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Felicity Huffman: Hardest-working ‘lazy’ actor in town

Luaine Lee
Tribune News Service

Pasadena, California

Actress Felicity Huffman claims she’s lazy. The star of “Desperate Housewives,” “Sports Night” and “Transamerica” says that because she is lazy, she tries harder.

“I always feel that uncomfortable going into a role. The way I compensate for it is I work really hard. I try and make up in hard work what I might lack in natural talent,” she says, seated in a frieze side-chair in a hotel here.

“And that’s not natural to me. I’m naturally lazy, but I just work really hard, and whenever I look at it I go, ‘Is there anything I can do today? Have I left anything undone?’ ”

When it comes to acting, rarely has Huffman left anything undone. A prime example is her latest role as the relentless mother seeking the killer of one of her sons in ABC’s vivid drama “American Crime,” premiering March 5.

She plays the ex-wife of Timothy Hutton, and there’s not a moment that you doubt this couple have suffered the barbs of marital exigencies for years.

Huffman herself is happily married to actor William H. Macy (“Shameless”). But she didn’t go willingly. The two dated for 15 years before they finally wed.

“I was so scared of marriage that I thought I would’ve preferred to step in front of a bus,” she says.

“Bill Macy asked me to marry him several times over several years. And I was finally smart enough to go: ‘I’m going to marry this guy or really lose him for good.’ And it was after we broke up for four or five years when he asked me again, I knew I couldn’t say no. It was the work I had to do in order to bring myself to the marriage and then the work that I did to be able to trust another person and see what comes out of that comfort and that safety. I was able to blossom out of that.”

She says she was fearful that she would lose her identity.

“I thought I’d disappear. Men’s stock when they get married goes up. Women’s stock goes down. Another thing, 60 percent of first marriages fail, 80 percent of second marriages fail,” she says.

“And if we applied that statistic to anything else like the post office or the military, we’d go, ‘This isn’t working.’ Whereas with marriage we just go, ‘See you all,’ like that (she waves her hand in the air). And I thought I would lose myself.”

But it was before their marriage that Huffman really suffered a setback.

“I went through a very, very dark three years, and that deep despair and depression changed me,” she says. “It was kind of the crucible, from 28 to 31. That dark time changed me I think for the better.”

She was able to recover “through the love of my family, through therapy. I came out of it. It was that kind of depression where I just wished I was dead, that kind of relentless — I just wished I was dead.”

In spite of her acting success, she says to this day she still considers quitting.

“As an actor your last job is always your LAST job. And I’ve gone years without working, and there’s always that thing like, ‘Would you get serious? Would you stop this silly hobby that you have and get a real job? You’re done.’ I’ve wanted to quit quite a few times.”

She didn’t, she says, because “One, I can’t do anything else, so my options are limited ... I was in L.A. many years ago. I’d come from New York. I had a good theater career in New York, people knew me. I was getting play after play, and I couldn’t get arrested in this town. So I finally drove up to the Marinello School of Beauty and I went in and got an application because I wanted to be a beautician. I got back in my car, and my phone rang. It was my agent going, ‘You have an audition.’ It was always just as I’m about to go, ‘That is IT!’ something pulls me back in.”

She says if she could change herself, she’d be less fearful.

“I wake up afraid. Everything is triage to me, I have to get the kids’ breakfast. I have to get everything done. I guess I would string it together to say I feel like I’m a lazy girl. I feel bad about being a lazy girl. I want to be a perfect girl, so I drive myself to do it.”

‘American Crime’

Premiering March 5

ABC (Channel 7)