SPOILER ALERT! This post contains details from the first two episodes of Feud: Capote vs. The Swans.
Feud: Capote vs. The Swans doesn’t waste time diving into the dark underbelly of Truman Capote‘s life.
The FX series tells the story of his rift with his socialite friends after he published a thinly veiled account of their less-than-shiny personal lives. Rather than take a slow burn approach, the series weaves the narrative through several timelines, one of which shows Capote’s downward spiral as he deals with the fallout of these high-society women turning against him.
By the second episode, Tom Hollander‘s Capote is spiraling into a drunken breakdown, lashing out at the few people still willing to be around him after his betrayal — including his partner, John O’Shea (Russell Tovey). There are two scenes in that episode where O’Shea assaults Capote after he’s said something particularly nasty. One is in their home, but the other is at the Thanksgiving dinner table with an audience that includes Capote’s longtime friend Joanne Carson (Molly Ringwald).
Hollander called the scenes “horrifying,” commending Tovey for his “really brilliant, visceral, terrifying performance.”
“I’ve never played someone being beaten up by their partner, and it was scary when we did it. I found it upsetting, but it was also funny in the way that these things can be, and Russell just…snaps in and out of character. He was very kind about it,” Hollander told Deadline.
He also recalled shooting the scenes many months apart from each other, since all of the scenes in Los Angeles were filmed at the end of production. That put probably an eight-month span in between the scene where O’Shea hits Capote in their apartment to when he assaults him at the Thanksgiving dinner table, even though they happen within minutes of each other in the episode.
“I’m interested [if] it’s hard to watch because it felt like it would be,” Hollander also said.
Hollander described Feud as a “fantasia” that takes a more liberal approach to this part of Capote’s life, which also influenced the way that he prepared to play the character.
“I started with it by watching Philip Seymour Hoffman [in Capote] and hoping that there was something left to do that he hadn’t already nailed,” he said. “I was pleased to to think that there was new territory, or at least that our story was so different from that story that I could do my own thing.”
The series is, as Hollander points out, “tonally so completely different” from the 2005 film, giving him the freedom to “embody [Capote’s] spirit and his energy [rather than] do a perfect impression.”
“He’s almost a mythical figure in this story. Given that the way that the series tonally moves around in such dramatic ways from one episode to the next…He’s a myth,” added Hollander.
The first two episodes of Feud: Capote vs. The Swans are streaming on Hulu. New episodes air on FX on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT.