I felt more ex­posed than I've ever been

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - COVER STORY -

blues har­mon­ica-play­ing mother, Linda. Her first job came when she was just six in the mini-se­ries Lucky Chances; she starred in the film Girl, In­ter­rupted with An­gelina Jolie aged 15 and at 17 she played Pres­i­dent Jed Bart­let’s youngest daugh­ter, Zoey, in the lon­grun­ning and crit­i­cally ac­claimed TV po­lit­i­cal drama The West Wing, which was cre­ated by Aaron Sorkin. Both her par­ents were Scien­tol­o­gists and she went to a Scien­tol­ogy drama school. She cred­its the faith with giv­ing her con­fi­dence. ‘It’s about mak­ing you bet­ter, not nec­es­sar­ily chang­ing who you are,’ she says.

It was a par­tic­u­lar so­lace to her when her mar­riage to Fred Ar­misen, a co­me­dian and im­pres­sion­ist on the pop­u­lar Amer­i­can com­edy sketch show Satur­day Night Live, broke down af­ter just eight months in 2010. Soon af­ter they split, Elis­a­beth said the great­est im­pres­sion he did was ‘ that of a nor­mal per­son’. Fred, who, it tran­spired, was dat­ing his co-star Abby El­liott just a week af­ter the cou­ple’s sep­a­ra­tion, later ad­mit­ted he had been ‘a ter­ri­ble hus­band’. Elis­a­beth is cur­rently in a re­la­tion­ship with Aus­tralian cinematographer Adam Arka­paw.

But de­spite hav­ing been fa­mous for so long Elis­a­beth — who de­scribes her­self as ‘a lit­tle bit ditzy and im­ma­ture’, is still un­com­fort­able with the idea of it. While cer­tainly strik­inglook­ing — par­tic­u­larly out of her Peggy clothes — she doesn’t have the tra­di­tional Hol­ly­wood Barbie-doll looks.

‘The whole fo­cus on ap­pear­ance can be a tremen­dous amount of pres­sure,’ she ad­mits can­didly. ‘It’s aw­ful. Imag­ine, ev­ery time you go out any­one in the world can comment on what you’re wear­ing. And ev­ery­one else in the world can see their com­ments. It hurts when you read some­thing neg­a­tive about you. But you learn to un­der­stand that just as there will al­ways be peo­ple who say nice things, there will be peo­ple who say not so nice things. And they’re like that with ev­ery­body — not just you. It comes with the job. In the scale of hor­ri­ble things that peo­ple have to deal with, it’s not that bad.’

And then with a smile and a ‘Thank you very much’, Elis­a­beth is ready to head off. She may well be Hol­ly­wood’s most po­lite lead­ing lady.

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