So, my friend who was scared by the dream sequence with the hair-in-the-face Julia Hoffman? Also scared as a kid by the episode where Julia is trapped in a mausoleum with a bleeding headstone. (The headstone is Sarah’s.)
Well, we had the hair-in-face episode yesterday, and just now, we got the bleeding tombstone. Really scary, still! Episode 361. Disc four of volume four.
And now, let me put on my cleats, warm up my leg, and paint a bull’s eye on the Grayson Hall haters of the world. This was an incredibly well-trained actress who studied at the knee of Harold Clurman. Don’t know who he is? Look him up. Important man who helped to shape all of modern acting in the USA.
I can’t really say whether or not Grayson is realistic as an actress because Julia’s predicaments are so supernatural. How are you supposed to react? She gives these moments total commitment in a very raw and fearless way. These are problems bigger than irony can belittle. Very few actresses would “go there.” They’d probably be very flat and predictable. Grayson carries almost all of 361. It’s a performance as big and confrontational as the situation stimulating it.
One of my theories is that her willingness to show emotional vulnerability, pedal-to-the-floor, makes people uncomfortable. Situations aren’t scary until we see people react to them. And she can react the hell out of these scripts. Interestingly so. In casting, there’s a theatrical adage that says, “If you have to choose between real and interesting, choose interesting.”
Hall gives us both in the series. I think people are also kind of snobby against middle-aged women who are not traditionally attractive. She’s smart and vulnerable without dipping it in the synthesized perfume of photoshopped glamor. She’s a very real person playing a character in very unreal situations. The voice is husky and bold. The intentions are clear and intense. She is very attuned to her romantic desires, yet another thing unseemly (to many) when displayed by an average-looking middle-aged women. When she’s strong, she’s threatening and when she’s weak, her characters are navigated by a fearless performer.
I don’t know if we have a modern analogue. Maybe Dale Dickey, although she has the sclera of “hardened southerner,” which kind of explains her strength in the minds of modern Americans. A metropolitan intellectual woman just doesn’t have that protection. Especially if she doesn’t have endless wisecracks as weapons, the likes of which benefitted Frances Sternhagen in OUTLAND.
The inability to deal with this type of woman is very clearly evidenced in the new movie. They write her off as an alcoholic joke because they’re too scared to handle what she has to offer. It is a Comedy Central Roast-level presentation of a character (as created by Hall) worthy of Albee.
Who’s afraid of Grayson Frickin’ Hall? Not me!