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As powerful women finally start to dominate the entertainment landscape, not all of them are necessarily good role models. On FX's new drama series Damages, Patty Hewes is a lawyer who always gets her way, often at the expense of morality and even basic kindness. In lesser hands, Patty could be a tyrant who makes us want to change the channel. Played by Glenn Close, a master of making manipulative characters sympathetic, Patty has already been intriguing audiences since the show debuted July 24.

"The one thing that I love about Patty and a lot of these women that I've played, they love the game," said Close. "I think of my character in Dangerous Liaisons and all the tragedy in her life, even with that she loved the game. She was a master at playing it even though it ultimately got to her. It's that game of winning, the game of manipulation as an adrenaline shot. [Patty]'s the same. She's an adrenaline junkie as far as playing that game of manipulation."

Patty challenges her new hire, Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne), to keep up with this world of multi-million dollar litigation. Patty represents employees burned by company CEO Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson), like many real life Enron victims.

"I think Ellen's kind of idealistic when she goes into the job," said Byrne. "I don't think she realizes exactly how much she's going to have to sacrifice from her own personal life and how challenged she's going to be and how much she's going to be changed. I think she probably thinks she can be the same person as she was at the beginning and it's really not the case at all because it's such a huge mammoth job. Patty's such a mercurial, demanding boss, who she is kind of in awe of. It's much bigger than she thinks."

Characters like Patty do not come out of nowhere. There are many female attorneys in real life on whom Close modeled her character. After interviewing some of the most renowned among them, Close wrote a vague sort of character backstory.

"I can't say that I know exactly every step of how she got to where she got to, but I know she has a lot of war stories," said Close. "I love that about her. I love that she's so smart and myself as the actress, I don't know enough about her yet to really know where I have a commonality with her but there's so many things about her I like. You meet my son and my husband and that is a huge part of who this person is and it really humanizes her. It certainly did for me and I love those relationships. I think it's very complex and I think it's very authentic and where she's most vulnerable to me, is certainly her son."

One such inspiration was Mary Jo White, once the prosecutor in charge of the investigation of President Clinton's last-day-in-office pardon of billionaire financier Marc Rich, and is the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, which covers Manhattan, the Bronx and New York City suburbs. "She's this dynamite woman who has never ever let gender be an issue, ever. I would never compare Patty to Mary Jo White, but she said one thing that I just loved. She said she wouldn't characterize herself as ambitious, but she was competitive. She liked to win."

With a 30 year career in Hollywood, Close has become a power player in her own industry. However, Hollywood has slightly different rules than the law. "I'm so not a Patty. Patty is the kind of character that I have to get my courage up to play her because she's much smarter than I am. She's much more kind of out there in the world than I am. So there was never a danger in becoming a Patty for me."

One of the ways Close stays grounded is insisting on remaining near her family. Damages happens to film in New York where she lives. Otherwise, she might have turned it down altogether. "I have a wonderful husband who's not in the business and I have a daughter who's going to college. She just finished her freshman year at a college in New York State and so I'm very, very rooted to the east coast. I want to spend time with my husband because this is it. So it's a huge balancing act. As the week gets longer and goes on, you've worked further into the nights and you kind of know that you're not going to see someone until late at night and you have to get up early morning again the next day."

Luckily, that schedule only lasts for a 13-week run. And the family never has to meet Patty. "I don't take it with me at all. Sometimes I take the makeup though. No, I can't wait to get home and see Dave and my daughter if she's around."

Such an example rubs off on her younger co-stars as well. "Glenn is a natural presence and commands respect obviously," said Byrne. "From her body of work and everything like that and my being a young actress, I've grown up admiring her always, so that's absolutely a natural thing that I would bring into the part. But she's always very sweet and an angel and lovely. It's definitely a dynamic and as a young actress seeing how she works and how she communicates with the directors and how she gets to where she gets to, it's very educational for me. And fun. We have fun."

Damages airs Tuesday nights at 10 on FX

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 74 - September 2018
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