‘Lizzie Borden Chronicles’ Exclusive: Clea DuVall on Christina Ricci and Corsets

Clea DuVall Interview - The Lizzie Borden Chronicles
Christina Ricci (“Lizzie Borden”) and Clea DuVall (“Emma Borden”) in ‘The Lizzie Borden Chronicles’ (Photo by Chris Reardon

You wouldn’t think there would be a sequel to the Lizzie Borden movie, let alone a series of weekly Lizzie Borden adventures. But after the success of the Lifetime movie Lizzie Borden Took an Axe, the network decided to tell the continuing story of the Borden sisters. Christina Ricci returns as Lizzie, acquitted of axe murder, and Clea DuVall returns as her sister Emma.

After the Television Critics Association panel on the series, we got to talk with DuVall about returning to the role of Emma Borden. We also discussed some of her classic movies, from the ‘90s Girl, Interrupted to the Oscar winner two years ago, Argo. The Lizzie Borden Chronicles premieres April 5, 2015 at 10pm ET/PT on Lifetime.

Did you ever think you were going to play Emma Borden again?

Clea DuVall: “No, I didn’t. No, I didn’t at all. It was a real surprise.”

Have you read up on the further history of the Bordens?

Clea DuVall: “Not a ton. I did a little bit when we did the movie, but because this show is completely fictionalized, it really feels like we’re playing new characters. The historical accuracy is not as important in the show.”

How important was it in Lizzie Borden Took an Axe?

Clea DuVall: “First of all, I didn’t really know that much about it. I thought she had killed so many more people, not that two is not a lot of people. I didn’t know she had a sister. I just really didn’t know anything about her as a person or theories on why she did it or all that stuff. So that was really interesting. It was important to help have an opinion, have an idea of whether she was innocent or not. To help form that relationship and the opinion.”

How much information is there about Emma Borden in comparison to the real characters you played in Girl, Interrupted and Argo?

Clea DuVall: “There’s not that much about her. In Girl, Interrupted I didn’t speak to that person. In Argo I was able to talk to the real woman because she was involved, and a lot of the hostages were involved in the process of the film, in pre-production. I think with Emma Borden, a lot of it I just based on my relationship with Christina. We had known each other for a really long time. I have a great deal of respect for her and I think just bringing some of my own real feelings onto screen was probably the most helpful in creating that character.”

How close are Emma and Lizzie as sisters in the series?

Clea DuVall: “Very close. They’re like inseparable.”

They have some serious debts. How much stress does that put on their relationship?

Clea DuVall: “I think they definitely, in conflict, they come together. I think that stress brings them together.”

Are Lizzie and Emma their greatest allies?

Clea DuVall: “Yeah, definitely. I don’t know that Lizzie is Emma’s greatest ally, but Emma is definitely Lizzie’s greatest ally.”

How far into Emma and Lizzie’s future do these eight episodes go?

Clea DuVall: “I don’t know time-wise how long it is. It sets up a lot of where we would go if it continued and I think it leaves it off in a really interesting place.”

Would you want to do season two?

Clea DuVall: “Yeah, yeah, I would.”

Had you done many period pieces before Lizzie Borden?

Clea DuVall: “I’ve never done this period. I’ve done, weirdly, mostly period films or shows.”

I guess Argo is period. I don’t always think of ‘80s as period, but it is now.

Clea DuVall: “Yeah, I’ve never done this far back. I’ve done a lot of ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s but never 1800s which was really fun.”

Do you have any of the same costumes from Lizzie Borden Took an Axe?

Clea DuVall: “No, we had a completely new costume designer who made, I would say, 85% of our clothes from scratch. He was really incredible. It was really fun to get to a new episode because we knew that he would have more clothes for us.”

Is this an uncomfortable era, clothing-wise?

Clea DuVall: “I mean, the corset is not the most comfortable clothing item I’ve ever worn but it really helps get you in character. It helps me because I have the worst posture and I can be a little bit lazy in my speech and mannerisms. It definitely forces you to be a little more proper.”

Was this show a big reunion for the cast of the TV movie?

Clea DuVall: “I’m trying to think how many people were actually there for the film. It was just Christina and I in terms of the cast. A lot of our crew was the same.”

Has it been special to you to be in some of the seminal films of the ‘90s like Girl, Interrupted, Can’t Hardly Wait and even The Faculty?

Clea DuVall: “Yeah, yeah. I think especially movies like Girl, Interrupted and The Faculty. The Faculty weirdly, it means so much to so many people in this way that it’s always what people are most excited to talk to me about. I just think the ‘90s was such a special time for film. I feel really grateful that I was able to be a part of that.”

What do people ask you about The Faculty?

Clea DuVall: “People don’t really have any questions about it. I think it’s more that they just really loved it. For some reason, it’s a movie that people really gravitated towards.”

Was doing The Newsroom a special experience for you?

Clea DuVall: “It really was. I was so terrified because Aaron Sorkin is so incredible and being able to say his words is such an honor, but you really have to know it. I think it feels like being an athlete almost working on his material. Everybody was so nice and made me feel so welcome. Emily Mortimer is so talented. It was a really nice party to be asked to.”

When you did your episode, did you know what her fate was going to be off camera?

Clea DuVall: “I can’t remember. I think so because I did two and I don’t remember when I knew. I knew it was only going to be two.”

Clea DuVall: “They never talked about filming the suicide scene?”

Clea DuVall: “No, no, that was never a thing.”

– By Fred Topel

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