By Diane Anderson-Minshall
Originally published on Advocate.com October 31 2012 4:39 AM ET
With about 40 foreign film and TV roles under her belt, actress Lizzie Brocheré is famed for portrayals of women exploring and mastering sexuality in French art house films like One To Another and American Translation (including the NC-17 variety). But her newest turn, as Grace, a mysterious woman imprisoned in Briarcliffe on American Horror Story: Asylum, may turn out to be her most provocative. Though she can share scant details without getting in trouble with producer Ryan Murphy, Brocheré talks about bisexuality, playing a dominatrix, and things that go bump in the night in the Asylum.
The Advocate: You’re known for some great French art house films. What attracted you to American Horror Story?
Lizzie Brocheré: I was a big fan of the first season and the reason I was such a big fan was that — I was never like a horror freak — but there is something so twisted and at the same time so real about [it]. The show taps it something broader than just horror and something that talks about… our society nowadays with a lot of humor and at the same time with a lot of catharsis. It was just like a show I’ve never seen before. And I love the idea of the second season set up in a totally different universe and totally different context and at the same time to still be talking about [modern] fears and questions and lies. It’s a special project. I was really, really excited to be a part of it.
It’s so risky to do a series where the second season is completely different, including your main characters and actors. That’s pretty phenomenal if it works.
Yes, and making them play something totally different but you’ve seen them play something, at the same time, the year before. Yeah it’s very risky. It feels like some theater troupes… where you take different plays each time and you do them with the same people, you just change the characters. It’s very Shakespearean; French theater was based on the same principle. I like that.
I’ve only seen the first two episodes so right now it’s hard to get a fix on your character, Grace. How do you describe her?
Well, she’s been spending time at a mental institute for awhile, you know? [Laughs] I think it’s normal that you can’t really tell after two episodes. I love her.
How much back story does she come with? Were you given a back story or did you create a back story?
No, I was given a back story before I started shooting, before we started. You will discover her back story.
Did you have to do any research for the part?
I did a lot of research. I can’t really tell you what I researched without giving you what her back story is. [Laughs] I get really excited before a project. I don’t really know if it helps my acting, but I do a lot of research.
So you know whether she was framed for murder or not, but you won't tell me, right?
Yes. And you will know in about two weeks.
Let me ask you about some of your other works. In one of your films, After Fall, Winter you were a nurse who moonlighted as a dominatrix.
And in another film, One To Another, nearly everybody was bisexual and sex was a big part of the film.
In American Translation also: it was a love story between a serial killer and his girlfriend, and it was very sexually driven. It was the same director of One To Another.
Yes, American Translation, they called that a Bonnie and Clyde with a gay Gen Y twist. Do you get criticism when you do these provocative films?
I do. Well, it's not really criticism because maybe in France we’re a lot more open-minded, you know, about these things. I was 19 years old when I did One To Another, and I really had reason to do it. In France, I’m part of a generation where we have access to porn films very easily… when we did it — and I’m saying "us" because I’ve been working with these directors since I’ve been 19 years old, and I’ve been co-writing with them, and I believe in what we’re saying in those films. We were hoping to give a very different image about sexuality. The image of sex [in film was all these] cute romantic comedies, teen movies but at the same time having access to all these trashy [porn films]. It’s not a criticism about porn films but [we thought] maybe there’s another way of seeing sexuality and showing a sex scene and a way of showing it in a beautiful and humanized way, not like all these stunts that these porn people seem to be doing. [Laughs] Something that can be a lot more fragile. It’s a very different imagery of sex. It’s not something that you’ve been used to.
I think the concept that sexuality is sort of imbued with meaning in the film is a sort of novel.
Yeah, yes, yes. And that your sexuality is part of your identity. The other film, as the dominatrix, I mean, that was a comedy, that was, there was no sexuality shown on screen. It was very American. [Laughs] But it was a really fun movie. What was funny about doing the part was just playing a dominatrix. I kind of met a lot, and what was interesting there, in the same way, I guess what I did in the French film, the art house thing you were talking about. It was showing a different vision of what female sexuality could be —instead of all the imagery you have of women in porn films being totally submissive. I loved that character. She was great. She was very powerful and at the same time, a lot of humor. There’s a lot of humor in BDSM, a lot. You know, they’re not taking themselves too seriously. You can’t when you’re like, chained up in some kind of cage with a mask on your face. I like that, I like that.
France has kind of a different perspective on sexuality. Over all, is it an issue in France for women to identify as lesbian or bisexual?
I think it’s more accepted. I don’t think it’s an issue really. I think for men it’s more difficult. I think it’s actually cool to be a bisexual woman. I’ve never had any problems, you know, not that I’m bisexual but if I said something like what I just said, it wouldn’t make people go crazy. [Laughs]
So what can we expect of Grace in terms of her sexuality? Do you know if she’s straight or lesbian or bisexual?
[Sighs] I mean her back story is a lot darker than that but I can’t really tell. You’ll discover my back story in two episodes, so tune in, keep it up. [Laughs] But it was fascinating to be digging in there. But I can’t tell more. I’d love to talk to you about it after it airs.
Yeah, what’s the biggest challenge for you doing American Horror Story?
Everything was a big challenge. It was my first time doing an American TV show, so the pace was a big challenge. My character is very, very complex and, you know, as I said, you don’t end up in a mental institute just like this [for no reason]. It was very challenging to connect with Grace, although, it felt very familiar in a weird sense. And what’s still challenging is holding on to the same dark character for seven months.
A lot of people say when they’re doing dark characters that it’s hard not to take them home with them when they leave the set at night.
Yeah, it was. It’s not so much taking them home, but I know that it’s opening the gates in my mind and the things that I wouldn't really want to go in, if I didn’t do that character.
You were already acting when you were 10 years old, right?
Oh yeah, even younger than that. My mom was a casting director. She would take me in and put me in the commercial when I was 10 months old.
That’s a number of decades doing this then. So at this point, what’s the biggest hope for your career?
I don’t know. I've always done it in a way where I’ve done, dorky, adventures that I love the most. So, the United States is whole new big adventure. I love it. I love this show. I mean, if they want me for a second, I mean, a third season, I’d love to do it. If I get any opportunities here, it can be indie films, it can be action films…I’m really open to everything.
So you’ll stick around in Hollywood for awhile?
I won’t stick around, but if I have a project I’ll come back. [Laughs] I can’t stick around anymore.