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.

“It’s wonderful for us, as women, to be portrayed as heroes and warriors. But we can’t forget there’s also darkness.”

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.


Amy Adams

“Camille is haunted.” The five-time Oscar-nominated actor describes why she was drawn to embodying such a layered, “human” character.

Gillian Flynn

“Anyone who liked Gone Girl and the surprise twist, you’ll be on the edge of your seat with this one, too.” Author and screenwriter Flynn discusses what she loves about the adaptation.

Jean-Marc Vallée

The visionary director of Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies shares his appreciation of intelligent, strong women and stories with complicated female leads.

Susan Jacobs

The Emmy-winning music supervisor explains why the opening credits change each week — and shares why there’s so much Led Zeppelin on Camille’s iPod.