Gina Gershon became a pretty convincing Donatella Versace clone thanks to some amazing makeup work on the set of Lifetime’s House of Versace, but taking on the physicality of an instantly recognizable character like Donatella took more than contouring and wig tape. Gershon actually had to start smoking. Not only did the role require her to smoke a lot on screen, Gershon found it was necessary to smoke a lot to get Donatella’s signature tobacco-enriched voice.
“I had to smoke so many cigarettes to get to it to get my voice so low,” she told Fashionista. “I’m on the set, almost every set I was smoking. I ended up smoking real cigarettes because the fake ones hurt my lungs. They’re herbal-y and oily; I couldn’t stand the taste of it.”
In addition to the cigarette-enhanced lowness, she had to master Donatella Versace’s complicated accent, which she said was a bit difficult. And in the end she couldn’t even use the full Donatella accent because Donatella’s voice can be a little too difficult to understand to run for an hour on TV with no subtitles. She told Entertainment Weekly:
I’ve done Italian accents before, but hers is very different. Not only is it Southern Italian, she comes from Calabria. The more Southern you get, the lazier the sound becomes and the wider it becomes. But then on top of it she has a very specific Donatella-esque accent. … I really started totally going for her accent, but then I guess, with TV, they want to understand what I’m saying. The truth is, if I was really doing Donatella, she’s tough to understand sometimes. I kept requesting we use subtitles, but no one really went for that suggestion. But I was kind of being serious. But that was one thing: I had to pull back on her accent, which kind of bummed me out a little bit, but I also understood why people want to hear what I’m saying.
But of course matching the reality of Donatella Versace is one thing. Matching the entertainment value of Maya Rudolph‘s epic impression would be the real achievement. What did you think of Gershon’s Donatella?