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Sissy Spacek stars in Amazon’s “Night Sky” – Texas Monthly

For Sissy Spacek, growing up in the small town of Quitman in East Texas was a personal paradise. She rode bikes with her older brothers, played in the dirt, climbed trees, and swam as much as she could. “We rode horses and went to rodeos and went to the Dairy Queen,” she said over the phone recently. “It was school and home and church. It was easy. For me it was the center of the universe.”

Spacek has done her best to keep an easy life despite a storied Hollywood career spanning decades; She received six Academy Award nominations for Best Actress and won one for playing country singer Loretta Lynn in the 1980 film The miner’s daughter. For the past forty years, she and her husband, production designer Jack Fisk, lived on a farm near Charlottesville, Virginia, where they raised their two daughters, Madison and Schuyler, the latter of whom had her own success as an actress and musician. Spacek may have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but she’s never been to Hollywood. She’s too real for that.

The 72-year-old’s latest role in the new Amazon Prime Video series night sky, which premieres Friday, almost feels like Spacek is playing himself. Her character, Irene York, has lived in a small Illinois town with her husband Franklin (JK Simmons) for eons. Like Spacek, whose life was changed forever when her older brother Robbie died of leukemia in 1967, Irene knows tragedy: her son Michael (Angus O’Brien) committed suicide twenty years ago. The turn? It was around this time that Irene and Franklin discovered an intergalactic portal in the back of their shed that leads to a room with a huge window that looks out onto a majestic vista of an abandoned rocky planet. For the Yorks, it becomes a secret haven, a quiet place to gaze at the stars on lonely nights.

But things change when their neighbors get curious about where they’re going and when one night a young man (Chai Hansen) suddenly shows up at their space sanctuary.

“It’s like they’re sitting in their living room and watching TV,” says Spacek. “But I don’t think it’s so much an escape from anything as it’s her need to know. She’s far more invested in what it means than he is, and it’s related to the loss of her son. These two events in her life are connected, and that will lead to something. It will mean something. But she and her husband are just so typical. They have a kind of sweet everyday life. And then, bam!”

What follows is a mix of global hopscotch and low-key domestic strife as Irene and Franklin navigate the first change to their routine in many moons. night sky is a slow burn even as assassins enter the frame and this interplanetary portal begins to look a lot less innocent.

Spacek has dabbled in television over the years, most recently on shows including homecoming, castle rockand pedigree. but night sky represents her greatest commitment to the small screen, a starring role in a prestigious television series. Spacek says she’s just doing what she’s always done — finding the great stories. More than ever, however, these stories are being streamed.

JK Simmons and Sissy Spacek in the night sky.
JK Simmons and Sissy Spacek there night sky.Chuck Hodes/Amazon Studios

“It’s like the TV era,” she says. “Nowadays you either have huge event films – $200 million films – or low-budget art films. So you’ll find a lot of interesting material coming through on TV. The bumpers are off. You can do so much more with cable or streaming than you can with network TV. It’s about the characters. It’s about the story.”

But even in times of plenty, television work has its downside. Many actors working in both mediums rave about the rapid pace of television production, the rush of working without the web of a relatively gradual film schedule. However, with this gradual pace comes a valuable perspective.

“When you’re doing eight episodes, it’s difficult to get an overview because sometimes not all the scripts are written,” says Spacek. “And even if they are, you go through them one by one, making your tweaks and changes and refining them for the new actors that have been cast and the things that you’re all realizing as a collaborative group.” It is difficult. You can never step back and look at the whole project like you could if you were working on one script instead of eight. To get an overview you have to get off the cliff, off the planet so to speak.”

Nevertheless, the medium suits her well. Spacek has always favored an intimate acting style; she exudes trustworthiness and authentic warmth. It’s easy to spend time with her in your living room and enjoy her presence for an extended period of time.

Next for Spacek: Sam & Kate, a romantic dramedy set (where else?) in a small town, starring Spacek and her daughter Schuyler Fisk alongside Dustin Hoffman and his son Jake Hoffman. That and more quiet time in Virginia. Unless a new planet is calling.

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