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Overview for Blanche Sewell
Blanche Sewell

Blanche Sewell



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Despite lacking any outward pretense of wanting to become an actress, Chloë Sevigny generated considerable buzz in her adopted home of New York City even before the independent film world showcased her onscreen allure. Sevigny emerged from her Fairfield County background with both the grace of privilege and the awkwardness of an outsider, a duality that shaped her beguiling persona and added dimension to her screen presence in her cinematic debut, "Kids" (1995). Though she continued to challenge herself with offbeat features like "Gummo" (1997) and "Julien Donkey-Boy" (1999), Sevigny strangely found herself as something of a fashion maven, thanks to her unique, offbeat style. But instead of allowing herself to become a mere pop-culture star, she delivered an Oscar-caliber performance in the gut-wrenching independent drama, "Boys Don't Cry" (1999). Despite her mainstream success, Sevigny continued along her indie path, appearing in films like "Party Monster" (2003), "Shattered Glass" (2003) and "The Brown Bunny" (2004); the latter of which earned the actress considerable notoriety for an explicit onscreen sexual act. Nonetheless, she landed a surprise regular-series turn on the popular and acclaimed "Big Love" (HBO, 2006-2011), which allowed the talented actress to display her gifts to a wider audience.

Born on Nov. 18, 1974 in Springfield, MA, Sevigny was raised in Darien, CT by her father, H. David, an accountant and interior decorator, and her mother, Janine. Though part of an upscale New England community that provided all the advantages, Sevigny grew up feeling like a misfit. While attending Darien High School, she chose to avoid its renowned theater program, showing no interest whatsoever in getting involved. Supported by her family, but stifled in her community, she set out for Manhattan as a teenager and joined the throng of skater kids that congregated in Washington Square Park. It was here that she met Harmony Korine, who would go on pen the screenplay for Sevigny's acting debut, "Kids" (1995), as well as write and direct the films "Gummo" (1997) and "Julien Donkey-Boy" (1999), which would also feature the actress. Cast initially in a small role in "Kids," Sevigny landed the part of Jennie just prior to filming. Marking her film debut in Larry Clark's controversial feature proved advantageous for the ingénue, who made a lasting impression with her gentle portrayal of a young teenager who learns she is HIV positive.

Sevigny emerged from her "Kids" experience with a bright future in acting. She followed up the next year with a role as the precocious young assistant and brief love interest of Steve Buscemi's ice-cream man in "Trees Lounge" (1996). In 1997, she took on a small role as an albino girl in "Gummo," Korine's bleak look at small-town ruin. Sevigny, who had experience making her own clothes as a high school student, also designed the costumes for the non-narrative feature. Lucky for her, she emerged virtually unscathed by critiques of the film's harsh outlook and detached approach. Excited to work with famed German director Volker Schlondorff, she followed with "Palmetto" (1998), an uninspired modern noir that was disappointing for the actress and audiences alike. She fared better with a starring role in Whit Stillman's "The Last Days of Disco" (1998), utilizing the mores and manners of her posh upbringing in her portrayal of a Hampshire College graduate making her way in New York City in the early 1980s. Sevigny stood apart from the rest of the cast in the film, with her low-key portrayal lending an added dimension to her character's separation from the regular cast of Stillman acerbics.

That same year, Sevigny took on her first stage role in the New York theater production of "Hazelwood Jr. High," a real-life drama of a vicious teenage murder, eerily staged at middle school performance space I.S. 70. Sevigny gave a chilling performance as the unemotional sociopath who dabbles in devil worship and ups the preteen-angst ante to tragic effect in Rob Urbinati's uneven play. Meanwhile, just as likely to be seen on the pages of Vogue as Premiere, Sevigny enchanted trend-watchers with her unique sense of style and irreverent attitude towards fashion. Singled out by author Jay McInerney with a seven-page feature in The New Yorker that proclaimed her the "It Girl" of the moment, Sevigny was a pop phenomenon before she established a solid acting career. Her status as darling of the underground celebrity set threatened to overshadow her acting in the late 1990s, with the young up-and-comer getting more notice for her clothing choices and lifestyle than her film work.

