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The Jess Cagle Interview

Feud: Susan Sarandon on the challenge of acting with a cigarette in her mouth

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Susan Sarandon is used to taking on the personas of the characters she plays, but their cigarette habits? Now that’s another story.

Sarandon, who plays Bette Davis in the upcoming FX show Feud: Bette and Joan, sat down with PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly editorial director Jess Cagle during a SiriusXM town hall discussion to discuss the show, and revealed that it was Davis’ penchant for smoking cigarettes that gave her the most trouble.

“What I wasn’t prepared for was to only act and talk with a cigarette in my mouth or my hand,” Sarandon said, after explaining that she’d spent a lot of time researching Davis’ early life and family situation. “That was really challenging because I don’t smoke cigarettes. Even when she had consumption on TV shows and was hacking, she had a cigarette in her hand.”

RELATED: First Look Photos at Feud: Bette and Joan

Sarandon also spoke about the similarities between Davis and her rival Joan Crawford, and the difficulties in getting audiences to leave behind the idea of an impression or imitation when bringing real people to the screen.

“The problem very often with biopics is getting past, ‘Oh, they’re doing a very good imitation of these people,'” she explained. “I was very aware, and I think, without talking about it, [Jessica Lange] and I both had the same kind of challenges… The way that [Bette and Joan] spoke was the antithesis of each other, you know, the staccato thing and this very graceful thing. They were with a lot of the same men, and there was a very rich, historical thing to what made this feud. But at the bottom of it was pain that they both shared.”

See the clip above, and watch Cagle’s full town hall interview with the cast of Feud, streaming now on PEOPLE/Entertainment Weekly Network at PEOPLE.com/PEN, or download the app on mobile or connected devices. You can also listen to the full interview on EW Radio (SiriusXM ch. 105) all this week.

Feud premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. ET on FX.