Patricia Clarkson: “I Play Beautiful People’s Mothers”

Patricia Clarkson really knows the benefits of friends, as she reveals with a special shout-out to her “Friends With Benefits” director Will Gluck.

“Will, I love you: You let me walk into my first scene and Justin Timberlake’s naked,” Clarkson says with a deep, throaty laugh. “Oh, I owe you!”

After earning two Emmys and an Oscar nomination for her razor-sharp dramatic turns in projects like “Six Feet Under,” “Pieces of April,” “Far From Heaven” and “The Station Agent,” Clarkson’s more than happy to have discovered a new side- niche playing frequently offbeat matriarchs to attractive young stars (“I just play beautiful people’s mothers: Jim Sturgess or Mila Kunis or Emma Stone or Evan Rachel Wood,” she deadpans). And she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’m omnivorous,” says the actress of balancing comedic and dramatic roles. “I think I would be unhappy doing just one or the other. But comedic parts for women my age are fewer and far between and it’s harder and harder and harder. But I’m very thankful now that I’ve got this new place – people always offer me drama, but now people are offering my comedic parts and I owe Will Gluck a lot, a lot. Work begets work, and suddenly people are like ‘Oh, she’s funny.’ Yes, I can pull down my pants with the best of them.”

Her comedic breakthrough came with Gluck’s 2010 comedy “Easy A,” playing alongside Stanley Tucci as Emma Stone’s somewhat oversharing parents. “I had such a blast doing ‘Easy A,’” she says. “It was just a beautiful experience with Will and Stanley and Emma – I hit the jackpot.”

Gluck was eager to hire Clarkson for his next comedy, this time playing uncensored rocker-groupie mom to Mila Kunis in “Friends With Benefits,” but he had to get the pitch right, she recalls. “He said, ‘I have another part for you – It’s another mother.’” Her first reaction, Clarkson says, was a groan, but then Gluck told her “‘It’s like maybe a sister to the lady in “Easy A” – but like on drugs, like a raunchy, ex-groupie lady.’ I was like, ‘Oooo, okay!’ ‘And maybe her greatest gift is not being a mother. It’s being a groupie and sniffing glue.’ I read that first scene and I thought, ‘Oh wow, yeah, this could be fun – there’s something slightly different about Lorna, because she’s not a hippie, because she’s sexy, she’s not freewheel-y. Lorna is like kind of hard and she’s like a musician, except that she has no talent.”

Clarkson was also pleased to reunite with Timberlake on set after a first whirlwind meeting shooting a wildly popular digital short for “Saturday Night Live” with the pop star in 2010. “I knew Justin before this, because of ‘Motherlover,’ the video,” says Clarkson. “I just got that weird call: ‘We want you and Susan Sarandon to come be the mothers to Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg…’ – again I play beautiful people’s mothers!"

“I said, ‘Am I going to be doing something weird?’” adds Clarkson. “And they were like, ‘No, no, no, it’s actually the opposite, you’re going to be like skipping.’ I was like, ‘Oh, I like that.’ ‘You’re going to have a headband on and a peignoir,’ I was like, ‘Oh yeah!’ Seriously, I got a call on like a Wednesday night at 10 o’clock – which is how they do things at Saturday Night Live, it’s always crazy and last minute – and we shot that video on Friday, they edited it by Saturday and it aired the Saturday before Mother’s Day on Sunday.”

“And I instantly became the coolest person with every niece and nephew.”

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