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Jean Smart: “Thanks to the fact that my husband stayed at home, I was able to take advantage of great opportunities in Hollywood”

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Babylonthe new film by Damien Chazelle (The Earth, whiplash) is the latest work by Jean Smart (Seattle, 71) and also the perfect excuse to chat with the actress. Although he can boast of having a long and constant career – he has been working non-stop since 1979 – he has enjoyed a great moment of popularity in recent years thanks to his roles in successful series such as Guardian, Fargo That is Easttwon Mare, where she played the charismatic mother of Mare Sheehan, the character who earned Kate Winslet an endless list of awards and some of the best reviews of her career. Something similar happens to him with the HBO series hacks, where she brings to life Deborah Vance, a comedic diva with a permanent show in Las Vegas, who in the midst of a creative crisis hires a Gen Z writer to help her find a new direction. So far, with this work, she has won two consecutive Emmys and a Golden Globe (in 2022), an award for which she was nominated for the third time this year and also won Critics Choice for Best Actress in a comedy series in 2023. Viewing the documents and publicists you’re dealing with to connecting with her through Zoom is the best proof that we’re dealing with one of the hottest women in Hollywood right now. On the other side of the screen, she responds with elegance, like the great classic actresses, sometimes pointed, like her character in hacks, but also vulnerable and sincere. During the conversation, he laughs and cries, denounces injustices, remembers the past, but above all he looks to the future. Because, as she says, she has “no intention of leaving”.

The actress wears a fuchsia VALENTINO dress and rings, from left, by ANITA KO, her own ring, HIROTAKA, ANITA KO and KATKIM. Photo: Jason Kim

In Babylon, plays a journalist capable of creating and destroying careers in Hollywood. In a career as long as yours, have you ever been afraid that the press will destroy you?
No, I’ve been blessed with a very good relationship with critics over the years. I feel very lucky for that. Recently, reflecting on this question, I thought: would I have endured if it had not been so? I’ve been getting good reviews since I went to drama school. But how long would I have endured if I hadn’t had people who, from a very young age, told me that I was good and that I should devote myself to it? What would have happened? I wonder if he would have said, “It’s okay, they’re wrong, I’ll be fine.” Or if I had left it. It’s a bit complicated, I was very lucky in this regard.

I read this headline the other day: “Everybody loves Jean Smart.
(laughs) I think I can give you a list of names that might not work for you…

But do you feel loved by the industry?
Yes absolutely. And I’m constantly impressed and a bit confused by that. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to work on some phenomenal projects over the past few years. And I feel like I have a good reputation. It is very important to me to have a good professional reputation.

BALENCIAGA shirt and jacket. Photo: Jason Kim

Does it surprise you, at 71, to have so many millennial and Gen Z fans?
The truth is, it’s amazing. I’m very surprised, but I must say that in this case, I give a lot of credit to my co-star in hacksHannah Einbinder.

Usually, actresses complain about not getting good roles as they get older. His case is quite the opposite.
I guess that’s partly because I always kept working. I just refuse to leave. Do you know what is going on? A lot of actresses never get the chance to really show what they can do. For some reason, I was offered some really good parts. I started a long time ago and had enough opportunities to show my versatility as an actress. At my age, I am very lucky to continue to work more and better. I don’t want to dissect it or overthink it. Maybe all of this will pass…

Jean Smart poses in a MARINA RINALDI dress and LAEL OSNESS glove. The rings on the right hand are from ANITA KO and hers; and those on the left, by HIROTAKA, ANITA KO and KATKIM. Photo: Jason Kim

This great professional moment she is experiencing – for the past two years the industry has recognized her with Emmys and Golden Globes – coincided with her worst personal moment when she lost her husband, also actor Richard Gilliland. , after a short illness.
It was very contradictory for me. I’m not trying to analyze it or make sense of it, but it’s very ironic because obviously I would change anything good that happened to me at work because it never happened.

The actress gets emotional, starts crying, and interrupts the interview for a moment until she pulls herself together, apologizing with absolute kindness and open to more questions.

