LOS ANGELES – Hilary Swank’s mother says her Academy Awards should be for fooling people.
“Because I’m so silly, she can’t believe people think I’m so dramatic,” Swank says. According to Danny Boyle, the director of the long-form series “Trust,” she’s actually just a very good student.
After he pitched her the role of Gail Getty, the daughter-in-law who appealed to J. Paul Getty to pay the ransom for her kidnapped son, Swank went to work, read books about the experience and found her way in to the character.
“To wake up not knowing if (your child) is alive…is all-consuming,” she says. “I don’t have children but my ability to empathize with this probably was only scratching the surface of what it feels like.”
Thanks to a script that covers life beyond the kidnapping, “Gail really grew…she was finding her strength.”
She also formed a friendship with the man charged with finding her son, James Fletcher Chace (played by Brendan Fraser). “I challenge you to think about the last time you saw any movie or TV show where it was a friendship between two genders, a man and a woman. There’s no sexual innuendo. There’s no, ‘Maybe they’re going to be a couple.’ There’s no them talking about it. Playing her was a dream come true.”
While the 43-year-old actress has shied away from television (“10 years is a little claustrophobic,” she says), she liked the pace – and breadth – of “Trust.”
“When Danny and (producer) Simon Beaufoy called, you just do it. Something this enriching you want to be a part of.”
Because “Trust” goes beyond what viewers saw in the big-screen version of the Getty story (“All the Money in the World”), Swank gets to show Gail Getty in control of much more than her own life. “When you see a character grow up, it’s pretty great. You don’t get the opportunity much in a two-hour medium.”
And that sense of humor? It emerged on the set. Whenever Donald Sutherland, who plays J. Paul Getty, said something funny, she was the first to laugh. “I loved the eccentricities of the family,” she says. In the series, audiences get to see what he did to amuse himself while practically a captive in his own home.
Money, though, is hardly a driving force for Swank, who was born in Lincoln, Nebraska. “I don’t ever want money to be the ruling factor of any decision,” she says.
As an actress, the goal is showing a character’s journey.
“The beauty of television is everything gets revealed as you go….that’s so human. It’s so hard to tell a story in two hours. I’m coming to recognize that more than ever now.”
Unfolding it over 10 hours, Boyle was able to give Swank, Sutherland and Fraser plenty of time to reveal the details their “All the Money in the World” counterparts couldn’t.
Even better, Boyle says, Swank was so letter perfect he didn’t really need more than one take with her. “She’d say, ‘Do we need to do that again?’ And I didn’t. It was just, ‘Boom.’ She landed it every time.”
Now looking at other work (yup, a comedy is still a goal), Swank says she’s not shying away from television.
“Any time you solve what you’re going after, it’s a win,” she says.
"Trust" airs at 9 p.m. Sunday on FX.