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THR Emmy Roundtable: 6 Drama Actresses on Death Threats, Post-Baby Auditions
Monica Potter, Kerry Washington, Kate Mara, Connie Britton, Anna Gunn and Elisabeth Moss reveal the toilet-cleaning jobs they'd like to forget in an uncensored chat about making it in the competitive world of series TV and how to respond when fans say, "You look so much bigger on camera!"
This story first appeared in the June 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The only thing lacking in The Hollywood Reporter's kickoff Emmy Roundtable event held April 6 in Hollywood was, well, drama. The six women who gathered to talk on a sunny Saturday afternoon -- Connie Britton, 46 (ABC's Nashville), Anna Gunn, 44 (AMC's Breaking Bad), Kate Mara, 30 (Netflix's House of Cards), Elisabeth Moss, 30 (AMC's Mad Men, Sundance's Top of the Lake), Monica Potter, 41 (NBC's Parenthood), and Kerry Washington, 36 (ABC's Scandal) -- chatted with such relaxed candor about their lives and work, it was easy to forget they headline some of the most dramatic series on television. Between trading war stories about terrible jobs, wearing Spanx to auditions, their confusion over social media and one's utter love for Cheez Whiz, these ladies launched THR's Emmy Roundtable Series 2013.
The Hollywood Reporter: What was the worst job you had while trying to become an actress?
Monica Potter: I worked at a restaurant called Chi-Chi's -- for one day.
Kerry Washington: Did you get fired or did you leave?
Potter: I quit. That was in Cleveland, back in the day … but go ahead, I didn't mean to [interrupt]! Welcome to The Real Housewives. And no, I'm not Camille Grammer. Don't say it!
Elisabeth Moss: You're so not Camille!
Connie Britton: I worked at The Gap and discovered I am not a good folder. That was when I was really pounding the pavement in New York for acting work. I also did murder mystery dinner theater in the Poconos.
Potter: Now we're talking!
Anna Gunn: Oh, that's good.
Potter: I did a Mexican game show. It was called Nubeluz. I had to sing and dance. It was like You Can't Do That on Television, except the FCC wouldn't let us into Mexico because we were holding kids' heads underwater. So it was filmed in Lima, Peru.
Britton: Wow, how exotic!
Moss: I worked at the silent movie theater here in L.A., but that actually was kind of cool. Though, I didn't like cleaning the bathrooms as much. People are really messy in movie theaters. You'd expect it to be a respectful experience, not popcorn all over the floor, and Coke, and … sticky.
Kate Mara: That's not what's sticky. (Laughter.)
Washington: It wasn't one of my worst jobs, but I used to be a substitute teacher for New York City schools. It was great and hard, and I even did it after I started working in films. But I had to stop after I did Save the Last Dance because the students were like, "Chenille is substituting!"
Potter: So you're like really smart in real life, huh?
Washington: No, no.
Potter: You probably went to college too.
Washington: I did.
Potter: I'm going to college! My oldest is in college now, and I thought, "Wouldn't it be fun to go to school with him?"
Washington: Yeah, he's not having that.
Gunn: My worst job was in Chicago during the summer. I was a terrible waitress, a terrible temp, so the only job I could get that would let me off to audition was for a cleaning service called Merry Maids. We were doing cleanouts for apartments after leases were up in huge towers downtown. Humid, 110-degree weather, and the A/C was off. I thought, "I have to make this acting thing work or I'm going to be scrubbing toilets."
THR: What's the most surprising thing about being a working actress?
Mara: Maybe I'm just lucky, but I feel like people are generally nice and generous and not that dramatic.
Moss: Yeah, especially actresses. I think people expect us to be clawing at each other.
Potter: It's a sisterhood. But it's not all roses and daisies. Uh oh, I think I just quoted a Real Housewife. (Laughter.)
Gunn (To Britton): I remember seeing you at auditions years ago, and we struck up a friendship just from seeing each other in those rooms. It was nice to meet somebody that you could talk to and there wasn't the vibe of, "Oh, I can't talk to you because we're going in for the same job."
THR: Last year, January Jones told THR a story about her audition for Coyote Ugly during which Jerry Bruckheimer told her she was a terrible dancer. What's your worst audition?
Potter: I'd like to see him dance. Jerry, put on the tap shoes, brother!
Moss: Well, sometimes, you think something went badly, and then you get it! Or …
Britton: "We just didn't get you."
Gunn: "We just didn't respond to you."
Potter: OK, I have a good one. I'd just had my last kid, Molly. She's 7 now. And my agents were like, "OK, let's get out there again!" And it takes me a couple years to lose the baby chub. It just does. I gain about 60 or 70 pounds while pregnant. I'm not one of these girls hitting the yoga mat. I like to eat Cheetos, I'm not going to lie. And after I have the kid, I like to have some drinks.
Mara: Were you drunk when you [auditioned]?
Potter: I wasn't, I should have been. I was pushing like 180 pounds at the time. I'm like, "You guys, I just don't feel physically fit yet." I had my Spanx on and looked like a damn sausage, but I went in and thought I did a really good job. I got home and get the call from my agents. I'm like, "I did good, right?" And they say, "You did great. The problem is you're just …" "I'm too fat." "Yeah, we're just going to wait a little bit." I said, "I already told you this!" The weight thing is a crappy thing in this town, you know? So I just ate some Cheez Whiz.
Britton: Cheez Whiz is so awesome.
Moss: On the first season of Mad Men, I had to wear a fat suit and prosthetic makeup to make me look bigger. You spend your whole career thinking that you have to be one way. Then I got this amazing job and had to pretend to gain 50 pounds? We all have this perception of what we're supposed to look like. But that's what's so great about all these women here today: We're all completely different-looking, you know? We're all beautiful, but real women.
Britton: I agree. I've never had somebody say to me that I needed to look a certain way for a role, but I've always lived in dread of what that would be like. It's our responsibility to play these full-fledged women, and to play women who look like people we actually see in life. It's more interesting, and I think audiences appreciate it, too.
Washington: It's a little bit different for me because I'll audition for something and they'll just decide that they're not going "ethnic" with a character, which I hear a lot.