Smart jeans, with CHARVET shirt. In this one, with a CHARVET shirt and SAINT LAURENT jeans. Photo: Jason Kim

In this year’s Emmy speech, she said that precisely her husband was very important to her acting career, why was his role so crucial?
Well, besides loving me very much, he was a very smart husband. He always made me feel attractive, even when I was messy. I think this can be a good lesson for any husband. He was the funniest man I’ve ever met and as an actor he was very talented, even though he had fewer opportunities. Work-wise, when jobs came up for me, he found himself taking care of the house and taking care of the kids. I was able to take advantage of great opportunities and above all to completely relax and concentrate on my work, because I knew that everything was fine at home. Now that I no longer have it, I am even more aware of its value.

The actress in a GIORGIO ARMANI dress and GUCCI hat. The rings are from ANITA KO. Photo: Jason Kim

Is it even more difficult to be a mother than to be a successful actress?
Without a doubt. Especially in my situation. A mother never stops worrying about her children. No matter their age. I have one 33 and another 14. I’m worried about both as well. They will always be my babies. It bothers them, but let them get over it, it will always be like that (laughs). The truth is, I have a lot more respect for moms now, especially working moms, because it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. And I have, as you can imagine, far more support and resources than most single moms. So my absolute respect for them.

You yourself have said, in reference to raising your second child as a working, widowed woman, that life has made you a single mother…
Filming the second season of hacks It was very hard because Richard died at the end of the first. I had five working days left when he died suddenly. The producer was very nice. They said they could give me a few weeks off and then shoot or do it as fast as possible and be done with it. So I decided to return quickly because I was still in shock and I told myself that it would probably be best to find my children as soon as possible. It was hard. There was one day in particular when I thought I couldn’t make it because we were shooting the funeral scene for Ava’s father. In the end, it turned out to be a wonderful and very funny scene.

In his Emmy speech, he also had a few botox words of thanks…
(Laughs) It also has to do with motherhood. I was supposed to have an appointment with my beautician to have botox, but I had to take my son to school and completely forgot I had to go to his clinic. She is lovely and rearranged her entire schedule to accommodate me. When I apologized for not showing up, he said, “You better thank me if you win the Emmy.” And I did. Later, she said to me, “Jean, by God, that was a joke. I didn’t think you were capable of doing it.”

Are you vain?
Yes I am. But mostly I am vain with my work. It is the absolute truth. Luckily for my career, I’m more vain about playing than about my personal appearance. Not much more, but enough to save my acting career.

The actress is wearing a DRIES VAN NOTEN coat, a SAINT LAURENT dress and a MARTYRE pearl pendant. The rings are mine. Photo: Jason Kim

What do you think of the ageism happening in Hollywood?
It’s not at all the same as when I started my professional career. People have realized that if it’s a good story, it doesn’t matter how old the characters are or the actors who play them. But it’s certainly more difficult for those who were considered sex symbols when they were young. When they mature, they get more complicated. At the same time, I think the old actors will always be needed. Someone has to play those roles, right? I therefore hope to be like other colleagues, for example Betty White or Maggie Smith, and continue to do so at least until I am 90 years old. That’s what I want.

He managed to have a long and successful career while managing such a complicated disease as type 1 diabetes.
How do you remember when you were told you had the disease? When they told me I was only 13. I was coming back from vacation with my parents, who suspected that something was wrong. I remember crying a lot because I only knew I had to get injections and couldn’t eat candy. For a girl, it’s always a death sentence. My mother was so scared that she couldn’t prick me, so that same afternoon I already injected myself with insulin for the first time. I also remember that when my father discovered it, he turned very pale and was about to pass out.

In a way, the disease is also responsible for your role as an actress…
Yes, because my mother didn’t let me study abroad, unlike my sister. He was very afraid that something would happen to me. And it turned out that in my town there was a great theater program that I signed up for… Anyway, I think if the big pharma pulls out, we’ll have a cure. I would like to leave this world as I discovered it, that is to say without being diabetic.

*Style: Rebecca Ramsey. Styling assistant: Jarae Holieway. Assistant photographers: Robert Kozek and Víctor Hernández. Makeup: Keith Sayer (Shneider Intertainment). Hairstylist: Robert Vetica (The Wall Group). Manicure: Ashlie Johnson (The Wall Group). Local production: NM Productions. Digital Technician: James Weir.

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