A seven-time Emmy nominee winning most recently in 2014 for her turn in American Horror Story, Oscar-winning thesp Jessica Lange secured her eighth nomination today for her turn as aging Hollywood starlet Joan Crawford in Feud: Bette and Joan, another Ryan Murphy production full of smartly drawn female characters.
Breathing life into the old Hollywood landscape alongside fellow nominee Susan Sarandon, Lange found satisfaction in the project on a number of levels. “The part was so huge and so complete, there was never a time where I felt, ‘Oh god, there’s nothing to explore here,’” Lange explains. “It was just so beautifully written and directed. There was so much to do, all the time.”
Feeling a certain weight of responsibility whenever she portrays real-life figures, Lange felt a particular responsibility to Crawford, who became somewhat of a tragic figure toward the end of her life.
“I think there was a lot of times in her life where she didn’t get really a fair shake, especially after she had died. It’s sad that she wasn’t ever given an opportunity to defend herself, or present her point of view,” she says. “I hope we did some justice to her story, and treated her with great respect I think that she was due.”
The first installment of Feud has a lot to say about the status and representation of women in Hollywood then and now, and as a venerable performer with decades of work behind her, Lange has a unique perspective on the ways in which the industry has evolved to lend new opportunity—or not.
“I think what’s happened is that television has become the better medium for women, across the board of all ages,” she says. “I just think the opportunity in television, especially with this kind of limited series that Ryan created, is giving actresses who might not have that same quality of part in films anymore…I think it’s now in television.”
“When you look at our nominations—the six of us were nominated—it’s just extraordinary,” Lange continues. “I think the caliber of this kind of TV has stepped into this void that film no longer provides.”
FX’s Feud: Bette and Joan tied with Netflix’s Stranger Things for the second-most nominations with 18.