Home Showbiz Mary-Louise Parker and Leslie Jamison Practice Mutual Admiration and Radical…

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Mary-Louise Parker and Leslie Jamison Practice Mutual Admiration and Radical…

by Ace Damon
Mary-Louise Parker and Leslie Jamison Practice Mutual Admiration and Radical...

Jamison: It's another version of the story being interrupted. You can't get the perfect bow. Instead, you have the dog and the diarrhea.

I wanted to ask you about how vulnerability works for you in your work – writing, acting or not. Does being vulnerable seem important to you?

Parker: You know, when I was reading your book, I wondered about Leslie, how you were to other people when you were 9, 11, 14 years old.

Jamison: You got to the core of my vulnerability with this question, I think.

Parker: Really?

Jamison: I was very, very shy when I was young. If you asked someone I studied with, if I asked what I looked like, they would say: Who? I was so quiet and so afraid of taking up space. This is part of what my eating disorder came about and part of my "The Quickening" essay on pregnancy is partly about this being a very powerful experience because I was taking up space in a different way.

When I think of vulnerability, it can sometimes be an irritation to me that, as this word is invoked around the especially personal writing of women, we want this fragile performance of women all the time. But I think I'm interested in writing that creates breakthrough moments or you feel you've seen the surface of something, and then you're traveling through some crack or crevice in that surface to get in, and I think sometimes vulnerability is a word used to describe this process of traveling through the crack in the surface of a thing.

Parker: Right. You also just described me at 14 and 9 years old. My dad used to say, she doesn't say more than five words a week, and most of the words I said were for him. And then I stuttered and graduated early in high school because I felt so invisible and couldn't take up space. Then, somehow, I became an actor. I exploded in a way that was like: I'm going to take up all the space and I'm going to master my strangeness and I'm almost fetishizing it. This was not entirely authentic.

I was joking about my authenticity, but I was joking, which I think I only realized in the last two years, in part from writing about it. I exploded in a version of me next to me. So it wasn't entirely me either, but it was closer and I wasn't so wrapped up in shame and fear, but it wasn't totally real either.

Jamison: It's so powerful the way we build very powerful beings for other people when we see them from the outside. I would never have imagined in a million years that this was part of your story, this shyness, although of course it makes sense that probably something of what you use at work and even what you use when you see strangers coming depends on you after a show and think about their vulnerability; I feel like seeing them in terms of need or desire, instead of just wanting something from you, I think something like that probably also relies on having that experience of being struggling to be seen.

Parker: When I'm acting, that's how I talk to the world. This is how I can reveal things and talk to people with confidence that I have no other way. That is the only way.

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