Felicity Huffman: The Not So Desperate Housewife

Felicity Huffman is flying high on one of TV’s biggest hits, and when her husband walks into the room, she says, "my heart still jumps." But what we love most about her is that she’s not above trying on Madonna’s underwear.

By Margy Rochlin
Felicity Huffman in MORE’s August 2008 issue
Photograph: Photo by: Matthew Rolston

Her Career in Theater, Film, and TV

"Oops, dropped it." Felicity Huffman is standing near a roaring brick oven at Los Angeles’s upscale, forever-booked Pizzeria Mozza, peering forlornly at a ball of dough that has slipped from her fingers. But this splat doesn’t tell the whole story.

Huffman has just aced the rest of a pie-making crash course that was cooked up specially for her by Pizzeria Mozza’s chef and co-owner Nancy Silverton. Under her tutelage, Huffman — whose character on Desperate Housewives, Lynette Scavo, operates a pizzeria with her husband — has mastered the whole syllabus: stretching dough into 10-1/2-inch discs; ladling on thin, concentric layers of red passato sauce; adding pieces of mozzarella; snipping tiny bits of fresh basil over the bubbling finished product. She’s getting a lot more experience today than her Housewives character has had ("Lynette has done the toppings," Huffman notes, "but she’s never done the twirling"). In fact, Huffman moves pizzas in and out of the oven with such ease, wielding the long-handled slider like a pro, that the restaurant’s young chef de cuisine, Bryant Ng, deadpans the question, "Is she looking for a job?"

The answer to that, Mr. Ng, would be no. When it comes to heat, Huffman’s career can certainly compete with that 700-degree pizza oven. In 2005, Huffman took home a best actress Emmy for Desperate Housewives, and she was nominated again last year. In 2006, she won all manner of accolades, including a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination, for her portrayal of a pre-op male-to-female transsexual in Transamerica. Now Huffman’s name and acting style ("No false notes, no affectations," summarizes writer-producer Aaron Sorkin, who worked with her on his late-1990s series Sports Night) have acquired stamp-of-quality status in the entertainment industry. What’s not as well known is that the 45-year-old is classically trained, with three decades of experience onstage, as well as her work in TV and film. (An early member of David Mamet’s Atlantic Theater Company, along with her husband of 11 years, actor William H. Macy, Huffman won an Obie in 1995 as a raging, newly jettisoned wife in Mamet’s The Cryptogram.) So even when she was struggling to find gigs, her friends and colleagues always expected she would rise to the top.

One fan of Huffman’s theater work was Sorkin. Recognizing her as she waited to audition for Sports Night, he made a beeline for co-executive producer Thomas Schlamme. "‘There’s an actress out there named Felicity Huffman,’" Sorkin recalls saying. "‘I promise you, we will cast her in the lead.’ And sure enough, she read once and bam, that was that. Knocked it out of the park."

Pick up a copy of MORE‘s September issue, on newsstands now, for more on Felicity Huffman:

Which role did she really want on Desperate Housewives?

What judgmental comment once reduced her to tears?

What did she do when she discovered Madonna’s thong in her dressing room?

Originally published in MORE magazine, September 2008.

First Published Mon, 2009-04-06 18:03

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