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Why Avis From Hollywood Looks So Familiar

On May 1st, fans of Ryan Murphy's previous shows like American Horror Story and The Politician were given the gift of a new limited series. As its title suggests, Hollywood tells the tale of the golden era of the film industry in Los Angeles, California. With a rich ensemble of diverse characters played by the likes of Jim Parsons, Darren Criss, and Queen Latifah, this period piece navigates the pitfalls of trying to make it as an actor in the wake of World War II.

The series mostly focuses on young up-and-comers to the entertainment industry, but there are a few veterans in the mix. One is the salacious former actress Avis Amberg, who is played by living legend Patti LuPone. While LuPone is mostly known for her stage work, including her Tony award-winning roles in Broadway productions of the musicals Evita and Gypsy, she is also no stranger to the screen. As a frequent collaborator of Murphy's, it's not surprising to see her show up in Hollywood, but there are plenty of other places you might have seen her before.

Patti LuPone pulled double duty in Penny Dreadful

If you were a fan of the underrated supernatural drama Penny Dreadful, there's not one, but two chances that you'll recognize LuPone from her work on the show. In the second season, the actress made a one-episode appearance as Joan Clayton, a.k.a. the Cut-Wife, a conflicted witch who has been alive for hundreds of years. LuPone then returned to co-star in the show's third season in a completely different role. This time she played Florence Seward, an alienist (a.k.a. a psychiatrist) who treats Vanessa Ives (Eva Green).

LuPone spoke to TV Insider about how she ended up playing two very different roles on the show. "After I played the Cut-Wife, [show creator John Logan] and I started talking via email about my character and Vanessa Ives and I made some observations about their relationship—strictly as an audience member," she recalled. "Three weeks later John wrote me back and said, 'I thought about what you said and I have created a new role on the show and it's going to be played by... you!'"

Fans of LuPone's stage career might be disappointed that neither of the legendary theater maven's Penny Dreadful characters have any big musical numbers. But that wasn't the case when LuPone guest-starred on one of TV's most tune-filled shows.

Patti LuPone had a memorable musical number in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

It was only a matter of time before LuPone showed up on the CW's musical extravaganza, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Even though she only appeared in one episode, her role as Rebecca Bunch's (Rachel Bloom) childhood religious leader, Rabbi Shari, was one of the more memorable parts of the show's four-season run. Rabbi Shari not only counsels Rebecca on the importance of taking ownership over one's own happiness, but she also sings a comic ode to the multifaceted nature of Jewish celebrations, "Remember That We Suffered."

The song was lauded for its humorous musings on younger people's connection to their Jewish identity, and LuPone's performance as Rabbi Shari was seen as an important aspect of the iconic musical moment. Writing for the Jewish parenting and culture website Kveller, Molly Tolsky said of the number, "But one particular song really took the cake. A joyful Hava Nagila-esque melody is paired with words that Jews know only all too well, as they're pretty much the basis of every Jewish holiday: Remember that we suffered."

Patti LuPone struck a villainous Pose

LuPone's most recent guest-starring role was a far cry from the warmth of Rabbi Shari. In the second season of the groundbreaking FX show about New York City's ballroom scene in the late '80s and early '90s, Pose, LuPone has a villainous arc as real estate mogul Frederica Norman. We first meet Frederica when she rents space to Blanca Rodriguez (Mj Rodriguez), who is in the process of starting her own nail salon. Everything is peachy between the two women, until Frederica finds out that Blanca is trans and attempts to evict her.

As LuPone explained during an interview in W Magazine, her character was inspired by real-life real estate tycoon and notorious nightmare Leona Helmsley. "I mean, she's sort of loosely based on Leona Helmsley," LuPone explained. "She's a rich woman who probably has blinders on. She's not a very open-minded person."

However, LuPone doesn't share the prejudices of her character. When asked how she enjoyed working with Mj Rodriguez, LuPone was effusive in her praise of her young co-star: "Oh, she's fantastic... She's high energy, very disciplined, and she's wearing this mantle. She's 28 years old and she's the star, the lead of this important show and handling it beautifully."

With a kind heart to match her award-winning acting skills, it's no wonder Ryan Murphy continues to cast Patti LuPone.