Parker Posey is very serious

On a recent Tuesday morning, Parker Posey met me outside his building in Chelsea, wearing a puffy black Rachel Comey skirt, a vintage navy poplin blouse and nothing on my feet. “Hello-oo!” she cried, waving at me wildly across the street. When I approached, she flirtatiously bated her eyes, which were painted with iridescent eyeshadow. “I put it on for you,” she said. She led me up a narrow staircase, past walls painted in psychedelic stripes that she said were inspired by the work of avant-garde color theorist William Tapley. Inside his apartment, the groovy vibe remained. In the living room, next to a built-in banquette and a huge arched window was a working fireplace made of adobe-style bricks, giving the room the feel of a Laurel Canyon bungalow. Posey, who is 53, moved into the place four years ago after moving out of a West Village home she had shared with a friend’s elderly mother. But she hasn’t spent much time there because she’s been busy caring for her aging mother in Mississippi and starring in several projects, including ‘The Staircase,’ a new HBO drama miniseries. Max by filmmaker Antonio Campos revisiting a grisly 2001 murder case.

In the nearly three decades since his first starring role in 1995’s indie comedy “Party Girl,” a “Parker Posey” character has become almost his own kind of actor. Her eccentric performances – sharp, daffy, ruthless, silly in the extreme – make even her smallest parts wonderfully memorable: the queen bee screaming “Air Raid!” in “Dazed and Confused”, the chain-smoking purveyor of the “Ding that, Skippy!” monologue in “Kicking and Screaming,” the titled, over-caffeinated book editor in “You’ve Got Mail.” And of course her many roles in the work of Christopher Guest, where she even stands out amidst a row of comically talented assassins. Rarely have I laughed as hard as the first time I watched Posey’s character audition in ‘Waiting for Guffman’, flirtatiously throwing himself at a local gay theater manager while singing Doris’ ‘Teacher’s Pet’ Day. His “Best in Show” lines, most of which were improvised on set (“Why didn’t you tell me that before? Thanks for your help, you idiot hotel manager!”), have become cult canons. In “The Staircase,” which was based in part on a documentary series of the same name, Posey plays the late Freda Black, the assistant district attorney in the murder trial of Michael Peterson (Colin Firth), a wealthy North Carolina writer. whose wife, Kathleen (Toni Collette), was found dead at the bottom of the stairs of their mansion. Black stood out in the courtroom with clownish eye makeup and snappy jury calls, but Posey told me she saw more in character than campy antics. For one thing, Parker had never played with another Southern woman before.

After talking for about an hour in her apartment, Posey announced that she had to go to the Soho Rachel Comey store to buy a sparkly outfit to wear to the premiere of “The Staircase,” in MOMA that night. She put on lace-up brogues, oversized plastic goggles and an N95 mask on a string of beads she fashioned herself from an antique necklace. On the street, I quickly discovered that Posey loves talking to strangers. She stopped to coo loudly over several dogs. When we passed a row of movie trailers set up for the filming of another TV show, “Fleishman Is in Trouble,” Posey knocked on the door of one of them. “When do I have to be on set?” she asked impatiently, completely confusing the assistant inside. When she passed a man sitting in an idling delivery truck, she approached his open window and asked if he was already taking a nap with his head on a roll of paper towels (” I just know the Teamsters,” she said afterward.) In Washington Square Park, she ran into her old friend, actor Justin Theroux, who was walking his rescue pit bull. They discussed current projects and planned to meet soon. As we walked away, Posey told me that she and Theroux wanted to remake the ’80s series “Hart to Hart,” which starred Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers as a married crime-solving couple. The twist, she said, was that they wanted to use the same scripts as the original show, without changing a word. It’s a wild idea, but would you expect anything less?

This conversation has been edited and condensed.

You have just returned to town.

This weekend I was working on a movie called “The Parenting”.

Is that the one with Brian Cox?

My God, how do you know? Are you a medium?

I have IMDb.

I’ve played a lot of black women over the past year. Dr Smith in “Lost in Space”, a passage in “Tales of the Walking Dead”, Freda Black, then a role in Ari Aster’s new film, “Disappointment Blvd”. “The Parenting” is a horror-comedy about parenthood, and I play a wacky neighbor role.

Not a stretch.

Not a stretch at all. She has an Airbnb, and a gay couple comes to introduce their parents to this house. It was fun. I sort of play a witch. I still have a shooting day in a few weeks. We had our poster shoot on Sunday, which wouldn’t be strenuous, but I was jumping and running around, lots of production, lots of jumping up and down.

This is tiring to have your picture taken!

You want to see it?

The jump ?

Yes! You want to see it? [Stands up and leaps in the air.] It’s like that.

That’s a lot of cardio. Let’s talk about “The Staircase”.

i love Antonio [Campos]. I met him in 2008 with “Broken English”. It was at the Deauville Festival. He was, like, ‘I’ve got this movie, ‘Afterschool’, that’s showing here. I wish you guys could see it in New York. I’m, like, ‘I’d love to—oh, my God, that’s so cool.” Like, a younger generation filmmaker reaching out to me and reminding me of the 90s, when this happened all the time. I saw it somewhere uptown and I thought, Wow, c “is the real deal. He has such a style and such a vision and a way of telling a very strange, very American story. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but there’s a darkness to it. There’s humor, but it’s really subtle.

I want to come to your role of Freda Black, but can we first talk about the voice of Colin Firth? It’s so true, it’s scary.

Well we all afraid during Zoom readings. I was just scared because he was so weird. He really stepped it up. Wow. He worked on it with my former professor of SUNY Buy the one I loved, Elizabeth Himelstein. She is a speech therapy teacher, dialect coach. Once she gave me a pair of her Norma Kamali high heel tennis shoes. Have you seen these before?

I mean, of course.

Liz was a very important teacher to me at Purchase. There’s a lot of full circles happening now, which I love. I moved to New York in 1992, and my first apartment was in Chelsea, just down the street from here. I mean, life is stressful and overwhelming and there is anxiety. But I see that there are closing circles. You know what I mean? I know that sounds hippy-dippy.

At some point in your life, you start to see things holistically. So, has she always been a dialect coach – your teacher, Liz?

Yeah. I would call her a speech coach. I actually made a recording for her in the South, when I went to see my parents, of all these different Southern accents that she still uses.

So you already had Freda’s southern accent somewhere in you.

I really immersed myself in his role. With Freda, there are a lot of interviews to watch. And I read this book, “written in blood.”

Sounds like a very salacious read.

It reads very quickly and is oriented towards the prosecution case. I actually fell asleep reading it, and ended up talking to Antonio about how maybe we can get some wind chimes, like they did on Kathleen’s grave. And he was, like, “WhatI guess I made that up as I was falling asleep reading. I didn’t have a nightmare, but I had these fantasies that were like hallucinations.

How did you get into the documentary to begin with? Were you obsessed with it when it came out?

were not you? I mean, I think I watched it a couple of times even back then. I love documentaries. The documentaries of Frederick Wiseman, Albert Maysles. You also see how subjective they are.

The character of Juliette Binoche. I won’t say it, but what she’s doing is so unethical.

People will scream. They will die.

Have you ever wondered if Michael Peterson was guilty?

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