THR's Emmy Roundtable: Drama Actresses

Joe Pugliese

THR listens in as the season’s top contenders tackle nudity, bad auditions, breastfeeding on set and the fear of kissing Brad Pitt.

Ask a drama series actress to name the toughest part of her job, and inevitably the conversation turns to motherhood and the pressure of "doing it all." But this year's contenders are candid about much more: nudity, terrible auditions and "inhuman" hours were mentioned by the six women in our Emmy-season kickoff roundtable panel: Claire Danes, 33 (Showtime's Homeland), Mireille Enos, 36 (AMC's The Killing), January Jones, 34 (AMC's Mad Men), Julianna Margulies, 45 (CBS' The Good Wife), Emmy Rossum, 25 (Showtime's Shameless), and Kyra Sedgwick, 46 (TNT's The Closer).

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THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: What was your scariest moment ever as an actor?

Julianna Margulies: It was my first equity play at Yale Rep, a play by Maria Irene Fornes called Fefu and Her Friends, sort of a lesbian Big Chill set in the 1930s. My character had a five-minute monologue. It was pretty complicated, but I was cocky about how well I knew it. I got onstage and completely blanked. And I couldn't go. It felt like I was up there for an hour. I died inside.

Emmy Rossum: How did you get through it?

Margulies: Suddenly, one of the lines came to me. Apparently, it happened for 30 seconds. It wasn't an hour and a half.

Kyra Sedgwick: It always feels so much longer.

Rossum: Time slows and you feel like, "Oh God, now I can hear them all breathing!"

Claire Danes: I've had more limited experience with theater, but I did Pygmalion a few years ago and lost my voice on a matinee show. That was terrifying. There's nothing scarier than when you're live.

Rossum: I did Romeo and Juliet at Williamstown. You only do it for like 10 days, so every performance feels so precious. And in the second show at the top of Act Two was Juliet's "gallup apace" speech, with a light just on me, and I'm quaking nervous. I start to deliver the speech, and there's a woman in the second row who stands up and starts to recite it with me.

Sedgwick: Oh, my God!

Rossum: Well, it was good because she was like my Teleprompter. She knew it better than I did.

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Margulies: You were being heckled, but by a Shakespearean actor.

Rossum: Yeah, exactly! (Laughter.)

Sedgwick: I have a moment that just leaped to mind. I auditioned for Flashdance a million years ago, and my agent told me I was supposed to wear a leotard, heels and no tights. I had such bigger balls back in those days. I thought, "I'm not wearing a leotard. Instead, I'll wear a little miniskirt and high heels." In the middle of my audition, [director] Adrian Lyne's phone rang and he picked it up. I turned to him and said, "You're not going to answer that phone call. I'm auditioning for you."

Margulies: Good for you!

Sedgwick: But today, I don't think I would ever do that!

January Jones: That just reminded me of one of the worst moments in my entire life. It was an audition for Coyote Ugly, my second audition ever. I'd done the reading for the acting part and then Jerry Bruckheimer wanted me to come in and dance … on top of the table.

Margulies: You mean just regular dance?

Jones: Yes. They said, "You're going to dance to Prince's 'Kiss.' You're going to pole dance, but there is no pole." (Laughter.) And I just turned beet red. It was awful, and he said something like, "Honey, you did a great reading, but you've got no rhythm." (Laughter.) I called my agent and said, "I don't want to do this anymore."

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THR: Have you seen Bruckheimer since then and recounted this story?

Jones: Oh, he has no recollection of it.

Sedgwick: Of course not. He's said that to so many girls.

Mireille Enos: Is it wrong to admit that having to kiss Brad Pitt was very, very terrifying? It was on World War Z, which I shot last summer and it was the second day of shooting.

Rossum: I feel like that would be the best day. (Laughter.)

Enos: But it's scary, it's Brad! He's totally great, by the way. I mean, it was fine, but the anticipation was terrible.

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