Selma Blair Tells Us What The Perks Are Of Befriending A Kardashian

Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic.
Now that Selma Blair is playing Kris Jenner on The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, it's clear that the two have a similar look, to say the least. But Blair didn’t see the resemblance until a week before she was cast as the Kardashian matriarch. "For some reason, three people had said, 'You look so much like Kris Jenner,'" Blair told Refinery29 in a phone chat. "Then I got this call saying, 'Would you play this very small role of Kris Jenner?' I thought, Oh my god, I will be standing in the doorway as Kris Jenner without saying anything. That would just be so much fun."

Blair’s role ended up being slightly bigger than that, although Jenner is not a major player in the series, which mostly focuses on the legal teams involved with the case. Still, Blair makes an impression. She is, after all, playing a Kardashian, and they tend to get noticed. In the third episode, which aired last night, she confronts her ex-husband Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) about "standing by" O.J. "He butchered her, Robert," she says, referring to her friend, Nicole Brown Simpson. "He murdered her."

Robert — father of Kim, Khloé, Kourtney, and Rob — was a friend of Simpson's who served on his defense, and the presence of the Kardashians makes the Ryan Murphy-produced FX show feel even more timely, with more than a few winks to viewers. (A report has emerged that the family wasn't too happy with a scene in the second episode, which shows the children cheering as Robert reads Simpson's suicide note.)

Blair, however, developed a positive relationship with the woman whose '90s wardrobe and trademark loose pixie cut she's bringing back to the small screen. The actress even wound up spending Christmas Eve with Jenner and the famous family. Blair spoke to us about prepping for her role and more.

Were you a fan of the Kardashians? Had you watched Kris over the years?
"I have. The Kardashians have been around a long time now. They are in all of our consciousness. You don’t have to watch the show to know who they are, obviously. But I did. I always had them on in the background. People would kind of make fun of me. Like, Oh my god, you read the Economist, you read two books a day, and you always have the Kardashians on? I’m like, No, it’s not dumb, they are a lovely family. They are not stressful to me. I can’t watch Real Housewives or The Bachelor or anything. That is like a lot of drama. But they are a family that love each other, and they all look so darn good. They are really good background TV."

What was the process of getting the role? Did they just call you and ask you to do it?
"I was just called and asked if I wanted to do this role, and I immediately said yes. Then I would experiment. I can do her mannerisms so well in real life. She talks a lot more quietly than I do, but I didn’t want to make it like an SNL skit to actually just imitate her totally. That would have taken you out and it would have felt kitschy or something. I just played it a little straighter. I can make myself look like Kris Jenner now much more than I could in the '90s, because she has such signature eye makeup and those huge beautiful eyes and you can really pick that up now. In the '90s it wasn’t as perfected as it is now. I look less like her in the show than I can if I want to get made up like Kris Jenner."
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What was your research process to play her?
"Well, I instantly Googled her from the '90s, and I was like, Woah, she’s way cuter than I am. I ran into her the next day on a red carpet. We hugged and took pictures together, and then we arranged to talk. She invited me over, but I thought, I’ll talk to her on the phone. We talked for a really long time. I just fell in love with her. She was really forthcoming and told me a lot of things about her friendship with Nicole and what a traumatizing time it was. She lost them both. O.J. was like a brother to her. But what I got most from talking to her is how much she loves her friends and loves her family. I knew she would be a smaller part in this series, but the Kardashians play into the American story, they play into American Crime Story, because it's like foreshadowing of how they are going to be ruling the world in a pop culture way."

What was the most important information Kris gave you that you incorporated into your performance?
"There seemed to be so little room for a performance to really hone the essence of Kris. It was really that, before she was the Kris Jenner that everyone knows as ultra-famous momager, she was just a mom that went out to the grocery story and got Snackables and always was making lunch and in the kitchen and most concerned about being a good mom. She was a mom then, and she cared about family then and she still does. She created an empire where she gets to be with the people she loves most every day. Family was always the most important to her."

Last night, we saw Kris talk to Robert about how he is portraying the case to the kids. What was it like showing the behind-the-scenes moments that aren't in the public record?
"I think it makes it more human for Robert. These are families. Obviously, Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson’s families were the ones that were most tragically damaged. All the players were going through heartache and confusion. [I asked Kris], 'What did you ever say to Robert? Did you talk to him about the case or were you not allowed to?' She said, 'Yeah, we didn't know if we were bugged. We would pat ourselves down and go out in the driveway and whisper.'... She absolutely did say, ‘What are you doing, Robert?’ in real life. But it was hard, because she also cared for Nicole and O.J.’s kids and [couldn’t] publicly just go out there and say, 'This man’s a murderer.' She’s always been very protective of those children that she was very maternal towards. So, she doesn’t really speak much on what she really thinks. It was interesting to have that little part to say that she thinks he did this."

Did you go back and read the Jeffrey Toobin book on which the series is based or do any other outside research?
"No, I didn’t read the book until now, but I lived this case. I was alive and grown up, and I followed it. I followed the chase, and I was well aware of what was happening in L.A. at the time and thought of Rodney King. I knew from the get-go, he's being treated as a celebrity and he is going to get off. I remember when that glove went on, and thinking, This is the stupidest thing, of course that glove shrunk. I always felt sick for Marcia Clark, like oh my god, this defense team doesn’t have a chance. They are civil servants going up against this flashy crowd. Yeah, I didn’t feel the need to do any more research at the time. I Googled a few things, but I felt pretty on it on that case."

The show goes into a little bit of speculation about the birth of Kardashians as we know them. What do you think about that?
"Ryan Murphy is an amazing storyteller, and this is an amazing story. The main essence of it is the real truth behind what was happening at this time with fame and this culture and this case. But no, not every fact — I think the Kardashians are peppered in there as sort of a reference point to what’s happening now, and a certain bit of almost fun for the audience now to understand fame now and fame then. I think of course it’s fine to have these things that are just bits of a little bit of pop drama. I know people say, 'Oh no, that wasn’t actually Kim’s room he was in, it was Kourtney’s, and they never liked Joey Lawrence,' or whatever. It’s like, okay, this isn’t breaking anyone’s heart. It’s just part of storytelling."

You followed the Kardashians before the series. Do you feel more invested in their story now that you’ve played Kris?
"Yeah, I feel like a weird long-lost cousin. I really do. I’m like protective of them. I’ve met Khloé, I’ve always thought she was so funny. Kourtney is a mom like me, and we talk about the kids. Kris is someone I feel like I will know forever in some capacity. I do, I feel oddly close to them even though I’m not close. I feel like Kris is like a sister I could tell anything to, truly, I trust her with anything."

Have you been in contact with Kris since the show aired?
"Yeah, I do. We text. I spent Christmas Eve with them and brought my son over. They’re really busy, obviously. But I’ll definitely see them."

You spent Christmas Eve with them? How did that end up happening?
"Kris and I struck up a friendship over this, and she knows I’m alone in California. I don’t have any family here but my son. I had my son for Christmas, and so she invited me. I happened to get an amazing Christmas gift of a Breville pizza maker, which Arthur and I very much enjoy. So thank you, Kris."

On a different note, there’s news out of a Cruel Intentions reboot for TV. What’s your take on that?
"That is a classic story. I feel so close to Cruel Intentions. It was my first movie. It was probably my biggest movie. It feels like yesterday. It would feel so weird to have a show out, but I’m all for it."
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