‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’ Stars Naomi Watts and Tom Hollander Break Down Their ‘Platonic Romance’

Note: This story contains spoilers from the “Feud: Capote vs. the Swans” finale.

So much of “Feud: Capote vs the Swans” feels larger than life, from its lavish costuming and sets to the very idea that a group of people’s lives would be so fabulous and interesting it would lead to a years-long feud with one of most esteemed authors in American history. Though most of its run has stuck to the facts of Truman Capote’s life, it’s only fair to this grandiose figure and story that its finale would deviate far from reality.

Though most of the second season of “Feud” takes a grounded look at the ins and outs of New York high society in the 1960s, “Phantasm Forgiveness” takes a different approach. Caught in the throes of his addiction, Truman (Tom Hollander) half imagines and half writes a version of history where each of his beloved swans comes to forgive him. It all comes to a head in a scene between Babe Paley (Naomi Watts) and Truman as they finally laugh with each other once again, an actual swan in a bathtub suspended between them.

“The swan was badly behaved,” Watts shared with TheWrap.

“The synchronicity of the two of them at that point, with all the suffering that came before, it was just delicious to sink your teeth into,” Watts continued.

The actress noted that the scene, which involved Babe and Truman laughing and fully understanding each other on a “deep level,” represents “what it could have been and how it should have been had they not been in the way of themselves.”

“I think that’s what the story is about that. Yes, the feud is driving it. But what are you left with? To live with regrets is such a such a sad and horrible thing. They both died far too young,” Watts said. Paley died at the age of 63 after a battle with lung cancer. As for Capote, he died at 59 from liver disease partially brought on by his addictions.

“These were all brilliant creations of Jon Robin Baitz and Ryan [Murphy],” Hollander told TheWrap. “We were embodying their vision. It is boring to say it, but when the writing is that good you step into it and you go, ‘Well, I can’t wait to play this scene. I can’t wait to be running around this bath with a swan in it.'”

Though Baitz, who wrote this entire season, was around during this imagined reconciliation between Babe and Truman, he couldn’t bring himself to actually go on set during the swan scene.

“I was there. I just refused to go into the set at all,” Baitz recalled to TheWrap. “I stayed in another room kind of brooding.”

Babe and Truman’s relationship plays throughout the series as a romance of sorts. Though these characters are never physically intimate with each other, the pointedly perfect Babe often shares secrets with Truman that she never shares with anyone else, including her own husband (Treat Williams). As for Truman, there is an ease to his friendship with Babe that doesn’t appear when it comes to the rest of his swans.

Hollander noted that it was Baitz’s vision to portray their story as a love story of sorts. “We were playing a it was a love story. It was a platonic love story,” Hollander said.

“The tragedy of this season is the breaking of this friendship. You need that in order to hold everything. It’s the core emotional thread of the show,” Hollander continued. “It was all very powerful to play. I have relationships in my life, old friendships, who I don’t see those people anymore. I was very, very close to them once — I still think of them, some of them every day. It’s familiar stuff when you get old enough … We all carry that stuff with us. So this was really interesting and beautiful to play.”

For her part, Watts noted that it “wasn’t easy” to capture the loss and grief that unfolds between Truman and Babe. “That’s such an interesting thing to play out as an actor. Babe, I felt there was no one else in her life that she would ever connect with again on the same level.”

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