Patricia Clarkson Says ‘The Time Is Now’ for Adora’s Complicated Story

By Ariana Bacle

The Sharp Objects star highlights the importance of telling female-centric stories.

After previously playing the free-spirited Sarah O’Connor on Six Feet Under, Patricia Clarkson is back at HBO in a polar opposite role. On Sharp Objects, the Emmy-winning actress plays the steely Adora Crellin, a powerful matriarch with a thorny edge. Here, Clarkson talks about how she approached her latest role, the value of showing complicated mother-daughter relationships on screen and what her relationships with co-stars Amy Adams [Camille] and Eliza Scanlen [Amma] are like outside of Wind Gap. (Episode 7 spoilers ahead.)

HBO: What was your approach to playing Adora?

Patricia Clarkson: My approach was to not play the end at the beginning — and to come at her with as much love, grace and humanity as possible because I wanted people to see the best, or what you think is the best, of Adora first. That way, the journey she takes is quite shocking.

HBO: How would you describe her?

Patricia Clarkson: She’s a perfectionist. She has… issues. She has an illness. She’s very complicated, but she is capable of love, almost to a fault. She needs to be loved and needs someone to love at all times.

Clarkson as steely matriarch Adora in Sharp Objects.

HBO: How do Adora and Sharp Objects fit into the current TV landscape of female characters?

Patricia Clarkson: It’s wonderful for us, as women, to be portrayed as heroes and warriors. And that is much-needed in our zeitgeist. But we can’t forget there’s also darkness. Many women have illnesses. They have suffered the loss of a child. They have not had perfect marriages. They have troubled children. And these are the stories we must continue to tell — these kinds of female stories. The time is now. We want our stories told.

HBO: Sharp Objects specifically highlights complicated mother-daughter relationships. Why is this important?

Patricia Clarkson: Because they exist. It’s important to see there are mothers and daughters who are fractured and possibly have a relationship that is incapable of ever really working. It happens, and it’s heartbreaking.

HBO: Adora’s relationship with Amma is very different from her relationship with Camille. Why is that?

Patricia Clarkson: It comes from her not being able to control Camille. It comes back to the illness she has and the fact that she needs to keep a hold on everyone she loves. Camille fled and became someone Adora’s not proud of. All of Adora’s life has gone into her beautiful young daughter — shaping and creating a doll — and keeping this child a child. If things were not revealed about Adora and the Crellins’ life, she would’ve kept Amma a child and in pigtails until Amma was 40 years old.

HBO: What was it like working with Amy Adams and Eliza Scanlen?

Patricia Clarkson: I knew Amy personally [prior to joining the show] and she wanted me to play this part. How do you say no to Amy Adams? I loved working with them. Going through these very dark and difficult scenes — I have a genuine love for them both off-camera that aided me on-camera. I care for them deeply, and that will never go away, whether we’re acting or not. I think that was the maternal instinct coming through.

HBO: What sets Sharp Objects apart from other dramas?

Patricia Clarkson: It’s the beauty of Jean-Marc Vallée’s direction, led by someone as brilliant as Amy Adams. It’s a combination of extraordinary talent coming together. It’s artistic, this piece. It’s art. I don’t want to sound pretentious, but dammit, that’s what I think.

Sharp Objects is available to stream.