THR's Emmy Roundtable: Drama Actresses

8:00 AM PST 05/30/2012 by Stacey Wilson, Matthew Belloni
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THR listens in as the season’s top contenders tackle nudity, bad auditions, breastfeeding on set and the fear of kissing Brad Pitt.

THR: What was the conversation like when Matt Weiner said, "OK, this is my idea: We put Betty in a fat suit"?

Jones: I loved it. I didn't want to try to hide it, I thought it would become comical and weird. And I also didn't want to have the character become pregnant because it just wouldn't make sense. It was definitely difficult, but I love what he did with the character's story.

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Margulies: It was awesome. So brave and great.

THR: Did you see the fat-suit episode before it aired?

Jones: I didn't. I saw it on the air, paused it and went screaming into the other room.(Laughter.) I got used to it.

THR: Speaking of body image, Emmy, you've done quite a bit of nudity on your show. How did you decide that it was OK?

Rossum: I thought it suited the character. This is a very low-income family, they have very thin walls, they don't have money for entertainment, and this girl likes to have sex. For me to glamify her would be not realistic. I have a lot of control over what I want to show, when I want to show it and when I don't want to show it.

THR: Are you in a constant negotiation with John Wells about this stuff?

Rossum: Not at all. But originally, when they made the contract it was like, "You will show partial side boob, you will show two cheeks …"

Margulies: Those contracts are always so funny.

Rossum: When I got on set -- I'd never done nudity before -- I was like, "Oh, everyone here is human." Some days you feel like, "Oh, God. I wish we were shooting this last week, I felt so skinny." So you get comfortable, and your crew is your family. At this point, the camera guy is like, "Oh, God, not again."

Margulies: Believe me, they're not thinking that. (Laughter.)

Sedgwick: I've been naked in some movies. I mean, it's awful. Come on! But like Emmy said, I think that if it's right for the character and the moment, it feels more right than not doing it.

Danes: I don't love stripping down, but I also don't love the idea of being kind of coy or prudish for the sake of it.

THR: On another topic, what's the strangest or most interesting fan interaction you've ever had?

Enos: Last season, there was an episode where my son goes missing, and it was the most cracked-open Sarah has been. A couple of days after that episode aired, I was in my grocery store and an ex-hippie grandma walked over and gave me a hug.

Margulies: People also forget that you're playing a part. They'll be like, "Oh, my God, so when Alicia went and told Peter that," they think they're telling you something about your character. "I really think you should stay with Peter; he's really good for the kids." You know, they're not my kids. (Laughter.) That's not my life!

Danes: I haven't had many odd encounters with fans, but I saw a psychic recently in New York. When she was starting to read me, it became clear that she was reading my character. She said, "I have this problem all the time. Soap actors are the worst." (Laughter.)

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Rossum: When we shoot in Chicago, there are women who come up to me like, "You take such good care of those kids, and you keep doing what you're doing." I'm like, "Thank you." And then there are some little boys who probably shouldn't be watching Showtime at night who are like, "Fiona!!!" (Laughter.)

 

THR: Who's been the most helpful or most formative in helping you make decisions about your career?

Sedgwick: For me, it's my husband [actor Kevin Bacon]. He was the one who supported my doing The Closer. It was a huge commitment and life-changing thing for both of us. We always read each other's scripts; he often follows my advice, and sometimes I'm wrong, but he's not. (Laughter.) And I'm so grateful we have that, I really am. I trust my agents to a certain extent, but that can be a little tricky. You need to have your own instincts.

Danes: I met my manager, Michael Aglion, when I was 14 and did a short film and he was the producer. In college, I would call him before I wrote a paper to just brainstorm, and I realized that there are very few people I could collaborate this freely with. I asked, "Do you want to be my manager?" and ever since then we've had a very unorthodox style of working together. We're about to start filming the next season of Homeland -- a lot of it takes place in Lebanon -- so he put together a little syllabus for me and a tutorial on the Middle East. I'm really, really indebted to him for that.

Margulies: I think it would be my dad. He loves theater and saw me at Yale Rep or in Florida doing regional theater. His line was always, "Don't do crap." I've had to pay the mortgage a couple of times with some crap, but it was always fun, kitschy crap, and those were the movies I begged him not to see.

Enos: For me, the seed of all of it was planted by my mom, who wanted desperately to be a ballerina but was not allowed to dance. She swore whatever her kids wanted to do, she would bend over backward, up all night with me working monologues. This season, she came out to stay with the baby when my husband was going to be away. She'd send me update e-mails throughout the day, "These are the games we're playing!" And at the bottom she would say, "And, of course, you are doing a beautiful job."

Rossum: Family is really important for that. To know that no matter whether this movie or this TV show sucks, or you blow this character or whatever, [your family knows] that you're giving 150 percent and doing your absolute best to make it great. Knowing that is a really good feeling.

Jones: My family has always said, "Just in case, you can always come back and live at home." (Laughter.) It was very sweet, but it's almost like a threat. I will make this work! But they are very supportive and always 100 percent behind me, no matter what it is. Even if it has been a crap piece of work, they will find …

Margulies: They'll find the beauty.

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Jones: Yes, the Pollyanna in them is amazing. "You know, the sets were great! You can't dull your shining light!" But I'm very instinctual about my process and about when I first read something and how I feel. If I get excited or nervous, it's usually a good sign, and then if I need a second opinion, I usually go to my sister. She has the same thought process as I do, that's why I like it.

Danes: I was going to say my husband, too. He's a big, big influence. A good litmus test.

Margulies: In what we do with episodic work, it's a nonstop train. I mean, there are days when, I was saying this to Kyra before, I had worked until midnight and then I had to go and shoot something else at five in the morning. I looked at my husband and I was like, "This is why Judy Garland was on pills." I can't keep this up. I need a pill!

Danes: Green tea is not going to do it. (Laughter.)

Margulies: There's only so much green tea I can drink. And you want to be kind and generous to people and be a good example, but you're also performing. They want you to look a certain way but expect you to work 16 hours a day. You start to unravel. You need that voice saying, "Baby, you're going to do it. You're OK." I always say to actors who ask me for advice, "Pick the right partner." No matter how hard my day is, I can't wait to get home and I know I'll be safe. You need the right person to hold your hand through it.

Enos: I think that's the key to doing your best work -- keeping it all in perspective.

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