Patricia Clarkson muses about home, happiness -- and Mardi Gras

Actress Patricia Clarkson, right, surrounded by members of the Krewe of Muses, greets well-wishers at a champagne reception held in her honor Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans. Clarkson will ride as the Honorary Muse in the krewe’s parade on Feb. 28.

Actress Patricia Clarkson, right, surrounded by members of the Krewe of Muses, greets well-wishers at a champagne reception held in her honor Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans. Clarkson will ride as the Honorary Muse in the krewe’s parade on Feb. 28.

Patricia Clarkson couldn't sleep. It wasn't Christmas Eve, though. It wasn't the night before one of those big, fancy Hollywood award shows that tend to shower her with accolades.

It was the night before her flight home to New Orleans to begin her reign as the Krewe of Muses' 2019 Honorary Muse. And for Clarkson, that meant something.

After all, before she was a world-famous actress, she was a New Orleans girl first. And that doesn't ever go away.

"I'm excited just to see the city again," she said Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 26) shortly after her arrival -- with a police escort, naturally -- at the Windsor Court Hotel at the edge of the French Quarter. "I love riding through the city. It's one of my favorite things to do, in a car on the streetcar. It doesn't matter."

Or in a gigantic burgundy-colored pump, as she will when Muses rolls Thursday night (Feb. 28) along the traditional Uptown route.

From the moment she arrived Tuesday, Clarkson was aglow -- even more than usual. Before and after the clinking and drinking of a champagne reception held in her honor, she couldn't stop smiling, hugging people or dancing to the music of the Kinfolk Brass Brand, which heralded her arrival.

Part of that extra glow came from the lighted Muses crown affixed to her head by krewe leadership. Even more, though, was the fact that it wasn't just any Mardi Gras krewe celebrating her. This was Muses, the civic-minded, all-female superkrewe that has been injecting a glitter-covered glam-energy into the city's annual Carnival celebration since 2001.

"These women, they do so much for the city," Clarkson said. "It’s a very philanthropic organization. These are women who work very hard and hold this city on high and are very valuable to our city. Women from all walks of life, from all over this great city, come together for a night. Every color, race, creed -- it's beautiful. It’s the melting pot that makes our city great -- not just great, truly great. It's great women who come together for a night to set the city on fire."

Of course, Muses isn't the only Mardi Gras krewe that invites a celebrity to help them celebrate the Carnival season. Bacchus this year has "Supernatural" actor Jensen Ackles to lead them through the streets. Orpheus has actor Mario Lopez. Endymion's annual post-parade Extravaganza will feature music by Lionel Richie, Flo Rida and Chicago.

Clarkson is a singular Carnival monarch, however, in that she knows exactly what's in store. That's not only because she, as a New Orleans native, fully understands what Mardi Gras is all about. She's done it before, too, having ridden as the Honorary Muse in 2012.

She enjoyed herself so much back then that she leapt at the chance to come back to lead this year's parade. (The theme, by the way, is being kept hush-hush, per tradition, but krewe Captain Staci Rosenberg offered a hint as to what it was by saying, "She is the perfect fit for our theme this year.")

As a parading veteran, Clarkson has learned a few things she plans to implement for this year's ride. "I do now know that the climb up that shoe is precarious, so I'm putting rubber on the bottom of my shoes," she said. "And I'm not wearing too big a dress. I have a raincoat."

Also, since parading New Orleans-style is a marathon, not a sprint: snacks. "Maybe a little bourbon in case it gets cold," she added with a twinkle.

Perhaps Clarkson's best veteran tip for first-time celebrity riders: Enjoy it. Take the time to drink it all in. "Because you won't believe how glorious it really is," she said.

Mike Scott covers TV and movies for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. He can be reached at mscott@nola.com.