Sevigny’s commercial approach

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PASADENA, Calif. — Actress Chloe Sevigny insists that her reputation as a sassy rebel is way off the mark. Though she favors art-house movies, openly criticizes projects she’s doing, admits to toying with drugs and refuses to swim in the Hollywood stream, that’s not who she is, she says.

“I think because in real life I’m actually quite conservative, and I’m not radical in my day-to-day life and how I act _ I think I use my art to do that,” she says.

“I’m a nice Catholic girl. For some reason that’s what makes it interesting and fun — kind of pushing the form and trying new things and shocking people in some moments.”

Sevigny did enjoy a lower-middle class upbringing in an upscale area of Connecticut. “My dad worked in insurance and worked very hard to bring us up in that town,” she says, seated in a sunny guest room of a hotel here.

“He wanted us to grow up in a really safe environment. And I never thanked him for doing that. But going back now, I just had my 20th high school reunion, and I knew all the kids from kindergarten on. And it is a really nice way to grow up I think. I think there’s so much hardship for so long, I think to keep kids innocent for as long as possible is not a bad choice to make as a parent.”

She lost her dad to cancer when she was only 20, a crucial event in her life, she confesses. “Just feeling sad all the time. Still.”

After his death, she says, she had to settle down a bit. “I think I had to work more because I had more financial responsibility, so I had to think more about work as a career than just as an art. You have to make different choices, but I still think I got to stick to my guns. And he always celebrated my brother’s and my individuality, and told us, ‘You never become sheep’ and all that kind of stuff. So I think I’ve carried that on for him.”

Sevigny has specialized in unorthodox independent films, starting with “Trees Lounge” when she was 21, then slipping into the mainstream with “Zodiac,” “Shattered Glass” and “Boys Don’t Cry,” for which she earned an Oscar nomination. Television series like “Big Love,” “American Horror Story” and her latest, “Those Who Kill,” premiering March 3 on A&E, have exposed her in a new light.

In “Those Who Kill” she plays a newly minted homicide detective obsessed with unearthing serial killers and tortured by her own, shattered past.

“I just turned 39 and I never starred in anything _ in a movie or television show before,” she says. “And I thought this being kind of a bit more commercial fare would be more of a surprise to people than if I’d done another weirdo, more arty picture.”

Determined to take command of her future, not just her career, she says she’s learning more about managing finances, hopes to marry and have a baby within a year and vows to be less self-critical.

“One of my New Year’s resolutions is not to beat myself up so much,” says Sevigny, who’s wearing a blue print blouse, a short, flared black skirt, a navy headband with a bow and pink, platform heels.

“I’d like to be able to be more confident and more comfortable in my own skin, and think I’d like to have that. You have to find peace with yourself; especially with the way I look. I’m trying not to be so critical. I guess just being in the industry and feeling like people are looking at you under a microscope _ than maybe if you had a different profession _ makes you more critical.”

Left heartbroken when her eight-year romance with rock musician Matt McAuley ended, she says she’s found new joy with commercial director Rene Navarrette.

While she doesn’t avoid actors, she says, “I’ve gone on dates with actors _ some more or less famous _ but I never met one that I wanted to pursue more than a couple of dates here and there. I’ve fallen for some of my costars, but more as their character. And when you’re with them as themselves _ ‘I don’t really have that much to talk to you about. You’re just like a dorky, actor guy. You’re much more interesting as your character,’” she laughs.

Sevigny recently bought a new apartment in New York and says she loves playing the hausfrau. “I’m very good at domestic artistry, home-life, cleaning, laundry, setting the house up. Cooking, I’m OK, getting better. But keeping a nice home and taking care of the plants, domestic artistry I’m quite good at that, and I really like it. I really find it very therapeutic keeping a tidy household. It makes me feel really calm and safe.”

“The Americans,” the FX series about Soviet spies who assume the identify of a typical American couple, will return for a new season on Wednesday.

Welsh actor Matthew Rhys, who plays the husband, recalls when the Cold War was in full sway.

“Personally, being from the UK and within striking distance, it was very present to us,” he says.

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