Cast initially in a small role in for "Kids," Sevigny landed the part of Jennie just prior to filming. The film marked her film debut and proved advantageous for the ingénue, who made a lasting impression with her gentle portrayal of a young, HIV-positive teenager. Sevigny emerged from her "Kids" experience with a bright future in acting. She followed up the next year with a role as the precocious young assistant and brief love interest of Steve Buscemi's ice-cream man in "Trees Lounge."
Sevigny was a pop phenomenon before she established a solid acting career. Her status as a darling of the underground celebrity scene threatened to overshadow her acting in the late 1990s. The star was getting more noticed for her clothing choices and lifestyle than her film work. In 1999, Sevigny managed to transcend hipster labels with a show of formidable talent in a number of big-screen releases. She effectively essayed a pregnant teen engaging in an incestuous relationship with her schizophrenic brother in Korine's daring Dogma '95 feature "Julien Donkey-Boy." Most notable was her turn as Lana, the love interest of a captivating man hiding his biological femaleness in Kimberly Peirce's remarkable feature "Boys Don't Cry." Her portrayal earned her a richly deserved Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress.
The following year would see the actress take on a role in Mary Harron's controversy-plagued "American Psycho," based on Bret Easton Ellis' novel about a stylish businessman who brutally tortures and murders for kicks. That same year, Sevigny made her television acting debut in the "1972" segment of "If These Walls Could Talk 2," a lesbian-themed anthology drama in which she played a boyish-dressing woman who falls in love with a coed.
After a detour appearing in low-profile films, Sevigny reestablished her art-house credentials with a role in director Lars von Trier's "Dogville." She next delivered a well-executed performance in the critical favorite "Shattered Glass," playing one of the misguided loyal colleagues of disgraced young New Republic journalist Stephen Glass. Sevigny got a massive dose of media attention for her appearance in an otherwise low-budget, avant-garde art film, "The Brown Bunny," written, directed and starring bad-boy auteur and her ex-boyfriend, Vincent Gallo.
Adopting a more button-downed role, Sevigny was cast in the tragic portion of writer-director Woody Allen's dual-structured "Melinda and Melinda." She continued appearing in low-budget indies, including small roles in "Manderlay," Lars Von Trier's follow-up to "Dogville," and "Broken Flowers." Sevigny then made the rare jump to television, appearing as the "other woman" in the dark comic tale of love and obsession, "Mrs. Harris." Landing her first regular-series role, she starred as one of three wives married to a hardware-store owner on "Big Love," the cable network's much-hyped and controversial series centered on Mormon polygamy.
Returning to features, Sevigny had a minor part in David Fincher's "Zodiac," a tense but overlong thriller that depicted the unsolved Zodiac killings in the Bay Area during the late 1960s. Meanwhile, Sevigny continued to shine as Nicki, the second wife in the Hendrickson clan, on "Big Love," which earned kudos and became one of HBO's numerous success stories. Once "Big Love" ended its acclaimed run in 2011, Sevigny moved on by starring in a considerably offbeat part as a Irish transsexual assassin on the British thriller series "Hit & Miss."
She also was featured in a notably unglamorous part in the macabre second season of "American Horror Story," had a small role in the porn-star biopic "Lovelace" and guest-starred on the quirky sketch-comedy show "Portlandia."