This is a bold depiction of an often ugly mother-daughter relationship. Was that appealing or scary to you?
Mildred and Veda are extremely complicated; it’s a very extreme mother-daughter relationship, walking that fine line of when do you love your child too much, and when does it become selfish, when does it start becoming unhealthy? In some ways I looked at Veda as a victim because I felt like she was suffocated and smothered and driven to a point of madness where she would just do anything to get away, to breathe. It was daunting, but playing opposite someone like Kate [Winslet] made it a little easier.
Did the two of you discuss the psychology of the relationship?
I think we both drew from personal experience [laughs]. Everyone has a complicated relationship with their mother, especially daughters. It comes with the territory.
Was viewing Veda as a victim an approach you discussed with Todd Haynes, or was that your own take?
Well, she’s a victim to a point. Obviously she crosses the line and is a borderline sociopath by the end. But that’s where it starts. We definitely talked about not wanting her to be one dimensional and just the villain and the annoying daughter. We wanted there to be moments where you do actually feel for her and see where she’s coming from. So sometimes I think you don’t know who to side with. But at the end of the day, I think she takes things way too far and there is no excuse for it. But in the beginning, she's just a very troubled girl.
What drives her?
Getting out. Getting away from Glendale and from her mother and the lower class -- especially during the Depression when there was such an emphasis on class. She’s driven to be a famous pianist and trains her entire life and in an instant, it’s taken away from her. It’s the last straw.