"I remember feeling a lot of the time like I was my grandmother," the actress tells PEOPLE of getting into character in Ryan Murphy's new series
The stars of Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans look effortless as they channel Manhattan’s high society of the ‘60s and ‘70s in designer fashions, glam jewelry and perfectly coifed hair in the new Ryan Murphy series.
“I didn't have to do any of the work,” Calista Flockhart, who portrays Lee Radziwill, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue of making looking like a socialite appear easy. “I just had my costume and the wig and the makeup and it was all done.”
Working on the period piece took Flockhart, 59, back to her early days in New York City.
“I was thinking a lot about how I came to New York in 1988, 1989, and people still dressed up to go to the theater,” she says. “And I remember very quickly, that changed. I remember thinking, oh, I can just wear anything I want now to go to a play. There was a sadness to that — and also a relief. It was kind of the end of an era that these women experienced at the end of the show.”
Flockhart didn’t reach out to Radziwill’s daughter-in-law, former Real Housewife of New York City Carole, for advice on getting into character, but she did pull inspiration from a loved one.
“I remember feeling a lot of the time like I was my grandmother,” the actress says. “I had a grandmother who every single day had perfect hair, perfect makeup. She wore gloves, she wore hats, she wore a suit, and it was very touching. She didn't have any help. She did it by herself and it didn't take her long. So I thought about my grandmother, who I loved very much, a lot when I was shooting the show.”
Truman Capote’s swans, as he deemed them, had eyes on them wherever they went, whether attending the city’s most exclusive parties, eating at the poshest restaurants or summering on Long Island, N.Y. With the advent of the internet and social media, today’s public figures might feel a similar pressure as the swans once did to appear perfect all the time.
For Flockhart, “it depends what kind of pressure you're going to put on yourself,” she says. “You're either going to engage in it or just check out or somewhere in the middle, and it depends on how much you care. I think it's an individual choice.”
For more on Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.
The Ally McBeal star actually thinks the myriad content available in 2024 helps drown out some of those pressures because people have so much they can put their attention towards.
“When I was doing a television show back in the ‘90s and the early 2000s, there were only five or six TV shows on the air,” Flockhart recalls. “So there was a lot more scrutiny and a lot more attention back then because there just wasn't a lot of content. Now, this is overwhelming how much content there is.”
Working on Feud gave Flockhart even more content to fill her brain as she learned about the fallout between Truman Capote and his swans — rounded out on the show by Demi Moore, Molly Ringwald, Chloë Sevigny and Naomi Watts — after he aired their dirty laundry in his story "La Côte Basque, 1965."
“I knew absolutely nothing,” she admits of the inspiration for the series. “I knew a lot about Truman Capote. Maybe I had a little memory of it at one point in my life, but really nothing.”
Flockhart also had the support of her husband Harrison Ford as she took on the job.
“He supports me in so many ways,” she told PEOPLE at the Jan. 23 Feud premiere in N.Y.C. “It’s a mutual thing.
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Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.
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