In 1999, Sevigny managed to transcend hipster labels with a show of formidable talent in a number of big-screen releases. She effectively essayed a pregnant teen engaging in an incestuous relationship with her schizophrenic brother (Ewen Bremner) in Korine's daring Dogma '95 feature "Julien Donkey-Boy." Most notable was her turn as Lana, the love interest of a captivating man (Hilary Swank) hiding his biological femaleness in Kimberly Peirce's remarkable feature "Boys Don't Cry" (1999). Powerful performances abounded in the finely crafted film, with Sevigny proving more than capable of holding her own opposite eventual Oscar winner Swank. The actress' remarkably understated but unflinching portrayal earned her a richly deserved Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress.

The following year would see the actress take on a role in Mary Harron's controversy-plagued "American Psycho" (2000), based on Bret Easton Ellis' novel about a stylish businessman (Christian Bale) who brutally tortures and murders for kicks. That same year, Sevigny made her television acting debut in the "1972" segment of "If These Walls Could Talk 2" (HBO, 2000), a lesbian-themed anthology drama in which she played a boyish-dressing woman who falls in love with a coed (Michelle Williams). After a detour appearing in low-profile fare like the French techno thriller "Demonlover" (2002) and a turn as one of the true-life, hard-partying 1980s club kids embroiled in a murder in "Party Monster" (2003), Sevigny reestablished her art-house credentials with a role in director Lars von Trier's "Dogville" (2003). She next delivered a well-executed performance in the critical favorite "Shattered Glass" (2003), playing one of the misguided loyal colleagues of disgraced young New Republic journalist Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen).

Sevigny got a massive dose of media attention for her appearance in an otherwise low-budget, avant-garde art film, "The Brown Bunny" (2004), written, directed and starring bad-boy auteur and her ex-boyfriend, Vincent Gallo. Appearing as the lost love of Gallo's professional motorcycle racer, the actress courted controversy and infamy when she appeared in a scene in which she fellates him - an explicit act shot by remote camera operated by the director. Despite the scandal - and Sevigny's convincing performance in scenes other than the infamous sequence - the film was largely drubbed as immature, self-indulgent and unaccomplished. Adopting a more button-downed role, Sevigny was cast in the tragic portion of writer-director Woody Allen's dual-structured "Melinda and Melinda" (2005), playing the former college friend who contributes to the romantic woes of a neurotic, self-destructive woman. She continued appearing in low-budget indies, including small roles in "Manderlay" (2005), Lars Von Trier's follow-up to "Dogville" (2003), and "Broken Flowers" (2005), Jim Jarmusch's road-trip drama about a man (Bill Murray) setting out to find the son he never knew he had.

Sevigny then made the rare jump to television, appearing as the "other woman" in the dark comic tale of love and obsession, "Mrs. Harris" (HBO, 2006). Landing her first regular-series role, she starred as one of three wives (along with Jeanne Tripplehorn and Ginnifer Goodwin) married to a hardware-store owner (Bill Paxton) on "Big Love" (HBO, 2006-2011), the cable network's much-hyped and controversial series centered on Mormon polygamy. Despite concerns, "Big Love" nonetheless premiered in March 2006 to good reviews, strong ratings and several award nominations, including a Golden Globe Best Supporting Actress win for Sevigny in 2010. Returning to features, Sevigny had a minor part in David Fincher's "Zodiac" (2007), a tense but overlong thriller that depicted the unsolved Zodiac killings in the Bay Area during the late 1960s.

Meanwhile, Sevigny continued to shine as Nicki, the second wife in the Hendrickson clan, on "Big Love," which earned kudos and became one of HBO's numerous success stories. Once "Big Love" ended its acclaimed run in 2011, Sevigny moved on by starring in a considerably offbeat part as a Irish transsexual assassin on the British thriller series "Hit & Miss" (Sky Atlantic, 2012), and had an acclaimed one-off role on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ), which sparked serious Emmy buzz in 2012. She also was featured in a notably unglamorous part in the macabre second season of "American Horror Story" (FX, 2011- ), had a small role in the porn-star biopic "Lovelace" (2013), and guest-starred on the quirky sketch-comedy show "Portlandia" (IFC, 2011- ), reinforcing her knack for picking unconventional projects. After co-starring with Jena Malone in the fantasy thriller "The Wait" (2013), Sevigny returned to the small screen with an arc on "The Mindy Project" (Fox 2012- ) as Christina, the ex-wife of Dr. Danny Castellano (Chris Messina). Supporting roles in the indie dramas "Little Accidents" (2014) and "Electric Slide" (2014) were followed by a starring role in the police procedural "Those Who Kill" (A&E 2014). Sevigny next appeared opposite Adam Brody in "The Cosmopolitans" (Amazon 2014), a pilot written and directed by Whit Stillman.

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