The siz­zling Lizzy Ca­plan is mas­ter of her own des­tiny.

Want to ask Lizzy Ca­plan about sex? Go for it. The whip-smart and hi­lar­i­ous ac­tress of­ten works in the nude, so it’ll take more than that to make her blush.

ELLE (Canada) - - Elle - By Kathryn Hud­son

LIZZY CA­PLAN slept through the Emmy nom­i­na­tions. She was sick at the time, burned out af­ter a long film­ing sched­ule, and didn’t think her work as Vir­ginia John­son in the smart TV hit Masters of Sex stood a chance in the hy­per-com­pet­i­tive best-ac­tress cat­e­gory. She should have set her alarm. “It’s just so far out­side of the realm of what I thought pos­si­ble for me,” she says with a grin. We’re sit­ting in the ochre Los An­ge­les sun­shine. Ca­plan is eat­ing a gi­ant nec­tarine and think­ing about her ca­reer, which has taken off like a firecracker since she signed on to play the fa­mous sex re­searcher. “I thought that I’d be a jour­ney­woman ac­tress, and I was pretty con­tent with that. I was mak­ing a de­cent liv­ing as an ac­tress, and that felt like enough to me. But, look­ing back, I was play­ing kind of the same type of girl over and over again.” She stops and looks at the nec­tarine, as though its pit were a crys­tal ball. “Of course, when I first started, I had much big­ger goals. But af­ter do­ing it for 15 years, I felt the in­dus­try was telling me to stick to a cer­tain thing. Only now do I re­al­ize that it would not have been a very ful­fill­ing life.”

Cult-favourite char­ac­ters shaped the L.A.-born ac­tress’ ca­reer. Her first role was on Freaks and Geeks at 17 years old, along­side James Franco and Seth Ro­gen, whom she’s shar­ing the screen with again this De­cem­ber in the off­beat com­edy The In­ter­view. Then later came lov­able goth Ja­nis in Mean Girls, which, 10 years later, is still a vi­able rea­son to wear pink on Wed­nes­days. She has scored TV roles on un­der­ground fave Party Down and pop hits New Girl and True Blood. But Masters of Sex, which just wrapped its sec­ond sea­son, has been indis­putably sig­nif­i­cant.

De­spite Ca­plan’s early suc­cess and a decade of “fun and a lot of painful growth,” she was ter­ri­fied of turn­ing 30. “It felt like if my 20s were—you know those Ree­bok Pumps? If my 20s were pump­ing it,” she says, pan­tomim­ing a swelling high-top, “then my 30s were like the re­lease but­ton. It was amaz­ing. I’m 32 now, and ev­ery­thing they tell you is true: You just kind of chill out; you be­come more your­self. It has been a very wel­come shift.”

Ca­plan speaks in such de­lib­er­ate sen­tences that it’s hard to think she was once any­thing but con­fi­dent. She laughs at the sug­ges­tion. “For the ma­jor­ity of my life, I have h

been a very, very anx­ious per­son. Now I’m just not will­ing to be anx­ious about half the shit I used to be.”

There’s not much room for doubt when sign­ing on for a re­veal­ing se­ries like Masters of Sex, which lays bare both the ac­tors (in the very lit­eral sense) and the cul­tural hang-ups we have about sex. Ca­plan plays sec­re­tary turned sex re­searcher Vir­ginia John­son, who, along­side Dr. Wil­liam Masters (played by Michael Sheen) in the 1950s, re­de­fined the way we think about hu­man sex­u­al­ity. An avid par­tic­i­pant in sex stud­ies, her char­ac­ter spends many sheet-grip­ping scenes wear­ing noth­ing but a heart-rate mon­i­tor. (“Only when re-en­ter­ing the real world do I re­al­ize that be­ing naked in front of lots of peo­ple is a strange way to spend your day,” she says with a laugh. “I think that, in that vac­uum, they prob­a­bly could con­vince me to do quite a lot of crazy shit.”)

