Lili Taylor previews the all new season of ABCs AMERICAN CRIME
AMERICAN CRIME premieres Wednesday night on ABC and with it, brings a story of a mother trying to get justice for her child after he is assaulted and humiliated by basketball players from an elite local private school. The cast returning for Season 2 in widely varying new roles includes Felicity Huffman, Timothy Hutton, and Emmy winner Regina King. Also coming back for another round this year in the incredible series regular role of Anne Blaine is MToT favorite, Lili Taylor.
I had the chance to speak with Lili about how AMERICAN CRIME is much like a theatrical repertory company, and why working with the same cast and crew on new and different stories is like a work of art! Check it out!
Congrats on the success of the show – I’m so happy every time I hear it’s been nominated for something else!
Oh good, yes, I know, me too! Me, too!
One of the big things I wondered, these anthology series where stories are changing season to season, seem to becoming back into popularity – what do you think it is about AMERICAN CRIME that it’s standing out and people are gravitating towards it?
I think one thing is that it’s a network show, and I think that, I think ABC is the first network to really take a big risk like this, and it’s paying off, which is excellent, because it lets others know that people want complex drama. You know, or complex material, right? And they want good story, right? That’s clear. And I think that’s one reason why it’s standing out. I think, even if it was on cable, I think it would stand out because I think that John Ridley is, um, genius is such an overrated word, I’m trying to say he’s amazing. He just is. It’s John, it’s because of John. It’s because of his vision. He’s able to find people to help him execute that vision and that’s why I think it’s such a great show, too, because of John.
I feel like the cast is really ready to dive in. No one is afraid to get a little gritty, not everything is tied up with a bow. It seems so realistic which is part of the reason I was so taken with it.
I mean, I don’t think, in fact, if John sees the makeup artist putting make up on you, he says to the makeup artist, he does like the “cutting under the chin” thing, like STOP! [laughs] No more! I don’t think he would invite anybody on the show that wasn’t down for the rough stuff, you know? He doesn’t want anything prettified. Sometimes, to the point where I’m like, I think she might wear some eye shadow, please. I really do! It’s not going to take away from her at all if she has eye shadow on [laughs]. He needs to know that you’re going to throw down emotionally and physically. There was no loose cog. Everyone who is there is supposed to be there.
Talking about coming from Season 1, now a regular in Season 2 – what are the differences we’ll see between last year’s character and Anne Blaine from this season?
It’s very emotional. The relationship is very complicated between her and her son. It’s very deep. It’s beautifully explored. The child/parent dynamic, the single parent dynamic and then a crisis. A human being in a crisis. So there’s a lot to explore there.
Talk a little bit about working with Connor Jessup – he’s one of those up and comer actors that you know is going to shine. What was that dynamic like, working with him?
I love Connor and we got along really well. The feeling was mutual. We knew that we were very lucky that we got along so well and never took it for granted. We’re very grateful for that. Just loved working with each other. I love him, yeah!
What can you tease about this story this time around – there have been blurbs and sneak previews out there, but how are you describing what we can expect?
Season 2 is about relationships and people coming towards each other. Whereas last season was sort of more moving away from each other and the alienation and this year it’s kind of crises forcing people together and having to maybe see the other person how they didn’t before. To listen in a new way; I think everybody is really thrown. All of the characters are really thrown this season. Everybody is. And everybody is faced with something and has to step up.
What was the crew situation like this season – same team from last year, much the team in front of the camera?
So you get to get comfortable with the team and still play someone new – not a lot of people get the chance to do that these days.
They don’t! It works well. Repertory companies, they work very well in theater, and have for years. They’re a great way to work. There’s a reason for it because there’s history formed from long term relationships, and you can’t deny it. All of that stuff adds up, just like a painting that’s been worked on for a while. It has stuff on it that just, you’re picking up on, even though consciously you may not know, but unconsciously, it’s all there, it’s richer!
Are people asking you “why should I be watching this show?” Have you heard from fans – how are they responding?
The fan reaction seems to be, “it’s hard, but thank you for putting this on TV.” “Thank you for showing me this stuff that I’m seeing anyway.” In Ferguson, in the media, in the world around me. I’m seeing human beings like me walk through it. I think it’s a diverse show. I’m having people of different colors, creeds, saying thank you for representing. Not me personally, because I’m white, but an Hispanic man was like “that meant a lot to me; I loved the show for that.” That alone is just a lot.
The great thing about the show is that diversity in the cast serves a purpose, but it doesn’t just do “diversity for diversity’s sake.” It’s important to the story and it feels like the world around us.
Exactly!! I agree.
When you’re looking for roles like this – you speak about John and how this was his vision – but was there something specific that you look for that made you want to join this “repertory company?”
I think a lot of it does have to do with the writing. The most important thing is the director, and that’s John. The overall director, and then it’s the writing. That writers’ room, I know that writers’ room is great. I know they feel loved by John. I know John totally respects them. There’s a lot of care and thought and emotion in that room. You can feel it on the page. And yes, if there’s something that doesn’t work, you can talk to them. It’s a total collaboration, which is very important to me.
I’d imagine you have to be comfortable to say “hey my character might not actually say this” for the relationship and the anthology to work.
Absolutely! And John, he leaves himself very open. Says “you can email me, call me anytime” if he’s not there. Let him know and we’ll talk about it, and we’ll fix it.
One last question – what are you watching when you have time to sit and binge or make it through some backed up DVR?
I love FRONTLINE. I was just watching MASTER OF NONE, which I loved!! I loved that. Those are two of the things that come to mind!
AMERICAN CRIME season 2 premieres Wednesday, 1/6, at 10/9c on ABC. For more on the show, head to ABC.com!