THR's Emmy Roundtable: Drama Actresses
THR: Getting back to forgetting your lines, how do you prepare for scenes now that's different from when you started acting?
Danes: When I started Homeland, it had been God knows how long since I'd last done an episodic show. I was 14, 15 when I did My So-Called Life. And Homeland is just so dense. The volume of material that you have to commit to memory is overwhelming. So I did develop a strategy, and I realized I just had to become familiar and intimate with the script as soon as it landed in my lap.
Rossum: You're shooting 11 pages a day.
Danes: Yeah, and there's a lot of CIA speak I had to become fluent in. That took a while.
Jones: When Mad Men started, my character had a bunch of monologues because she was in therapy, but the therapist never spoke. I had never done television before, and we get the script a day before we shoot. I had no exercise to try to help me with that. So I recorded myself saying stuff and then listened to it while I slept, hoping that it would stick like a bad song. And it worked!
Sedgwick: I've had so much dialogue and it's dense! I also had somebody helping me every single day. There wasn't a minute that I didn't have the script or the tape recorder in my hand.
Danes: After a while, it got really fun. I would read lines with my husband [actor Hugh Dancy] on the train -- we have a country house, and we'd take the Amtrak back to the city -- and he was like, "How did you do that?" I was so pleased with myself. I had never felt that formidable.
Margulies: I have an aid for all of you. It's called Rehearsal 2, and it's on the iPad. You highlight your lines with your fingers, or black out your lines to see the other person's lines. You can also record their lines and leave space for yours.
Enos: That's awesome.
Margulies: Unlike these lovely ladies, I shoot 23 episodes a year, and it's all legal dialogue. It's so inhuman what they want you to do. Rita Wilson, who was a guest star on our show, saw me just … I was sweating bullets all the time. She's like, "Honey, Rehearsal 2." (Laughter.) And it's changed my life!
Sedgwick: You need someone to help you!
Margulies: Well, I do, but I'll learn lines at 11 o'clock at night and then I show up at 7 in the morning and they've changed again.
Rossum: What's scary about my show is that our showrunner, John Wells, doesn't believe in sides [the specific pages from the script in which an actor's character appears].
Rossum: Because it's like hazing for the actors.
Margulies: We ruined it for her on [Wells'] ER. (Laughter.)
Rossum: Thanks for that.
Margulies: I'm sorry!
Rossum: There are no scripts allowed on set. If you don't know every single line of dialogue, you'd better not walk onto that soundstage.
Sedgwick: How did you do that on ER?
Margulies: We didn't, we had sides. I think not having them is a horrible thing to do to an actor. Things change in the moment.
Rossum: There's so much choreography on my show -- the kitchen, the pots and the pans, the kids and this and that. So not having scripts actually helps. But the first day I walked on set and there were no sides, it was like, "Ha-ha. I hope you're ready!"
THR: Mireille, what's your process on The Killing?
Enos: Just shove it in and show up. When I started season one, my daughter was seven weeks old. I was nursing and had her in the trailer with me all the time. I've always been overly studious, but there's no time, there's no energy, you just do what you can do. People have asked me over and over, "How is working different now that you're a mom?" I don't know how to answer the question because the things were so inextricable. Four in the morning, breastfeeding with a script! Luckily, my character, Sarah, doesn't talk that much. (Laughter.)
THR: On that topic, what are the biggest personal sacrifices you've made for your career?
Sedgwick: That's such a very personal and difficult answer.
Danes: Being away from home, being away from my friends. I'm so lucky, I live in the same neighborhood in New York in which I was raised, and I'm so spoiled in that respect.
Margulies: Two blocks from me!
Danes: Yeah. I'm just always missing somebody. But the joy of this job too is that it slings us around and we form attachments to these people who we wouldn't normally get to meet.
Enos: We're so lucky. But you can never plan your life. My sister will say, "OK, so we're all getting together. Will you be there?" And I'll say, "Ask me two days before." You just never know.
Margulies: I started The Good Wife when my son, Kiernan, was 13 months old, so it was easy to cart him around. But now he's 4, so try and be a good parent and also be good at your job; it's constant anxiety.
Sedgwick: You miss stuff. There's no way around it, you just do. And that doesn't feel good.
Margulies: But also don't you think it's awful that, "Well, you never know when this job's going to end and then when am I going to work again, so I may as well enjoy it?"
Enos: When I'm having a hard day on the set and want to be with my daughter, people say, "It's so much harder on us than on them." I'm like, "You know, I don't know if that's true."
Jones: I started this season of Mad Men eight months pregnant, and I finished it with a 5-month-old. It was bizarre. And I was in seven hours of prosthetics every morning, trying to rip off a fake chest piece so I could breastfeed.
THR: Yes, let's talk about that now. (Laughter.)
Jones: Oh, my gosh.