This is the one I have been waiting for and every year the drama actress roundtable is the highlight of The Hollywood Reporter’s Emmy series. It might be a premature declaration as there are still more discussions to come as part of this season, but I am pretty confident in this assertion after reading the transcript and watching the clips which have been made available prior to SundanceTV airing it in full come August (Update – you can now watch the full discussion at the end of this post). I do want to point to the comedy actress chat as another enlightening and fascinating entry into the roundtable Hall of Fame. And now there is another group to add to my boozy lunch wish list.
The line-up is entirely different to last year (sometimes there are repeats) with Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Honourable Woman), Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder), Taraji P. Henson (Empire), Jessica Lange (American Horror Story), Ruth Wilson (The Affair) and Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex). Gone are the questions of ‘how do you balance work and family?’ and instead there is a strong focus on their work from the shows they are currently on to past experiences. There are four Oscar nominees among these women (some multiple) and a two time winner showing the caliber of talent television attracts particularly when it comes to complex roles for women. A mixture of cable and network with ages ranging from 32 to 66 shows how well television caters to a range of experiences.
As the cover so boldly states there is a focus on race, sex, age and nudity with the latter coming up on multiple occasions. Lizzy Caplan and Ruth Wilson joke about the name of their network – “Showtits” – and sex plays a big part in both Masters of Sex (it is in the title after all) and The Affair. Sex isn’t just there for sensationalism or to be gratuitous; it is worth noting that both shows have a female showrunner with Caplan going so far as pointing out that Michelle Ashford is kinda prudish and those scenes can be hard for all involved.
How to Get Away with Murder is Viola Davis’ first starring role on prime time and she talks about her initial concerns when she took the project on including her appearance. There is one point which really sticks with me and is worth quoting in full exemplifying why this roundtable series strikes a chord:
“I’ve been doing this for 27 years. I’ve performed in basements, churches, off-Broadway. I want the work to reflect my level of gifts and talent. I don’t want it to reflect my color, my sex or my age. That’s what I want most.”
The comedy actresses talked about bad auditions and incidents earlier in their careers where they maybe tried to adjust their look for an audition. This is something Maggie Gyllenhaal discusses in terms of her appearance and how she has been judged in the past in terms of being ‘sexy.’ Gyllenhaal also mentions her interest in nudity and what she looks for in a sex scene.
Cookie Lyon has made such a huge impact on the TV landscape this season and Taraji P. Henson jokes “I hate that bitch. She’s stolen my identity! My friends don’t want to talk to me unless it’s about Cookie.” I’m only halfway through Empire but within the first few minutes of seeing this character on screen it was love. Henson also reveals who she sometimes channels when she is playing Cookie and the answer is not who you might expect. There are no boundaries when it comes to want roles Henson wants to play “I want to play a superhero. I want to be a Bond girl. I want to play a man. I want to play a white woman. I want to play everything I’ve never played before.”
There are more clips to watch here before the full thing becomes available in August.
In terms of the styling of the group it turns out I wasn’t proved wrong after all with an explosion of sparkle and while Ruth Wilson is the lone person in print (a beautiful Erdem frock), there is some color with Viola Davis’ Lanvin and range of styles suiting the wearer in question. Lizzy Caplan’s Donna Karan ensemble is reminiscent of her Donna Karan Atelier Emmy stunner from last year (Caplan also chose this designer when she wowed at the Met Gala last month). During the chat Caplan wears an oversized tuxedo jacket and looks super cool while doing so. Excellent lipstick game from all the ladies with Caplan’s fuchsia reminding me of my new favorite lip color. And now if you will excuse me I will be drawing hearts around this entire conversation.
Check back for more Emmy related discussions in the weeks/months to come.
Update! Watch the full uncensored Emmy Drama Actress roundtable below.