She had sex in the name of research as Jane Martin on Masters of Sex and won raves on Broadway for American Psycho and Bullets over Broadway. Now Heléne Yorke is acting out as rebellious former First Daughter Olivia Graves in the EPIX comedy Graves, premiering this Sunday at 10/9c.
While her ex-POTUS dad (Nick Nolte) sets about righting the wrongs of his maligned presidency, Olivia gets revenge on her cheating husband and seduces papa’s wide-eyed new assistant, for starters. So we asked her about the show, sex scenes and, yes, baking for Bobby Flay.
“I did a lot of sex scenes in Masters of Sex. You become, I don’t want to say immune, but it’s a piece of the job that you mentally understand and know how to prepare for.”
What grabbed you about Graves and the character?
As a woman who loves to laugh and do physical comedy, this part was a dream. To have those moments was nice because you feel your whole body is involved in what’s going on and where it takes you. What’s fabulous about this show is it’s very timely. It’s paying attention to what’s going on in politics and the current climate in the United States.
Olivia’s a hot mess. Did you take inspiration from any celebrity train wrecks?
I didn’t, because being a ‘crazy celebrity’’ and the child of a president is a totally different thing. What I thought about was, ‘How is it to be in the spotlight and what kind of strain would that have on her? What would it drive her to do?’ I imagine that it’s difficult to establish your own identity, and that pressure really got to her, maybe more than someone else.
I thought about the weight of expectation, what was running through her bloodstream–probably quite a few medications, maybe a little too much booze, and caffeine, and how easy it would be to buckle under all of that while trying to maintain an image you’re pressured into maintaining. She’s pretty dead set on being rebellious after appeasing the family and being married to a Rockefeller for so long. This is her time to do what she wants to do, and she’s doing it with quite a lot of abandon, like a petulant child.
You have some sex scenes, though not as many as in Masters of Sex.
I did a lot in Masters of Sex. You become, I don’t want to say immune, but it’s a piece of the job that you mentally understand and know how to prepare for.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Vancouver, Canada but my dad was a computer software salesman and we moved to L.A., Atlanta, back to L.A., Minneapolis, back to L.A. We were always on the move and I always had to meet new people, make new friends and create new foundations. I think that’s a huge, shaping reason why I am what I am today and why I do what I do. Moving around teaches you adaptability. It’s the most shaping part of who I am as a person and as an actor. But now I find I crave roots and want to stay in one place. I have an apartment in New York City but go back and forth to Los Angeles. We shot Graves in New Mexico.
What kind of goals do you set now?
What’s interesting about this line of work is I’ve always left myself open, but you really can’t have a five year plan—your life is constantly surprising you at every turn. I love that part about it. Constant change is something I really thrive on, and enjoy.
Your boyfriend is chef Bobby Flay. Has he taught you to cook?
I actually knew how to cook before, and I’m now mourning the loss of the opportunity to do so. He’s always in the kitchen. I’m appreciated for my incredible appetite. I get hungry pretty much every hour and I’m happy to have somebody that feeds me on a regular basis.
How do you burn off all those gourmet calories?
We work out together a lot. I love to work out. It’s a balancing act, how much exercise you have to do to burn what you eat. Our philosophy is, real food is good for you. We’re not gorging on Twinkies. It’s homemade tomatillo sauce. I don’t cook as much as I used to, but I’ve started to bake. There’s got to be something sweet at the end of the meal and if he’s making a lovely meal, the least I can do is bake a cookie.
Photo courtesy of EPIX