Emmys: Kerry Washington, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, 7 More Actresses Reveal How They Get Into Character (Tequila Blanco, Anyone?)

2:23 PM 8/26/2016

by THR staff

TV’s top actresses share the methods behind their craft, and their response range from insightful to downright funny.

Kerry Washington in Confirmation and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep-Publicity-H 2016
Courtesy of HBO

What helps this year's Emmy-nominated actors get into character?

The Hollywood Reporter asked a group of nine nominees for their responses, and they ranged from insightful to downright funny.

Check out what they had to say below, and read more about their process here.

  • Kirsten Dunst

    "The accent helps. I remember thinking Peggy walked like a Scooby-Doo character to me. Also, my acting lady, Greta Seacat — her method of teaching is the most inspiring to me."

  • Ellie Kemper

    "It's as simple as putting on Kimmy's clothes. Her outfits are so specific and so descriptive. Tina Nigro, our costume designer, makes Kimmy come alive."

  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus

    "Tequila blanco."

  • Audra McDonald

    "I started listening to Billie [Holiday] all the time. At first, the voice was hard to find, but then I realized that she sounded a lot like my grandmother. Before the performance each night, I would start to get very sleepy — not because I was tired, but because Billie was heavy to put on. I did my full vocal warm-up — as if I were preparing for an opera — put gin and Billie's perfume on my pulse points, and then I felt ready."

  • Laurie Metcalf

    "Even though we only worked on six episodes a season, stepping into the lab coat and walking onto the hospital set and seeing the same beautiful patients' faces made it easy to snap back into character."

  • Sarah Paulson

    "The shoes. It sounds goofy, but the way you stand can inform so much of your physical impulses. I like working from the outside in — that and finding a scent that moves me in some way that relates to the character. In this case, I found out which fragrance Marcia Clark actually wore during the trial, and I wore it every day. I was always sniffing my own wrist before takes. I'm sure everyone thought I was nuts."

  • Keri Russell

    "One of the most enjoyable parts is the trying on of the wigs and 1980s glasses that we do in the hair and makeup trailers. Almost all of them are really bad, and we just sit and laugh with each other and tell each other how bad we look."

  • Lily Tomlin

    "First, I think of all the things in my life that have moved me to a state of wonderment and empathy. And when that doesn't work, I knock back a couple of martinis."

  • Kerry Washington

    "Capturing the hearings was even more difficult, partly because they are something that exists for everyone to see — go on YouTube, and there they are. I wanted to be truthful to what happened in this story, but at the same time we were taking the most difficult weeks of these people's lives and living in it for three months. It helped me to read Anna Deavere Smith's writing because she's like a cultural anthropologist. She helped me find the right rhythms and the right breathing to really capture Anita Hill."