Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy on Community Roots

BY Michael Cleverly | July 13, 2017 | Feature Features

Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy share stories about their careers, where they met and how they ended up building a new home in Woody Creek.
Huffman, 54, and Macy, 67, met in the early '80s at the Atlantic Theater Company. For her, it was love at first sight.

THE FACT THAT Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy have been married for 20 years and a solid couple for 15 before that makes their devotion to each other clear; their stacks of awards demonstrate their commitment to their craft. They are two of the most respected actors working today.

There’s something of a tradition among serious but also attractive actors to occasionally scuff themselves up, slap on a prosthetic or go through extreme weight gain or loss, and go for the gold. Often it works. Both Macy and Huffman are so regularly cast as severe rather than beautiful characters that they utterly disappear into the role, and the result is that audiences may end up not having a clear image of their actual appearance. When I asked Huffman why they stipulated that there not be a photographer along on our interview, she casually noted that she didn’t have to mess with hair and makeup. I looked at her and thought: My God, she’s fine right out of the box. And after binge-watching Shameless, in which Macy stars as lead Frank Gallagher, all day prior to this interview I’m happy to announce that Macy shines up pretty well too. There’s a kind of inner beauty that intelligence brings to a face that no amount of paint and prettiness can duplicate.

Both actors are firmly rooted on the stage, the most intimate way to ply that trade. There’s no faking it in theater, no multiple takes, no mulligans. The connection to the audience doesn’t end until the final curtain. Their paths to theater began at ages when most weren’t yet contemplating their future lives.

Huffman got her start at the Aspen Community School in Woody Creek. There, she was taught and mentored by Rhett Harper, who guided generations of children through their first exposure to theater and remains active in Aspen theater to this day. Later, she fell under direction of Community School parent Paul Rubin, who is legendary for his theatrical intensity and interesting choices of material for the children to perform. Rubin cast an adolescent Huffman as Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire, and she was his assistant director for Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms. Clearly Huffman survived and flourished, but one wonders if there might be former students out there who have conflicted feelings every time they attend a play, turn on the TV or go to a movie.

Watching her fellow students go off to high-profile institutions, Huffman, armed with the self-esteem that the Community School fosters in its students, decided to give the East Coast and the prestigious The Putney School a shot. One year was enough. Huffman was an avid skier, and the difference between skiing in Vermont and Colorado may have played into the decision. She happily ended up back at Aspen High School—skiing the opposite of East Coast sheets of shiny ice. After high school, she graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy in 1981, and then attended New York University, Circle in the Square and London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

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