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!"
THR: What's the best or worst career advice you've ever been given?
Gunn: When I was a young actor, somebody said, "If there's anything else you feel you can do, you should do it."
Mara: Wait, was that good advice or bad advice?
Gunn: It was good! It was from another actress, a teacher of mine, and she just meant acting is tough, so if there's anything else that is pulling your heart or your desire, then you should go for that. But if this is in your blood so deeply that you need to do it, then you know that's the thing.
Mara: My mom has always been really, really supportive of me and my sister [actress Rooney Mara] since we were kids. It's all I ever wanted to do, and no one in my family had ever acted before. It was very new, and she had no idea how to help me go that route, how to get an agent -- none of that. It was all very foreign to us. I mean, I was playing the tree in The Wizard of Oz for the first 10 years of my acting career.
Washington: That's a lot of trees.
Mara: How did I never get Dorothy? I'm still upset about that! Red hair and everything.
Moss: You were too good of a tree.
Mara: But that support … was the best thing. She never doubted me. Or if she did, she certainly never told me.
Moss: I did this miniseries recently, Top of the Lake, with Jane Campion, and she gave me the best piece of advice I've ever gotten before an audition. We were on the phone, and I was going to be putting myself on tape with the casting director and sending it to Australia. I was so nervous just talking to her. And she said, "You don't have to hit the bull's-eye. Just get the dart on the board." And as an actress, I was like, "Oh my God, thank you!"
Mara: That's such a relief.
Moss: Yes, I don't have to come in and give you this fully realized character. I can show you a sketch; an idea. It should be a collaboration. I think that advice probably helped me to get the part because it relaxed me.
Potter: Can I say something?
Washington: Please, please, please, please.
Potter: My stomach's growling.
Moss: Mine is too.
Britton: Oh no, mine is too!
Potter: But back to advice. … I'm one of four girls, and we are all athletic. And my dad would always say, "Think of yourself like a baseball player. Step up to the plate, take a deep breath and get your feet grounded. Point to over the fence, swing, imagine your scene going over the fence and the crowd cheering."
THR: What is the biggest personal sacrifice you've made for your careers?
Britton: Going to do Nashville right after I just adopted my baby. That was big. I had just become a mother and moved to a town where I didn't know a soul and started working 16 hours a day without a support system.
Washington: What did you do?
Britton: Well, I'm still doing it. Luckily I work with wonderful people who are really supportive, and people in Nashville have been so great. I have a nanny who came with us. That's been great, but it's been challenging, I'm not going to lie.
Potter: It's tough when you have kids to sort of go, "Oh boy, am I going to miss this parent-teacher meeting?" You feel this guilt. But you also have to look at it like, "OK, Mom's going to work, putting food on the table." That's how I grew up: blue-collar, working-class home, and kids have to understand that. You have to have a life of balance and not feel guilty because I think that kids can sense that.
Britton: Oh yeah, even at 2, they can sense it.
THR: What about loss of privacy?
Mara: I don't experience that.
Britton: Me either.
Mara: Maybe at the airport, but it's never anything crazy …
Britton: That's the one place where I'm like, "Gosh, you guys really dig me!" I got in last night from Nashville, and this woman, the greeter, came to take me out to my car. Their job is to keep the paparazzi away from you. Still, there was one guy -- he was actually very courteous -- and we started walking to the car, and she looked behind us and said, "Oh God, they're coming! Run!" Literally I was running down the sidewalk of the airport dragging my bag, feeling ridiculous. "Are they going to photograph me running away from them? That's going to be really embarrassing."
Potter: That does sound exciting!
Britton: I didn't have my son with me last night, which was the first time that was the case. They always get me with my son, which I don't really love, but I've never had to run. Let's put it that way.
THR: What's the strangest fan interaction you've experienced?
Moss: The backhanded compliments. "You look skinnier or younger in real life." And it's like, "You know that's not a compliment, right?"
Mara: But they really don't.
Britton: We were shooting in a grocery store in Nashville, and when they called cut, there were these two older ladies standing there. One of them grabbed me and said, "You look so much bigger on camera!" And I'm like, "Thank you?"
Potter: Maybe she meant taller?
Britton: I told myself that. (Laughs.)
Moss: People always say to me, "You're so short. Like, really small, really short."
Potter: It's better than, "Hey, you're a fat ass!"
Gunn: People in Albuquerque are crazy about Breaking Bad. And the thing that I didn't expect was how much people got into the characters, and this incredible backlash against Skyler. I wasn't really aware it was happening until people started telling me, "Your character is a bitch. Did you know that?" And I was like, "I do now!" There were blogs about it, and having a daughter who's 12 -- I know that she's guarded from that stuff at my house, but maybe not at other people's homes -- it became a real area of concern. It was interesting that this gender war broke out -- she's such a bitch, she's nagging with Walt because he's cooking crystal meth. She's ruining all the fun.