Many of us know Jean Smart for her hilarious, yet touching turn as Deborah Vance on the hit Max comedy "Hacks" or her alluring take on Laurie Blake aka Silk Spectre on HBO's "Watchmen" television series, but she has been working regularly since the ‘80s with her big break coming on the sitcom "Designing Women." Despite the steady paycheck provided by the show, Smart said in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter that it wasn't what she wanted in her career.

"I think I didn't want to get used to such an easy schedule and money," Smart said. "By season two, we were working only 30 hours a week! I thought, ‘This is fun, but not why I became an actor.' So I left and was immediately offered a TV movie role playing Aileen Wuornos, America's first female serial killer. (Laughs.) I remember asking the producer why he thought of me. He said, ‘I wanted her to be sympathetic.'"

The TV movie was called "Overkill: The Aileen Wuornos Story" and was a sanitized version of a gruesome true life story. A little over a decade later, rising starlet Charlize Theron would take on the role in a more complex portrayal of events with her Academy-Award winning performance in "Monster," written and directed by Patty Jenkins. Smart admitted she saw the movie and was a little envious of the material Theron got to work with.

"She didn't have commercial sponsors to answer to," said Smart to The Hollywood Reporter. "You couldn't be a serial killer and a lesbian in a network TV movie at that time. Her script was much freer than ours could be." 

Thankfully, "Hacks" has now given her the role and career she always dreamed about. In reflecting on being offered the part, she said, "When I read the script, I said, ‘This is everything I could possibly want for my next job.' But I needed to be sure that real stand-ups could believe I was a comic. I had never been a comedian, so they were the real litmus test. And I passed, I think!"

Indeed she has, with two Emmys, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors Guild Award to show for it, but it didn't come easy. In offering her advice for younger actors, she said, "When I was younger I was constantly trying to figure out, ‘What does the business want from me?' Obviously we all want to be versatile. But I'd say this: Figure out what makes you unique, and whatever is special will come through. And hopefully you won't have to wait as long as I did!"

More from IndieWire

2024-06-22T17:11:52Z dg43tfdfdgfd