PLAYBOY: What were you leaving behind when you went on those weekend escapes?
SEVIGNY: I was kind of a depressed teenager. I pierced my nose, and my parents thought, Why is she desecrating her body? But they encouraged me to go into Manhattan, make my own clothes, dress the way I wanted and do all the weirdo things I was into. My mom found my bong, which she and my father confiscated and strongly discouraged. There was regular teenage drama at home but nothing extraordinary. I was into hippie culture, but I was pretty responsible and open with my parents.
PLAYBOY: How big into hippiedom were you?
SEVIGNY: Enough to have a Volkswagen bus decorated with batik curtains, which is so embarrassing. I’d drive it with my girlfriends up to Burlington, Vermont for the weekend. Looking back, I can’t believe my dad let me do that, but he was so sweet, always saying there is much more good in the world than bad. I was pretty smart and could read people easily, but I had friends who were attracted to skeevy bad boys. I’d always say, “No, he’s not coming in the bus with us. He’s got to sleep outside.” I was the voice of reason.
PLAYBOY: Did drugs play much of a role in your liberation?
SEVIGNY: It wasn’t like I was a big druggie; it was just kind of a side thing, something that went hand in hand with me falling in with that crowd, the rejects. I don’t think I ever bought anything; it was just sort of there.
PLAYBOY: Were you interested in acting early on?
SEVIGNY: I went to summer theater camp every year and was in a lot of plays with Topher Grace, who is four years younger than I am and also from Darien. He says he has tapes of those shows, which makes sense because he is very organized and type A. When I was eight or nine I did a couple of local commercials and catalog modeling. Acting was something I aspired to, but in high school I lost all aspiration. I took drama, but I didn’t get along with the teacher. Senior year they were doing West Side Story, and I had a shaved head at the time so I auditioned to play one of the gang boys. I didn’t get a part, so I was just like, whatever.
PLAYBOY: In a 1994 Jay McInerney New Yorker article you were crowned the “It girl” and “the coolest girl in the world.” Did having style help or hurt?
SEVIGNY: I guess it helped more than anything else. I’m glad I grew up during the last vestige of cool, in the 1990s, when everything wasn’t blogged and on the Interwebs, when things were more on the downlow and underground. I guess I am stylish, but I would rather have people come up and say “I really liked your performance in this or that” than “I really like the way you dress.” That irks me. Anyway, the term It girl gets used too loosely.
PLAYBOY: How do you mean?
SEVIGNY: Today the term is used to describe, say, Peaches Geldof—a girl who doesn’t do anything but is just sort of around. The original It girl was the 1920s movie star Clara Bow; then, in the 1960s, with Edie Sedgwick and Warhol, It girls turned into socialites, ladies of leisure—people who had “it” just for being “fabulous.” But Edie was just a rich drug addict, and when I got called the It girl everyone thought I was that too. I looked like a junkie because it was the 1990s and grunge was the fashion. But I felt I was doing stuff, not just being a socialite.
PLAYBOY: Did any interesting sexual propositions come your way after playing Hilary Swank’s girlfriend in Boys Don’t Cry or Michelle Williams’s motorcycle-riding lover on If These Walls Could Talk 2?
SEVIGNY: By the time of Boys Don’t Cry I had already spoken in interviews about my sexual experimenting as a young person. It sure seems that I have a pretty strong lesbian fan base because when I’m out, everybody responds to those films. I get letters. Last year I got a weird note on my car: “If you’re bored, me too. Let’s meet. Your new neighbor,” signed with the person’s initials. It’s kind of creepy. Does this person see me in my rented backyard, smoking and lonely?
PLAYBOY: What vibe do you get from fans when you meet them?
SEVIGNY: I always feel nobody likes me. When I see people on the street looking at me, I get really shy, as if they think I look ugly, but then it always turns out positive. I used to be paranoid I was going to get heckled, and of course that’s never happened. Last year I was at a fun dance party in a downtown L.A. club where it’s drinking and dancing and you’re sweaty and hot. These kids I thought were cool superfans wanted to take pictures with me, but they turned around and sold the photos. I never saw the pictures, but people told me I looked drunk. The next day, everyone was calling me, like, “What were you doing last night? You’re on TMZ.”
PLAYBOY: What about your colleagues in the industry? Do they like you?
SEVIGNY: I’ve never even been nominated for an Emmy, goddamn it. There’s no justice. [laughs] Actually, the Golden Globe felt like a little bit of justice, a real confidence booster, having never felt embraced by the industry. It wasn’t a Sally Field thing—“You like me! You really like me!”—more like, “Yeah, good. I showed them.”
PLAYBOY: Now that Big Love is coming to an end, what’s next on your professional and personal agendas?
SEVIGNY: I can get back to work in pictures. I have a new indie movie with Jena Malone, called The Wait, that I think could go places. On the personal side, I’d like to find someone to procreate with—as sexy as that sounds. If you’re out and about and fit the description, come up and say hi. I won’t bite. Well, maybe a little, if you’re lucky.