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'American Crime' always tackles difficult issues, but this time Lili Taylor plays a villain

Lili Taylor from the show "American Crime" discusses a tense scene with costar Timothy Hutton with The Times' Greg Braxton.

For an actor to get a recurring TV gig from season to season and still be able to change characters and stories, well, that sounds like a dream job, right? And don't get Lili Taylor wrong, she is delighted to work with showrunner John Ridley on the limited series "American Crime" from season to season.

But this time out, her third, she really goes to some dark places. As Claire Coates, she hires a nanny to care for her son, brushes up on her French (which she had to learn to speak for the role) and the child gets exposed to the language along the way. Should be ideal. But as anyone who has ever watched the show knows, "American Crime" doesn't deal with the good life; it deals with the dark underbelly that often goes on unseen around us. This season that means modern-day slavery.

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Taylor stopped by The Times' video studio recently to talk to television reporter Greg Braxton about how Claire is not part of a human trafficking enterprise but rather fell into this world without consciously planning to keep and hold Gabrielle as a caregiver in her home. Because there were no documented cases of wealthy white slave holders in America, Taylor had to turn toward a psychological reason Claire might do what she does. "I'd rather do that than an 'issue' any day," the actress says.

Together she and Ridley created a background for Claire. "She witnessed abuse in her family, so she was acting out some things she saw her mother go through," Taylor says in explaining the severe damage and abuse Claire inflicts on Gabrielle. "She's someone who's very dissociated and that was uncomfortable and difficult to be in there."

To make Claire's world even more troubling, she and her husband, played by Timothy Hutton, are in the throes of a toxic breakdown of their marriage. Playing scene after vitriolic scene took its toll on the actors. By the final episode, the intensity had bled into the actors' real relationship. To see what happened, click on the video above.

To see the full interview, watch the video below.

Lili Taylor speaks with The Times' Greg Braxton about developing the most difficult of her "American Crime" characters so far -- and what she didn't know Clair was doing.
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