by. How often do you two talk?
We talk often (laughs). But we’re both very busy, so we don’t talk every day — oh no, no, no. We’re way too exhausted. And we talk very late, always. It’s always 11’o clock, either New York or New Orleans time. Always.

The krewe picked you as the EveryMuse ("Oh my," Clarkson says) meaning you embody the qualities of all the muses. This is the first time they’ve done that. How does that make you feel?
I feel under-qualified, but I’ll take it. It’s beautiful. I’m a little overwhelmed, and it’s very emotional for me to be here and do this. There’s nothing like it, and it’s just something I know I’ll never forget.

What are you working on right now?
I just finished shooting a movie in Shreveport, in December. I might do a job before then, but come May, I’m going to be doing a very beautiful small film with Gabriel Byrne. Rough life (laughs).

I overheard you talking about how a lot of people in the film industry you’ve talked to want to come here to work and live.
The city is on fire … it used to be a vacation destination, but now it’s the shooting destination — people want to shoot here. And if I could wave a magic wand, I’d have it in my contract that I can only shoot a movie in New Orleans.

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