Being Smart Jean
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Article taken from Channel 4.

Firstly tell us a little bit about you character, Floyd. How would you sum her up?

She’s a tough cookie. There’s nothing much that can scare her. She’s been through so much and worked so hard from when she was a little girl. She and her husband, Otto, were a great team; they both were driven, very hard workers and they were survivors. She’s not really sentimental but she’s had a lot of personal pain too. The bottom line is she is a mother and she’s lost children and she’s continuing to lose children. She’s just fascinating to me. I didn’t want to ask Noah why he named her Floyd, I wanted to come up with my own theory. I thought this was probably a girl who grew up working with her hands in the dirt from the time she was 4, working hard and finding herself in difficult situations. Maybe her father was determined to have a boy and so he raised her a little like a boy. Myself, before my brothers were born my dad taught me how to use tools and throw a baseball and I loved it! I’m sure Floyd’s father taught her everything she needed to survive; how to use weapons and tools and guns and everything and then she met a very tough and ambitious man and they raised some psychotic children!

What was it that attracted you to the role?

Well obviously the show has been very successful, and it has great writing and I came from theatre and bottom line is if you don’t have good words to say it’s not very much fun. I can’t say enough good things about Noah he continues to astonish me and I always looked forward to every episode and what he was going to come up with. I think he had fun with Floyd. Before we started we had talked very briefly on the phone about Floyd. One night he sent me an email ( I’d had a couple of glasses of wine) and he said “what do you think of Floyd smoking a pipe?” And I said “yeah, sure!!” And the next day I thought, “oh god why did I say yes!?” but it really works!

Had you watched either the film or the series before filming began on the show?

I had seen the movie and some of the series (and I’ve subsequently seen it all), and with this it was important to absorb those things because there is such a distinct style to the film and the show its hard to describe to people. Its very dark and violent but at the same time there’s something kind of absurd about it, it gives you permission to laugh at really horrible things! I compare the series to a Greek tragedy – it has those traumatic high stakes.

You’ve had an amazing career and you’ve played a huge range of characters – do you enjoy playing characters that have that darker edge like Floyd or the opposite?

I think sometimes its more interesting to play someone with darkness. I think darkness and anger and things like that are powerful tools. But after playing Floyd I would love to play someone who was a little angelic! But I have played a lot of the great people in literature – the Scottish queen and roles like that, so in some ways its easier to cast me in those darker roles. But I’m glad I’ve never been typecast – I’m sure my career would have been much further along if I could be easily type cast but I’m not and I’m grateful for it.

I imagine that range makes the job more rewarding?

Yes, for example the role of Martha, who I played in 24, was very vulnerable and at the mercy of men and her own emotional and psychological issues, but she emerged as a heroine, though but she was a rather fragile person for most of it. That was great fun!

Did you model Floyd on anyone, either fictional or real, or is she very much your own creation?

I give most of the credit of her creation to Noah, but I can’t think of anyone else that I modelled her after. My hat goes off to the amazing hair and make up people they had on the show cause they really helped me come up with a physical look for her. Actors don’t often talk about how helpful that is – actors always like to talk about from working from the inside out – but there’s a great deal to be said about doing the opposite too. If you are playing Richard the Third and your walking around with a physicality you’ll start thinking and feeling a different way about what you are going through, for example. Just having my hair changed like that – when they first did it I cried! That brown mousey poodle cut! I wanted her to do it though. And then we came up with some other stuff and you suddenly look in the mirror and say “ah, there she is! There’s Floyd! Hi Floyd!” It makes everything make sense – it starts to roll from there!

Was it quite fun as well to be transported back to 1979?

Yes! It’s always fun to do any kind of period piece, even something as recent as 1979. I had a wonderful time on this. Only making 10 episodes was excruciating though – like eating one potato chip! Everything about it (other than the commuting from LA) was pure joy! Although it did get cold!

Female crime bosses are a rarity, and even rarer back in the 70s. Was playing such a strong character that surprises a lot of people particularly appealing?

Oh sure! I think Noah wanted to touch on that – the series is when the women’s movement was really coming into its full bloom and I even have a speech to my granddaughter at one point where I tell her that this is our time! I don’t think Ffloyd hesitates in thinking that she wouldn’t be capable of taking over the family business for her husband. She knows at least one of her sons isn’t going to like it but I don’t think she thinks for one moment that she isn’t capable, especially from the way she’s been brought up and lives her life. She does recognise the happenings in the world and she sees her granddaughter being led down the wrong path so she wants to shake her a little bit and teach her self-respect and strength.

What can audiences expect from Floyd as the series progresses?

Oh boy! Well I think that audiences are going to be amused and hopefully really delighted with the progression of her character. There’s so much more to her than comes across on the surface. She’s a little more complicated and slyer than we think. And the series in general just gets wilder and wilder and wilder! You are not going to believe how it ends up! No one will be able to predict how it ends up!