Her First Miniseries Was Double Trouble for Liane Langland, but She Masters the Game of Playing Twins
02/27/1984 at 01:00 AM EST
Liane Langland got two breaks for the price of one—two roles in TV's latest exercise in excess, the nine-hour CBS miniseries Master of the Game, which airs this week. She plays twins, both raving red-haired beauties, both granddaughters to matriarch Dyan Cannon and heiresses to her fortune. But one of the twins, Eve, is evil and seductive while the other, Alexandra, is as sweet as Mr. Rogers. It's enough to make a person crazy.
"It was a nightmare playing scenes when they're together," Langland says. She'd dress up as one of the twins and deliver her lines with a stand-in playing the other twin. Then she'd switch personalities and do the scene all over again, "keeping a split screen in my mind of what I had done as one character, so the other could react properly." Just one four-page scene took 15 takes, six hours and endless "technical gymnastics" so that the two Lianes could be spliced together in the editing room.
And so it went through four months of shooting in New York, Paris, Nice and Iver, England. There were three or four costume changes a day for Liane, 26, and six-hour makeup sessions to adjust her age from 17 to 32 or to make her look like the victim of a brutal beating (at the hands of evil Eve's evil lover). "I had to go around with gook—wax and blood—on my face for nine hours," the actress moans. "I was a walking horror. A couple of times I nearly cracked up." But it was worth the work. Liane turned in better performance^) than some of the veteran stars in the show. Director Harvey Hart says the chemistry between Cannon and Langland was "terrific—they are both Thoroughbreds."
After a while Liane's roles became as comfortable as two old pairs of shoes. "I'd put on the clothes of one character," she says, "and it'd make me walk and talk a certain way. I was either evil Eve or sweet Alexandra, and I'd keep going back and forth all day long." Like many actors Langland carried her characters with her off-camera. "If I was a little bitchy or short," she says, "the cockney hairdresser would jokingly say, 'Oh, you're Eve-ing it today.' Or somebody else would say, 'I like you better when you're Alex.' "
There are some slightly crazy touches in Langland's own biography. She was born and raised in Lakewood, Colo., "an outdoor maniac" who skied, swam, went rock climbing and ran. "I was earth woman," she says. After two years at Denver's Loretto Heights College, she moved to Manhattan and became a city woman. There she started smoking (which she has tried, and failed, to stop, even with Cannon's needling on the set) and drinking (she has cut down) and swilling coffee (she swills still); she stopped working out and generally turned slothful. "I'm exercising again," she says. "But I tried the health club scene and got tired of women who wear makeup and designer sweats." Instead of living in the shadow of mountains, she found herself in a neighborhood where she had to kick wine bottles out of her path.
But she also learned how to act at one of the toughest drama schools there is, Juilliard. "Someone told me, 'Forget Juilliard. It's a one in a million chance of getting in.' " Liane smiles at the memory. "That suitably teed me off, so I auditioned." After graduating in 1981 she played off-Broadway, turned away soap opera feelers and then made it to Broadway in A Talent for Murder as Claudette Colbert's brain-damaged granddaughter. Two TV movies and another off-Broadway play later, she was cast in Master.
Langland took souvenirs with her from her miniseries. She finagled a good deal on her wardrobe. "I got a few of Alex's things," she says. "But I bought mostly evil Eve's clothes. They're more flamboyant and stylish," like Eve herself. Before donning her new finery, Liane took some time off. "I was happy to be nothing but a vegetable," she admits. "After months of crying, retching and beatings, I needed the rest."