Lizzie actor Jay Huguley talks about working in 1892 with "two focused black belt actors"
The 52-year-old Jay Huguley currently stars as William Henry Moody in Craig William Macneill's 'Lizzie' alongside Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart
Jay Huguley has no time to beat around the bush - he gets to the point, tells you exactly what he thinks and has a bang-on sense of humor. The 52-year-old actor's latest stint is in Craig William Macneill's 'Lizzie' alongside Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart. The biographical thriller, written by Bryce Kass, is based on the true story of Lizzie Borden, who was accused and acquitted of the ax murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1892. Jay plays the prosecutor William Henry Moody.
Moody was made District Attorney for Eastern Massachusetts in 1890 and he gained widespread notoriety in 1893 as the junior prosecutor in the Lizzie Borden murder case. While his efforts were unsuccessful, he was generally acknowledged as the most competent and effective of the attorneys on either side. A politician and jurist, he held positions in all three branches of the Government of the United States.
Jay is also set to star in the upcoming boxing biopic 'Heart, Baby'. He previously starred in '12 Years a Slave' along with a host of shows like 'The Walking Dead', 'True Detective', 'Treme', 'Halt and Catch Fire,' 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' and 'Brothers & Sisters'.
You play a historical character in 'Lizzie'. What are your thoughts on the politician and jurist?
Moody’s story definitely has the gloss of 'American Dream' about it: the son of Massachusetts farmers becomes a Supreme Court judge and has a battleship named after him. But it was during Lizzie Borden’s trial where he first really made his name. Moody was thought to be the most competent lawyer on either side and his summation speech was legendary. And on the other side of things, he hid his poor health, which caused him a lot of physical pain. He lived alone or, at the end of his life, with his sister. Not a man who let you see his vulnerabilities, but they were definitely there.
This is your second historical role. What do you enjoy most about portraying men from history?
Getting to hole up in my house with a stack of books. You become part detective, part psychoanalyst, trying to figure out what made a guy tick. Also, historical menswear is pretty great.
How did you prepare for the role of Moody?
I went through all the records and transcripts of the case. I wanted to have his confidence, and also his skepticism. He doesn’t buy the story he's told.
Apart from the story itself, what really drew you to the film?
Bryce Kass's script. It’s so elegant and totally terrifying. It also shows us a side of Lizzie that I never considered.
How was working with Kristen Stewart and Chloë Sevigny? Tell us some interesting stories from the set!
They are two black belt actors who were focused on their job, so there wasn't a whole lot of chatting. The big thrill for me was walking onto Craig William Macneill's set. It was like stepping into 1892. I’ve been an actor since I was a teenager and it's still never lost on me…the work of a great production designer.
Do you miss your modeling days? Was the transition to acting difficult?
I will always be grateful for the things and experiences that modeling afforded me, but nothing about it really transferred to acting. Totally different job. It’s funny but when I think of that time, I think of the food. I miss pasta in Milan. There, I said it.
You bring the finesse of theatre to the screen, but if you ever had to pick, which one would it be - film or stage?
Sometimes you do have to pick, because of timing. Then, I go with the better part. If the better part is a Sam Shepard play in the basement of a church, then my business manager's head bursts into flames. But he’s sort of used to that.
Your love affair with acting began when you were taking a directing class in college - would you also be interested in working behind the camera? If yes, what genre would you like to experiment with and why?
I’m still having a love affair with acting. Actually, I love it more now than ever. There’s a stack of plays I would love to do. When I work with great directors now, I’m not trying to figure out how they do their job. I’m still focused on getting mine right!
Any upcoming projects that you'd like to talk about?
I’m in a movie opening in November called 'Heart, Baby', beautifully written and directed by Angela Shelton. It’s the true story of a boxer in the Tennessee prison system who gets a shot at fighting in the 1984 Olympics. It’s been winning awards on the festival circuit, and I’m really proud of it. We shot it in New Orleans in a month. Pasta with Langoustines!