Lily Rabe on Getting Spooky for AHS and Sweaty for Tell Me Your Secrets
Rabe also discusses scoring a SAG card on ‘Mona Lisa Smile,’ giving up her ‘Hunger Games’ role and more!
Lily Rabe’s star power skyrocketed when American Horror Story turned into an epic phenomenon on launch back in 2011. She continues to excel in that series, but has also been quite busy adding more titles to her resume with the most recent additions being HBO’s The Undoing and the Amazon’s latest, Tell Me Your Secrets.
Rabe headlines the show playing Karen Miller, a woman who’s arrested with her boyfriend Kit (Xavier Samuel) for the role she played in the murders he committed. At the start of the series, she’s out of jail and part of the Witness Protection Program, assuming the name Emma Hall. While trying to lay low and steer clear of trouble, Emma is also challenged to figure out what really happened to one of Kit’s victims, an incident she claims she can’t remember.
Whether you’ve seen all of AHS, The Undoing and Tell Me Your Secrets or just a single credit on Rabe’s resume, I’m willing to bet you already know she’s often a standout in whatever show she’s in. But if you’re only familiar with Rabe’s work in TV, it’s time to get a better understanding of what she’s really accomplished over the years on this episode of Collider Ladies Night, because Rabe’s achievements are especially robust and her aspirations will be mighty exciting to track as her star continues to grow.
Rabe’s potential in that respect was evident early on, even back when she first scored her coveted Screen Actors Guild card. While studying at Northwestern, Rabe opted to take a semester off to participate in a screenwriting program at NYU. But, while in New York, another opportunity came her way:
“I went to New York for a semester. I got into this screenwriting program and I think I did something like three days and was obsessed with it. And then I had done this audition for Mona Lisa Smile. It was a way to get my SAG card. I was just paid scale but it was a tremendous amount of money to me at the time. I then saved it up and it sort of helped me when I graduated for sure. So I ended up not getting those credits and working during that time and then I went back.”
Mona Lisa Smile hit theaters back in 2003 and was set at Wellesley College in the 1950s. It starred Julia Roberts as an art history teacher eager to encourage her students to pursue the lives that feel true to them, rather than the lives they’re expected to lead. The ensemble featured loads of very familiar faces at the time including Julia Stiles, Kirsten Dunst and Maggie Gyllenhaal, but soon a handful of the Mona Lisa Smile cast members who only had a mere three lines in the movie would go on to become mighty familiar names themselves.
“It felt like it was just a great group of wonderful women. Everyone was very generous. There was like a little pack of us. I think we each had about three lines in the movie. It was Krysten Ritter and Kristen Connolly. I’ve worked with Kristen a few times since then. I think there were four or five of us and it did feel like this little pack of us where we probably spoke a total of 20 lines between the five of us, but it was just a great experience. You felt a part of the fabric of the film and all of those wonderful actresses playing all the other parts I’ve now crossed paths with and worked with. So yeah, it was a great start. But at the time I was very focused on getting back to school. There was no part of me that was like, ‘Okay, after this, I’m gonna stay and audition.’ I really wanted to get back to Northwestern.”
Turns out, that itch to finish school sparked a recurring nightmare that might feel very relatable to some out there – myself included. Rabe had a laugh and explained:
“I still have this recurring nightmare now that they tell me I don’t have enough credits to graduate. It’s a real like, walking out without your clothes on recurring dream, but I still have that dream, so I really remember counting the credits and [going], ‘Okay, I am gonna graduate on time if I do this, if I take this time off?’”
This right here is only a small step in Rabe’s journey to Tell Me Your Secrets, which is now available to stream in full on Amazon. Check out our full Collider Ladies Night conversation to hear more about what Rabe opted to do after graduating college, why she chose Much Ado About Nothing over joining The Hunger Games franchise, how she got involved in American Horror Story and so much more! We’ve got the chat available in video form at the top of this article and the podcast version for you below:
- 00:33 – At first, Rabe dreamed of becoming a ballerina.
- 01:07 – How Rabe wound up doing her first monologue.
- 02:55 – Rabe details her experience in college and why it was important for her to study acting and other subjects as well.
- 05:25 – Taking a semester off from school to take part in a screenwriting program; booking Mona Lisa Smile and getting her SAG card.
- 07:48 – Rabe looks back on working on Mona Lisa Smile alongside Krysten Ritter and Kristen Connolly.
- 10:01 – Choosing to focus on theater at the start of her career; theater culture in New York.
- 11:56 – Rabe discusses the value of continuing to do stage work while her on-screen career flourishes.
- 13:49 – Looking back on working on David Milch’s Last of the Ninth; what it was like when that HBO pilot wasn’t picked up to series.
- 17:07 – Rabe recounts her experience joining the cast of American Horror Story.
- 19:50 – The benefit of working non-stop and flying back and forth to New York and LA during AHS Season 1 so she could also do Seminar on Broadway.
- 21:36 – Rabe teases American Horror Story Season 10.
- 22:49 – What really happened with The Hunger Games? Why did Rabe give up the role?
- 26:28 – The excitement of essentially playing two parts with one soul in Tell Me Your Secrets; immediately knowing she had to commit after meeting Harriet Warner.
- 30:04 – Is Tell Me Your Secrets the sweatiest show Rabe has ever made?
- 32:04 – Tell Me Your Secrets spoilers begin here! Did Rabe and Linklater have to keep character details secret from one another while filming?
- 35:22 – Rabe on Karen’s trusting nature; is Emma left in a place where she can’t trust anyone anymore?
González also explained why this role gave her the chance to break free of the stereotypes the industry has given her.
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