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Catherine Keener: “Normalcy is a good place to be”

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Catherine Keener
Photo by Jeff Vespa
Short Profile

Name: Catherine Ann Keener
DOB: 23 March 1959
Place of Birth: Miami, Florida, USA
Occupation: Actress

Ms. Keener, do you sometimes feel guilty towards less fortunate people?

I think there is a chip missing in somebody if they don’t feel uneasy about the state of things, poverty being a big, big part of it. But me in particular, yes.


I just feel that I can do something about it and I don’t have to just stay in the shame. Once you step outside of it, step outside of yourself, you feel better and you stop being as self-absorbed. Before you know it you might have spent the last five hours not dwelling on your own bullshit.

How do you approach it when people are begging for money? Do you always give or only in certain circumstances?

If I have money on me, I always give. How can you pass somebody? That’s my feeling.

Well some people say it’s better not to if they are going to use it in an abusive way.

Yeah, I don’t care. If they shoot up with it, that’s not my business. How can I stipulate to a stranger what they do with the money I am giving them? I mean, that’s ridiculous. It is not like my kid. If I am doing that, all bets are off.

Does your son also get everything he asks for?

Well, he doesn’t ask for much and if he asks for something and I say no, he is totally fine with it. We have a good balance.

Did you always get the jeans that you wanted as a kid?

No I never wanted them because I had shame the whole time.


I was from a very Catholic family and I just felt like I shouldn’t; I can't. We were poor, too, so I never wanted the best jeans.

Coming from a poor family, has your perception towards clothes changed? Do you now like the pretty and expensive things in life?

I don’t give a shit about clothing, but… Well, that’s not true. I like clothes. But I don’t buy them a lot. Considering the profession I am in, I don’t have the same rules about them.

So you actually wear things more than once?

I’ll wear something I like twenty times, in pictures and everything. I am not excessive and I don’t live in a state of guilt about my possessions because I love them.

Love is a strong word.

I don’t say love like my dog or my kids or my friends, but I look at things and say, “Oh that is beautiful.” The things I have, if they don’t have that kind of movement and life then I don’t have them. And if I had to give them all away tomorrow I would.

Does something have to be unique for you to like it?

No, I am not that way either. I remember when the Ford Explorer came out and everyone had a black one. I told one of my friends that I was getting a black Explorer and she said, “But everyone has one.” I said, “I know. That’s because they are really cool.” So I don’t care with my friends if we get the same stuff.

Is trying to be too different trying too hard?

I am not afraid to jump on board with the masses in terms of liking stuff. I think if you get caught up in things having to be special it’s a trap. I think normalcy, which I tell my son, is a good place to be.


It’s just right in there with other people. I grew up in a household where I thought that I had to be special and I always fell short of that because I was just normal.

What did you think was expected of you?

To be special, exceptional, or this thing that you can never really achieve, like the ultimate in something. I thought, “That’s what’s going to get me the love,” or whatever. I think there’s this unachievable bar that a lot of parents set for their kids. And that’s just ass-backwards. You can’t do that.

So how did you overcome that expectation?

In fact, it’s easy. All you have to do is affect that from within. You tap into this moral reality and extend yourself beyond this sort of, “I need to do this, I need to do this, I need to be better, I need to be the best, I… I… I…” If you just stop that shit and go, “I want to be common and in communication with people,” you are already doing something exemplary and unusual.

Do you ever still feel insecure and need to prove yourself? Perhaps especially in such a male-dominated industry like film?

Sometimes I feel like an insecure man. I mean, I love men and I’m straight, but I have a lot of male energy in me and I have a lot of male friends. I think maybe I have insecurity as a human being, but not as a woman. So I feel like men don’t threaten me.