Amy Landecker is just getting started.
The 46-year-old actor worked in theater in Chicago for years. Supporting roles in “A Serious Man” and “Dan in Real Life” gave her on-screen cred, but it wasn’t until she landed a starring role in Amazon Studios' “Transparent” that she came into her own.
The “traumedy,” which has won eight Emmys since first airing in 2014 — including three during last Sunday's ceremony — tells the story of an L.A. family adapting after its patriarch (Jeffrey Tambour) comes out as transgender.
Landecker plays Sarah Pfefferman, the oldest of the three adult children (alongside Gaby Hoffmann and Jay Duplass), whom many perceive as the most self-indulgent of the gang—which is saying a lot.
“People say, ‘Oh she’s a hot mess.’ I’m like, they’re all hot messes!” says Landecker. “I have a lot of sympathy for Sarah. She’s the oldest daughter of two parents who are incredibly narcissistic. She hasn’t exactly been given a great set of tools.”
We spoke with Landecker about how much she relates to her character, her crush on co-star Kathryn Hahn and the merits of finding career success in her forties.
Season 3 of “Transparent” premieres Friday on Amazon Prime.
Last season showed your character picking up the pieces after her divorce and non-starter second marriage. What can we expect for Sarah in Season 3?
Last season felt like I was doing a lot of dating and smoking (weed) and acting out and being alone. It felt very divorce-y to me, like how my (real-life) divorce felt. There’s this year after that is just sort of flailing around and feeling sorry for myself.
This season felt very light for me, more buoyant, because she’s going through a spiritual exploration.
Wherever Sarah goes, there’s some wreckage. It’s sad, and I love her, and it breaks my heart, but there’s just something about her that for whatever reason can be toxic to other human beings. And the one person who gets her, and is there for her no matter what, oddly, is Len (her ex-husband), so (this season) there’s a coming home, not in a romantic way, to the partnership and the family she has with him.
Where do you think her self-loathing comes from?
I know in my own self-loathing, it’s that in the pursuit to make myself happy, I hurt other people. Part of self-realization is there’s usually some collateral damage, and I think whenever you break up a family, whether it’s for good or bad, you have a tremendous sense of failure and guilt.
I think she’s also felt very isolated and alone — one of the storylines this year is about Ali and Josh, how close they are. My mom’s the oldest of three, and when you’re the oldest child you get a lot of the responsibility. You also get the brunt of whatever the parental dysfunction is. And you try to protect your younger siblings from it. They don’t know it, but you’re the wall between that so they can stay playful and happy together, and you’re sort of out there on your own.
You went through your divorce at the same time as Sarah does in the show. Could you tell us about that?
Yeah, it was kind of uncanny to me that pretty much every storyline that we’ve done has somehow coincided with some part of my life at the time that it’s happening. I’ve never identified as bisexual in my life and I’ve never been in the BDSM community, but I‘ve definitely pushed my own boundaries of what I wanted to do and what I’m interested in.
I’ve explored a little after divorce: you go out in the world and you date and you try different things, like going through a midlife crisis and then coming back to wanting to heal that rift. I’m really good friends with my ex now and his girlfriend and we have this very sort of easygoing blended family dynamic, and I’m also very happy in my personal life. It’s funny because I date Bradley Whitford, who was on the “West Wing” (and “Transparent”) and I know Sorkin really wrote to the people who they were. I feel like Jill (Soloway) is also very intuitive about the people she’s writing for. I feel like there will continue to be some mirroring.