You’ve found great success on the small screen in the past decade with “Friday Night Lights,” “American Horror Story” and now “Nashville." Is TV where the better parts are for women over 30?
I’ve gotten really lucky, that’s for sure. I’ve gotten really lucky in television, but, to use “Friday Night Lights” as an example: I did the movie for “Friday Night Lights,” and that role that I played ended up on the cutting room floor. That was not a great opportunity to play a very strong, female character. Peter Berg wanted to use the television medium to give the women in that town, the women of “Friday Night Lights,” a voice because he really wasn’t able to in the movie. I think that’s a really great example of how, in television, there really is room to create these complex female characters.
It’s so exciting because, growing up, I watched a lot of TV, and there really weren’t characters like that for women. There were a few exceptions – and, actually, I watched a lot of comedy, so I was a big “I Love Lucy” fan and “Mary Tyler Moore” fan; in my recollection, those were the most powerful women on television. They were playing from a very comedic point of view.
I do think there is an incredible opportunity for women in television, and, because of what’s happening in TV, there’s room to push boundaries and limits, and to keep doing it. I think we can still go further, as women, and it’s a great opportunity to do that on TV.
You’ve pushed yourself in a big way just by taking on “Nashville.” How intimidated were you when you were first offered the part?
Extremely. It’s funny, I think a lot of the reason I did the role was that I tend to have a lot of good luck taking on things that scare the shit out of me – including “Friday Night Lights,” which I was terrified to do and thought I was ruining my life, because I really thought I was going to end up playing this thankless wife character. Even “American Horror Story” scared me, for a lot of different reasons. Not just because it’s scary, but because I didn’t know what that role was going to be like to play, and I didn’t know what I was going to be asked to do. I think there was something about how terrifying the idea of trying to put together a singing voice and a character who was this country star -- there was something exciting to me about that. T-Bone and I have laughed many times about that. He always says, “You’re just so courageous. You chose to take this risk in front of 10 million people.” Yeah, maybe not my smartest move in the world, but it’s been really rewarding.
How has your fan base grown or changed since "Nashville" first started airing?
That’s always something that’s hard for me to assess because I’m not on Twitter, I’m not a person who counts fans. There does seem to be a strong awareness of this show and a real appreciation for it, which is great. With everything I do, I think the bar is really high, and I want to try to get a strong female voice out there, no matter what the context is. I think “Friday Night Lights,” “American Horror Story,” and now “Nashville” – the context has been very different in all three of them, but my hope is that all the characters will make an impact in some way, and I feel like the fans and audiences appreciate it.
Going back to “American Horror Story": do you know if your character, or you -- in any way, shape or form -- are going to be brought back to the show, like so many others have this season?
I believe, yes. I know for sure that I’d love to go back, and Ryan [Murphy] and I have talked about it. It’s really just about ever finding the time. I would very much love to go back, it would be so much fun.
Ryan seems like the type of guy who'd be open to ideas. Would you be open to calling him up to tell him a story arc you want to explore?
I could do that, but honestly, the folly of calling up Ryan Murphy and telling him some great story idea that I came up with -- you go into the mind of Ryan Murphy, and you see whatever story he has in store for you, it’s going to be so many thousand times better. I would pick up the phone and just say, “Ryan. What are you going to do?” And then wait to see, because that would be a blast.
Would you do anything?
Pretty much. I sort of feel like I’ve already done everything – it would be actually really fun to play a more outwardly dark character next time around. Even in our first season, I kept saying to Ryan, “I just want to go crazy. I just really want to go crazy.” So maybe, with any luck, I’ll play somebody who is just completely off of her rocker.