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Carla Gugino plays journalist Susan Berg in Political Animals.
David Giesbrecht/USA Network

Carla Gugino plays with perspectives in all her work, including her role on the new USA Network drama Political Animals.

Carla Gugino is a woman with many faces. Over the span of her career, the chameleonic actress has played a spy mom, a superhero, an astrophysicist, a lunatic and a U.S. Marshal. “It sounds psychotic, when you say it like that,” she laughs. “But I love it so much, finding myself inside of such very different characters. There must be something wrong with me, except I’m completely at peace with it.” This summer, Gugino joins Sigourney Weaver and Ellen Burstyn on USA’s Political Animals, portraying a Pulitzer Prize–winning political journalist rattling skeletons on Capitol Hill. She talked with American Way about her new role, her varied talents and what excites her as an actress.

American Way: What attracted you to your Political Animals character?
Carla Gugino: What I really love about this project is what I love most about great stories in general: There is nothing that’s oversimplified. People are always the most complex thing. There’s nothing black and white about people’s behavior. We hurt people we love. We act out from our confusion. Hopefully, we try to do good.

AW: Is there any irony in being a celebrity — when it’s increasingly difficult to maintain even a modicum of privacy — who is playing a journalist who feels entirely justified in robbing people of that very thing?
CG: As Carla, I feel fiercely protective of people’s privacy, but I’m playing a character
who feels very differently about that. That is interesting to play. That’s one of the
fun things about being an actor: You get to be in the world from someone else’s point of view; you have to get inside his or her skin. Hopefully, it makes you
a more empathetic person.

AW: You’ve done critically lauded work in theater, television and film, and lately we’ve been hearing you sing a lot too.
CG: I always thought that as a kid I was tone-deaf, and then I went to a singing teacher and they said, “You’re not tone-deaf at all; you’ve just never been taught how to sing.” Now I’m getting all these parts I get to sing in — Sucker Punch; Hotel Noir; this Joseph Gordon-Levitt short film, Sparks. I keep hoping I’ll get a Western so I can get over my fear of horses. We’ll see.

AW: Is there anything you can’t do?
CG: I would like to continue to do things I think I can’t do. That’s usually when I have the most fun and, maybe, when I’m at my best. Those are the jobs I’m most excited about.