To celebrate my 32nd birthday, I started the Hustle Hard Interview Project. Each month for the next year, I’ll be interviewing one Hustler who embodies a skill or a quality I admire. I hope to uncover some gems that bring me one step closer to being a fully-formed adult.
Although I’m not shy about giving compliments, I rarely refer to anyone as “hardcore.” It’s a term I save for someone who is effortlessly graceful and tough and real and sharp. Emmy award-winning actress Felicity Huffman is, well, undeniably hardcore. And because she’s blown me away each time I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and chat with her, it was difficult to pinpoint just one quality to celebrate.
Before meeting with Felicity for brunch a few weeks ago, I browsed through posts on her latest project, What the Flicka, an entertaining self-help blog that Forbes named as one of the Top 10 Parenting and Homemaking Sites for Women in 2012. It was for “interview research purposes,” but I got distracted by her Health and Fitness posts and stared at her well-defined arms and awe-inspiring physique for half an hour instead of doing actual research. Sure, go ahead and judge me for being creepy. It’s one of my better qualities.
During all of my laborious “research,” my thoughts kept going back to a comment that Felicity made about her husband, William H. Macy, during another chat last fall. It wasn’t the words I found so memorable. Without thinking, she smiled a little more as she shared a story about Bill. Sixteen years of marriage these days is a major coup. To see someone smile because they just can’t help it after sixteen years of marriage…that’s hardcore.
EJL: How did you meet Bill? I love….love. And I love all love stories.
FH: I went to this acting studio while I was at NYU, David Mamet’s studio, and he was my teacher. All the girls crushed on Bill because he was so cool. After we graduated, our theater company was doing a season up in Vermont, and he came to see us. Somehow, as we were all leaving the play and going to a party way out in the country, he and I ended up taking the same car. As we headed into the party, Bill asked me to take a walk with him. He took me up into a field and kissed me. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Why he chose me, I’ll never know.
EJL: The whole concept of marriage fascinates me because until I married my husband, I don’t know that I even believed in it. My parents were miserable for a long time. How did you know you wanted to be with Bill?
FH: I knew what a good man looked like because I have six older sisters. I listened to their stories as I was growing up. Bill and I broke up for quite a few years, and I was so miserable without him. Just as I was becoming okay on my own, he came back. The perspective I got from losing Bill for such a long time and then having the opportunity to be with him again made me know what a good guy he was.
EJL: Did your time apart make the second incarnation a different experience?
FH: I was finally able to say, “I’m not a perfect girlfriend.” And he still cherished me. He gives me a lot of room. The day after we got married, I sat in my family’s kitchen surrounded by my sisters and cried for about 4 hours because I thought my life was over.
The next day, Bill and I went on a backpacking trip, and I brought a shitty paperback novel. Every time we stopped to rest, I whipped out my book and started reading. When I pretty much hadn’t said anything for two days, Bill asked me what was going on. I said, “I think my identity is done because I married you. I feel like this was a huge mistake.”
He calmly replied, “Okay.”
And because he gave me all that room, it was like a mountain wasn’t there anymore.
EJL: There are men who are uncomfortable with their spouses pursuing their own passions or becoming successful. I think these men are afraid to see women shine. But, you’re…so shiny. Do you think you could have the career you do now if Bill wasn’t so supportive?
FH: It would be impossible. Bill gives me a lot of room, but he does it because he knows that my importance or worth is not defined by him.
EJL: When I married my husband after dating him for just 18 days, I was afraid that when he started to know everything about me, he wouldn’t love me anymore. It’s still a fear I have. It’s impossible to know the inner-workings of a marriage, even a successful one, but do you have any thoughts on…how I’m supposed to…do this thing and not mess it up?
FH: I’m glad your husband lets you be yourself. I don’t know how to keep a marriage going, but I do know that I can still feel a spark every time Bill comes home. I don’t put in effort all the time. I don’t dress up. I wear workout clothes all the time. And he still cherishes me.
EJL: Thank God. I’ve worn yoga pants for 15 days in a row. Wait. I think I have the wrong takeaway here.
Throughout brunch, I made references to hip hop and rap artists, and as we were getting ready to leave, Felicity asked why I liked rap so much. I had never been asked that question before, and it gave me pause. It dawned on me that the music that I still love so much today has been one of the few consistent things in my life over the past two decades. And because Felicity is Felicity, she said, “Would you write me a list of stuff to listen to? I’m not into that ‘fuck bitches’ stuff though.” If anyone were to ask me for a moment of kindness that someone showed me, this might be near the top of my list. I didn’t realize what a profoundly positive impact it makes to show curiosity for someone else’s passions until it happened to me.
Please help me make a list of must-listen rap/hip hop music for Felicity. And no “fuck bitches” stuff.
photo credit: Stephen Busken