Elizabeth Perkins is no stranger to Hollywood. The actress is best known for starring in Weeds as Celia, and in films like Big and Miracle on 34th Street. But in The Afterparty, she flexes a new muscle as Isabel, mother of the murdered groom—who may be responsible for his death. Each episode of the season is told in a different genre, and Isabel's tale is through the lens of a Hitchcockian thriller.
She is the focus of the penultimate episode of the season, and to begin, she narrates, "mine is a classic story, filled with suspense, paranoia, and a deep descent into madness." Ahead of the premiere in early July, Perkins spoke with Town & Country about channeling Alfred Hitchcock's helpless heroines and her adoration of 1930s and 1940s films.
As Isabel's narrative is one of the last told this season, how did you pull her story into the earlier ones?
What you learn in your personal episode is their whole inner life. Every other episode is how other people view you, but your personal episode is how you view yourself. So that informs every decision you make throughout the entire series. For Isabel, she sees herself as a damsel in distress, a wealthy damsel á la Hitchcock where something is going on that she can't quite identify. Somebody's gaslighting her, there's noises, she doesn't understand. There's people walking around she doesn't know. That definitely informed all of my choices in the other episodes.
What characters did you draw on for inspiration?
All of Hitchcock's leading ladies, whether it be Grace Kelly in Rear Window, or [the actresses] in films like Psycho and Vertigo. There was a through line with all of those women: They were all blonde, thin, helpless, wealthy, and ethereal. So Isabel, even though she's none of those things, she thinks of herself that way. She thinks of herself as 'I'm in a ballgown and I've got a beautiful flower and there's love all around and I'm about to die at any moment.' There's a through line in Hitchcock's characters, for real, that they're all sort of helpless and when they do fight back, they're gonna die, á la Psycho. You're here to fight back, but, you know... [trails off].
If you had to pick a film genre for your own life story, what would it be?
Oh, I would definitely be in the '30s—for the shoulder pads alone! I love the '30s for women, the Rosalind Russells and the Joan Crawfords and the Bette Davis. It was such a renaissance for women back then in film in terms of no one had seen women in the workplace! Like The Philadelphia Story and The Women. I would love to have been there and I've based a lot of my life on the strength of some of those characters, like Mildred Pierce.
Of all the genres the show did this season, what was the most fun or the most exciting to dig into?
Film noir, only because as actors, as contemporary actors, we never get a chance to work in that genre. To even film something in black and white is unheard of. To just play in that era was a great experience for all of us. The way that they talked back then in these rhyming [phrases]. It was so different from what we do now, and it was a really great experience to immerse yourself in that world.
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