Before the “The Real Housewives” franchise, there was Truman Capote and his “Swans.”
The second season of Ryan Murphy’s “Feud,” set to debut on FX later this week, focuses on Truman Capote, the literary giant who mingled in the high-society social scene of the 1960s and ’70s.
“Feud: Capote vs. The Swans” tells the story of Capote and the wealthy women who made up his inner circle until he destroyed the relationships by writing about them.
The all-star cast boasts Tom Hollander as Capote, Chloë Sevigny as CZ Guest, Diane Lane as Slim Keith, Calista Flockhart as Lee Radziwill, Molly Ringwald as Joanne Carson, Demi Moore as Ann Woodward and Naomi Watts as Babe Paley.
Watts told CNN she felt “a fair amount of pressure” portraying the very fashionable Paley, a socialite who went on to become an editor at Vogue magazine.
“She was kind of the envy of many women at that time and became iconic,” Watts said. “She always looked exactly right, never a hair out of place, never a wrong word was said, just very graceful and dignified. So it’s quite hard to do that, especially if you’re me.”
When it came to Paley, Hollander told CNN he believes Capote “could see both the image of perfection and what it cost her to achieve it.”
“He could see the the scared little sparrow inside, and he identified with that,” Holland said. “He also was someone that had a huge front and wore an armor against the world to get through.”
The series leans into the glitz, glamour and fashion of the era, when shopping and lunch often included cocktails. Despite the wealth portrayed, the show’s writer Jon Robin Baitz said the limited series is not an aspirational tale.
“It’s a kind of moving portrait of decay, of rot, of the end of the oxygen in the room,” he said. “It’s a horror story in some ways that depends on the accoutrements of wealth to exhaust the viewer.”
That world was a fun one for Hollander to inhabit.
“It’s interesting to play conflict,” Hollander said. “It’s interesting to play secrets. It’s interesting to play people who are divided from themselves.”
Ringwald’s character, the former wife of Johnny Carson, came to be a dear friend of Capote’s. Ringwald found a similar kinship in Holland, who was “easy to love,” she told CNN.
“I knew that I was gonna be working with Tom Hollander, who I already admired as an actor, but I didn’t know how he would be.” she said. “You never know how somebody is to be and I happened to just meet him on one of my first shooting days and we immediately clicked.”
Moore also enjoyed working with Holland on a project set in a bygone era.
“I think it’s always one of the kind of added benefits of being able to step into other people’s lives,” she said. “When you step into another time, it really kind of opens up an expanded perception beyond kind of where you are living. I think that it’s really one of the joys of being an actor.”
Sevigny’s character remained friends with Capote after he told the “Swans’” secrets in a 1965 roman à clef, titled “La Côte Basque.” The story’s title was a nod to where the ladies would often lunch.
“I think there was a true love between the women and Truman,” Sevigny said. ” think Truman filled a hole in their lives, buoyed them, told them things they needed and or wanted to hear and they trusted him.”
As a short, gay man with a distinctive voice who grew up far from the prosperity he found in later years, Capote connected with the women over their shared insecurities.
In her portrayal of Radziwill, the sister of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Flockhart believes Capote shined a light on a woman who may have felt overshadowed.
“I think that he filled this void in her and like everybody is saying, he made them feel seen and heard and he made her feel better about herself,” Flockhart said. “She was lonely and he was funny and entertaining and kind.”
“Feud: Capote vs. The Swans” starts Wednesday on FX and Hulu.
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