[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans, Episode 1, “Pilot.”]
Feud is back and taking a deep dive into the lives of New York City’s ’60s and ’70s high society through the lens of Truman Capote (Tom Hollander) and his friendship with the “Swans,” among which are Babe Paley (Naomi Watts).
As viewers see in FX‘s anthology, Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans sees the famed writer embed himself into the fabric of Manhattan’s most prominent women of the time, only to turn their deepest secrets into reading material. While there are other figures — Slim Keith (Diane Lane), C.Z. Guest (Chloë Sevigny), Lee Radziwill (Calista Flockhart), Joanne Carson (Molly Ringwald), and Ann Woodward (Demi Moore) — who cross Capote’s path, none are as close to him as Babe, the wife of CBS founder Bill Paley (played by the late Treat Williams).
In the first episode, Capote comes to Babe’s side, comforting her after her husband’s latest infidelity which was blatant upon her arrival home where menstrual blood stains marked up various areas of their bedroom. The visual representation of her husband’s unfaithfulness is something that Truman takes note of upon coming to support her.
But he asks her not to tell anyone about the humiliation, noting that he’ll keep her secret. As the episode plays out and Truman becomes desperate for writing material, he’s persuaded to write about Babe and the other women, sealing his fate and theirs as friends no more. Wowing from the get-go is Hollander, who disappears into his role, speaking with Capote’s unique voice.
“Sometimes you have to try and make the character you, even with someone as out there as Truman Capote,” Hollander tells TV Insider about his approach to the role and voice. “But I did a sort of bad Truman Capote voice initially, and then a [dialect] coach called Jerome Butler who needs to be credited as much as possible… helped me really hone it and get it closer.”
Hollander also explains, “My phone was somewhere in my costume and I would listen to [Truman] in between takes. I never stopped listening to him.”
“He transformed. We watched it before our very eyes on a daily basis,” Watts gushes over her costar. Ultimately, Hollander says, “You keep scratching at it.” In other words, practice makes perfect.
Perfect is the word Capote uses to describe Babe, who is very clearly one of his best friends, which makes their falling out all the more tragic as the season carries on. When it comes to playing a woman who has been hurt so many times by her husband’s infidelities, what makes Truman’s betrayal so different?
“Because she gave herself to him and allowed herself to be seen in a really unique way,” Watts says. “I don’t think she ever had that kind of connection with anybody else in her lifetime. And she’d experienced the infidelities on numerous occasions and found a way to recover. She was well-calloused in terms of managing pain, but her way of coming together with Truman was very different. Though they never physicalized it, it was a romance of its own kind, because she went to such a deep level.”
See what else Hollander and Watts are sharing in the video interview, above, and see what else is in store for their characters as Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans continues on FX.
Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans, Wednesdays, 10/9c, FX (Next Day on Hulu)