What is the best book that has been made into a great movie?
My first best book was made into a great movie – “Tess”, based on Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the d’Urbervilles”. Nastassja Kinski is sublime as Tess; and my mother, who could be very critical of me but secretly adored me, noticed how I looked like her, so that was an added attraction. I then cried at the end and was furious at the injustice of the patriarchal world that contributed to her tragic failure. She was convicted. And clean. And finally a killer. I loved her. I loved the movie when I saw it on our little television, up close. My mom and I had already seen it in the theater and bought Jujubes with a break. I see a blood-soaked ceiling in my mind. And Tess lies as a victim at Stonehenge.
Which book would you most like to see turned into a movie or TV show that has not already been adapted?
Of course, mine, “Mean Baby.” I’m 50 years with her.
Of all the characters you have played across different media, which one felt to you the richest – the most novelistic?
Both my trips with Todd Solondz. His writing is so pure, to the letter, rich and sparse. A sentence tells a whole story.
The most immersive and by far the richest experience was “Gruesome Playground Injuries,” by Rajiv Joseph. It was a two-hander I made with Brad Fleischer at the Alley Theater in Houston a few years before my son was born. We are in Samuel French as the original actors, which feels like something. And it was an astonishingly heartbreaking and darkly funny production directed by Rebecca Taichman. Before and during the run in an overwhelmingly hot and sticky Houston, Rajiv, Brad and I stood in the pool of our apartment complex, driving the piece from start to finish every day. Getting involved in this play was a huge task and really transformative. Imagine running lines to your favorite game, all of which reflect your own life, like a mantra while wading in a pool day after day. It was a revelation and utterly frightening to live what felt like my own life from elementary school to femininity. Each performance and rehearse a novel with quiet disturbing hope in connection.
Which character from the literature would you most like to play?
Aunt Mame seems like a nice departure to me.
Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?
The Bible. Preferably the Old Testament. One does not just pull a bible forward anywhere now… guilty and pleasure.
What is the last book you read that made you laugh?
Melissa Rivers book about her mother, Joan Rivers. It was so very good that I gave it to my own mother, a few years before my mother died. I think it was the last book that made her laugh out loud. It was excellent, we both completely agreed. I have to read it again. Oh, drag, my mother still has my copy.
The last book you read that made you cry?
I cried by reading Molly Shannon’s new book as she describes the last moments of the tragic car accident that took her mother and sister. Her mother’s last word was to ask for her girls. It just broke my heart.
The last book you read that made you furious?
Joyful Clemantine Wamariya’s “The Girl Who Smiled Beads” (written by Elizabeth Weil). Wamariya writes so purely about his incredible escape from the Rwandan genocide and his journey to the United States. The author’s strength and resilience are so beautifully explored. I felt helpless rage over the injustice and cruelty, but also comforted by the author’s presence. Reading Elie Wiesel’s “Night” and Harriet E. Wilson’s “Our Nig: Or, Sketches From the Life of a Free Black” as a 14-year-old were cousin experiences in reading.