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Felicity Huffman found her ‘American Crime’ character through research — and Spanx

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“American Crime’s” Felicity Huffman talks about how she wanted to distinguish her characters — “cleanse” the palate of past roles — and how Spanx played a role.

Felicity Huffman returned for Season 2 of “American Crime,” the often gritty limited series from John Ridley, as part of what has become the show’s repertory company. And while her new character in the show, Leslie Graham, is substantially different in personality from Season 1’s Barb Hanlon, Huffman wanted a distinct change in their physical appearances too.

“What I tried to do with both seasons of ‘American Crime’ was give the audience the opportunity to cleanse their palate from the character I had before – whether it was Lynette in ‘Desperate Housewives’ or Barb,” she said in a visit to the Envelope’s video studio for an Emmy Contenders chat. “I also didn’t want to blend Barb and Leslie Graham,” she adds, so whereas Barb just wanted to go unnoticed, Leslie, the ambitious, driven headmistress of an elite high school, had to be more charismatic and engaging – and shapely. And for that, Huffman says, she must thank Spanx.

VIDEO: Exclusive interviews with TV stars from your favorite shows

The story has Leslie in confrontation with a mother (Lili Taylor) accusing members of the basketball team of raping her son during a drunken party. Playing Leslie, the actress said, was a bit of a revelation.

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“I’ll tell you what surprised me in playing the role,” Huffman says. “I really feel like Leslie Graham was really looking out for the common good, and everyone took a position on her — not just the other characters in conflict, but others, even the costumer. We’d be trying on stuff and she’d say, ‘Oh, Leslie Graham, she was such a bitch.’ And I’d say… ‘Hang on, I’ve got to play this character, so just a second.’

“I don’t know if it was because it was a woman in power, but instinctively, people didn’t trust her. I wonder if it’s when you combine a woman with a great deal of power, and for some reason, it becomes like shifting sand people — they don’t trust them. I wonder if that is being reflected now in politics and the elections that are going on.”

Huffman also talked at length about the duality of her Season 1 and Season 2 characters, the vibe on set and how “politician” doesn’t have to be a dirty word. See what she had to say in the video below:

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Felicity Huffman talks about her roles on the TV show “American Crime.”

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greg.braxton@latimes.com


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