PASADENA, Calif. - Actress Chloe Sevigny insists that her reputation as a sassy rebel is way off the mark. Though she favors art-house movies, openly criticizes projects she's doing, admits to toying with drugs and refuses to swim in the Hollywood stream, that's not who she is, she says.
"I think because in real life I'm actually quite conservative, and I'm not radical in my day-to-day life and how I act - I think I use my art to do that," she says.
"I'm a nice Catholic girl. For some reason that's what makes it interesting and fun - kind of pushing the form and trying new things and shocking people in some moments."
Sevigny did enjoy a lower-middle class upbringing in an upscale area of Connecticut. "My dad worked in insurance and worked very hard to bring us up in that town," she says, seated in a sunny guest room of a hotel here.
"He wanted us to grow up in a really safe environment. And I never thanked him for doing that. But going back now, I just had my 20th high school reunion, and I knew all the kids from kindergarten on. And it is a really nice way to grow up I think. I think there's so much hardship for so long, I think to keep kids innocent for as long as possible is not a bad choice to make as a parent."
She lost her dad to cancer when she was only 20, a crucial event in her life, she confesses. "Just feeling sad all the time. Still."
After his death, she says, she had to settle down a bit. "I think I had to work more because I had more financial responsibility, so I had to think more about work as a career than just as an art. You have to make different choices, but I still think I got to stick to my guns. And he always celebrated my brother's and my individuality, and told us, 'You never become sheep' and all that kind of stuff. So I think I've carried that on for him."
Sevigny has specialized in unorthodox independent films, starting with "Trees Lounge" when she was 21, then slipping into the mainstream with "Zodiac," "Shattered Glass" and "Boys Don't Cry," for which she earned an Oscar nomination. Television series like "Big Love," "American Horror Story" and her latest, "Those Who Kill," premiering March 3 on A&E, have exposed her in a new light.
In "Those Who Kill" she plays a newly minted homicide detective obsessed with unearthing serial killers and tortured by her own, shattered past.
"I just turned 39 and I never starred in anything - in a movie or television show before," she says. "And I thought this being kind of a bit more commercial fare would be more of a surprise to people than if I'd done another weirdo, more arty picture."
Determined to take command of her future, not just her career, she says she's learning more about managing finances, hopes to marry and have a baby within a year and vows to be less self-critical.
"One of my New Year's resolutions is not to beat myself up so much," says Sevigny, who's wearing a blue print blouse, a short, flared black skirt, a navy headband with a bow and pink, platform heels.
"I'd like to be able to be more confident and more comfortable in my own skin, and think I'd like to have that. You have to find peace with yourself; especially with the way I look. I'm trying not to be so critical. I guess just being in the industry and feeling like people are looking at you under a microscope - than maybe if you had a different profession - makes you more critical."
Left heartbroken when her eight-year romance with rock musician Matt McAuley ended, she says she's found new joy with commercial director Rene Navarrette.
While she doesn't avoid actors, she says, "I've gone on dates with actors - some more or less famous - but I never met one that I wanted to pursue more than a couple of dates here and there. I've fallen for some of my costars, but more as their character. And when you're with them as themselves - 'I don't really have that much to talk to you about. You're just like a dorky, actor guy. You're much more interesting as your character,'" she laughs.
Sevigny recently bought a new apartment in New York and says she loves playing the hausfrau. "I'm very good at domestic artistry, home-life, cleaning, laundry, setting the house up. Cooking, I'm OK, getting better. But keeping a nice home and taking care of the plants, domestic artistry I'm quite good at that, and I really like it. I really find it very therapeutic keeping a tidy household. It makes me feel really calm and safe."
"The Americans," the FX series about Soviet spies who assume the identify of a typical American couple, will return for a new season on Wednesday. Welsh actor Matthew Rhys, who plays the husband, recalls when the Cold War was in full sway. "Personally, being from the UK and within striking distance, it was very present to us," he says.
"I remember reading children's books by Raymond Briggs called 'When the Wind Blows,' which is a sort of terrifying account of this strange wind that might come and kill us. So at that time ... the Cold War was incredibly present. And sadly, you know, at that age, you have no real understanding of it. So there was just always this huge danger and these three same people on the news: Thatcher, Reagan, and Gorbachev who were trying to thrash it out ... I grew up with it. It was incredibly present."
On March 3 the Military Channel becomes the American Heroes Channel, with an emphasis not only on battles but on the stalwart men who fought them. Launching that night is the stunning series "Against the Odds," a six-part documentary covering the wars in Vietnam, Korea, World War II and Iraq as told by the men who fought them. John Ligato, a veteran Marine of the Battle of Hue in Vietnam, is one of those narrators. He recalls that the returning veterans of that war were often denigrated for their service. "The problem was that society couldn't separate the war from the warrior," says Ligato. "And they're able to do that now. I think that (the younger) generation, even people that don't like the war, recognize that the warrior, the American hero, is fighting a war, and they're apolitical. We're apolitical. I don't think we ever sat in a foxhole or out on patrol and discussed politics."
"Portlandia," the loony takeoff of tree-huggers of Portland, Ore., will be back for another turn on Friday. Creators Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein populate their town with a plate full of nutty characters. Armisen says he remembers the first time he set foot in Portland.
"I had heard mostly things that are, like, drug problems there and stuff ... I remember that was one of the main things people told me about the place. And then, like, I went there, and I loved it immediately. It was just such a comfortable (town.) There's something about it that's actually hard to describe. There's something that I liked about walking down the street. Everything was just sort of dark green. The houses are just beautiful, but not like show-offy beautiful, just gorgeous. And then, also, I made friends there really quickly. I felt that was a good sign of a place. I got along with everybody there. And also, as corny as it sounds, I love the coffee there. I love just stopping into Stumptown and getting coffee and just walking around. And there's lots of record stores. I just really liked it. It's a little overcast, which I liked as well, and it hasn't let me down. Every time I go, I still love it every time I go there." PHOTOS (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099):