MASTERS OF SEX! LIZZY CAPLAN SPILLS THE BEANS
lizzy caplan talks about nudity, the fabulous ’50s and playing a sex researcher in masters of sex.
masters of sex season 1 thursdays m-net edge 21:00
Masters of sex (2013current) is a no-holdsbarred depiction of the people who pioneered research in sexuality. while sex and nudity is common on tv today, back in the ’50s, the period when the show is set, sex was taboo – especially for a scientific research project. in masters of sex, although explicit, the research scenes aren’t gratuitous. and at the heart of the action, tying together the science and the social sides of the story with warmth and humour is actress lizzy caplan, who plays dr william masters’ (michael sheen) brilliant research assistant virginia johnson. the show’s based on real people. how did you go about bringing virginia to life? she was a hustler and very scrappy. she did what she needed to do to get where she needed to go. back then it was especially hard for a woman who was twice divorced with two kids, no education and purely, by the strength of her personality, she was able to get where she ended up. do we know why she was so open? she was raised by a mother who was more open than most. she lost her virginity in high school and was one of those girls lucky enough to have a healthy sexual outlook and she didn’t have hyper religious parents. it was what she was into. the best move that he [william] made was recognising that he needed somebody who could talk to people on a personal level because he was completely incapable. she could talk about sex and connect with people. the role requires explicit nudity. how do you handle that? i knew that i’d have no business going after this role if i was going to have any reservation about the nudity. i had to be comfortable to carry out what i knew was going to be asked. any time that i felt any hesitation or fear, i’d try to get rid of it
before i stepped onto the set because my job is to walk out and handle it. i’m sure my character was nervous too because she was called on to do some really weird stuff. there’s a lot of sex without intimacy and i realise, as an actress in love scenes, how much i rely on that, kissing or pretending, anything to make it look realistic. this strips you completely bare… harsh lighting, wires on you. we don’t kiss but i figured if i can get through this, i can probably handle any love scene in the future.
and did the audition require nudity? luckily not. the pilot episode has it, so i knew it was coming. i’d read enough of the book before going into the audition, so i went in knowing that i had to pretend i was 100% comfortable. i identified with the character a lot. doing that in real life is very different from doing it in front of a room full of strangers. it’s shockingly not that bad. i’d done nudity before. after you do it the first time, it becomes less terrifying. you feel oddly invincible.
virginia is a rare character… she conducts herself almost like a man in terms of sex for that era. she didn’t want a relationship. she wanted a lover and to keep it casual. when women try that today, they’re given looks and it’s, “okay, but she’s really in love with him.” there’s no room in society for women who, for lack of a better term, think like a man with sex. i’ve seen it in the present day and i try to multiply that mindset by 10 in my head to understand what it was like in the midwest in the ’50s.
has this role liberated you? sure. i came in fairly liberated. i’ve always been a tomboy. when i was little, i was like, “why can’t i do that just because i’m a girl?” it bleeds out into all areas of my life. that’s who virginia is at her core. she was a feminist before she knew that she was one. masters too. so much of their work benefited women. they liberated women with their science.
virginia’s the friendly face to bill masters’ cold medical exterior.