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Apr 17, 2013
By Chanel • Interview

Former Dutch fashion model turned actor and director Famke Janssen recently played the big bad witch Muriel in the film “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.” The 48-year-old has also starred in “X-Men,” “Golden Eye,” “Taken” and “Taken 2.” She often, but not always, portrays the tall dark villainess. Her most recent role is that of Olivia Godfrey in the new Netflix goth horror series “Hemlock Grove,” about mysterious goings-on in an old steel town outside Pittsburgh. While acting pays the bills, writing and directing are what she is interested in pursuing now. She wrote, directed and produced the film “Bringing Up Bobby” (2011). “Hemlock Grove” will debut Friday on Netflix.

Do you find typecasting annoying or an easy way to make a living?
Neither. I would say typecasting is very much a part of the industry. It’s something I fought against for years and years, but it’s a battle you ultimately can’t win [laughing]. I found out the hard way. It was still, for me, worth the battle at the time. I ended up working with Woody Allen, Robert Altman, Ted Demme and a lot of incredible directors. But the types of movies I ended up doing didn’t have much visibility. The films I get typecasted in, you know — “X-Men,” “Golden Eye” and any of the big studio films of course — have a much broader audience and higher visibility. Ultimately, in the studio films, it comes down to me being cast as a certain type of character. That I have actually come to terms with. It is perfectly suitable to where I am in my life right now. It serves as a nice way to make a living. It affords me to do the things I really aspire to do. I have written and directed and produced my first feature, “Bringing Up Bobby.” It came out last year. I am developing a bunch of other projects at the moment. I am writing and have done “Hemlock Grove” for six months. If we go again for six months it affords me to spend half of the year developing the projects I am going to direct and the other half acting. It is actually quite perfect.

When you are acting, do you make up your own back stories for your evil characters?
Ah, well, in the 20 years I have been in this business I have done almost any kind of role. Yes, I’ve played my share of a character like Muriel in “Hansel & Gretel” — a witch — that is a purely evil character. So for every character that I play, I try to come up with a back story. In the case of “Hemlock Grove” it was based on a novel, but even so in the novel it wasn’t very specifically explained so I still ended up making my own decisions about [Olivia].
Was there anything that bothered you about your character in “Hemlock Grove” or did you just embrace it?
I think that when you play a character it is never good to start off with what bothers you. You try to find the things you enjoy or like or cherish or find interesting or fascinating about a person because I have to play her. I have to be OK playing her. Even in the most evil characters there is always something you can find that is interesting or fascinating or lovable or whatever about them. I found Olivia to be a multi-faceted woman. You know, mysterious, which I always like. I am not one to believe that everything should be explained about a person or a story, and that is very much in keeping with who she is.

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