Ca­plan is clever and can­did about her sex­u­al­ity in a way that would make those who have shuf­fled awk­wardly to the bath­room wrapped in a sheet feel rather piti­ful. “I move through the world dif­fer­ently from a lot of my friends,” she starts to ex­plain, be­fore paus­ing. “I iden­ti­fied with how Vir­ginia could sep­a­rate sex from love—that was some­thing that made her an odd duck. It’s a lot less harsh these days, but that’s still some­thing that ex­ists.... We have

such a long way to go be­fore you don’t see a ‘pro­mis­cu­ous’ girl. I mean, peo­ple don’t even use the word pro­mis­cu­ous when de­scrib­ing men, ever.” She stops and grins. “I don’t think it’s my per­sonal cru­sade to be this proud pro­mis­cu­ous per­son, but it’s a con­ver­sa­tion that I’ve got­ten into quite of­ten since I started the show, and I find it fas­ci­nat­ing.”

Kicked back in boyfriend jeans and a tank, Ca­plan isn’t to­tally con­vinced that we’ve moved past the gen­der stig­mas of the but­toned-up 1950s. “It’s a re­ally con­scious choice to be, say, the woman who goes out and works while the hus­band stays at home,” she ex­plains, hands punc­tu­at­ing her thoughts like a con­duc­tor. “It’s 2014, and if your hus­band makes less money than you, peo­ple ask you if that’s ‘weird’ for you. It’s pretty mind-blow­ing.”

For some­one who is so open about her body, Ca­plan is iron­i­cally pri­vate about her love life. (She was in a re­la­tion­ship with Matthew Perry for sev­eral years and ad­mits it can be “shitty dat­ing ac­tors.”) But she has been think­ing about exes now that she sees bill­boards of her­self, re­clined in bed, dot­ted around L.A. “I had this mo­ment of ‘Wow, it must re­ally suck for exes to see that.’ But what can you do? Don’t date an ac­tress if you don’t want to see her in bed on a bill­board.” She shakes her head. The sur­re­al­ism of the sit­u­a­tion is not lost on her. h

Ca­plan seems to ap­ply sharp re­flec­tion to most things, in­clud­ing the con­cept of mar­riage. “I don’t want it to be an as­sump­tion that I will be the one to stay home and raise the kids,” she says. “Now, I could have kids and want to do that, I have no idea—but from where I sit now, that does not sound all that ap­peal­ing to me. I re­ally want kids, and I want to be fully in­volved in their lives, but I don’t want to sac­ri­fice my own goals to be a mother.”

Maybe it has some­thing to do with be­ing raised in Cal­i­for­nia, she sug­gests, grow­ing up as a tomboy who forced boys to let her play foot­ball and pushed them to tackle her. “I ac­tu­ally ro­man­ti­cize the idea of a stay-ath­ome dad. Partly be­cause I think that’s a very sexy thing, but also be­cause if there are two work­ing ac­tors and both of them get a job and they have a baby, the woman is go­ing to stay with the baby,” she says with a sigh. “I see it all the time. It just seems very un­fair.”

While Ca­plan has made a name for her­self play­ing cyn­i­cal char­ac­ters whom she al­ways se­cretly as­so­ci­ated with, she ac­tu­ally seems like quite a ro­man­tic at times— though I’m sure she would cringe at the de­scrip­tion. She’s wist­ful when speak­ing of her close-knit cir­cle of friends. (She is god­mother to Busy Philipps’ daugh­ter, and “99 per­cent” of her ac­tor friends are in com­edy.) “Some­how we’ve built this life raft in a sea of weirdos and very un­re­li­able peo­ple,” she says softly. “My re­la­tion­ship with these peo­ple is the best thing I’ve built.” Though at the sug­ges­tion she tell her friends about the life-raft anal­ogy, be­cause it’s a beau­ti­ful thing to say h

and hear, she pulls a face and dead­pans, “Fuck those peo­ple.” Ca­plan, it seems, likes to set up a ten­der mo­ment just to tear it down.

She speaks about Ro­gen, her co-star in the up­com­ing North Korea-based com­edy The In­ter­view (yes, it’s a com­edy about as­sas­si­nat­ing a North Korean dic­ta­tor), with gen­tle af­fec­tion be­fore catch­ing her­self. “We’re the same age, which is strange be­cause he’s do­ing so much more cool shit,” she says im­pas­sively. “I hate that we’re 32 and he’s di­rect­ing mas­sive movies.”

But Ca­plan hasn’t been hurt­ing for projects. She’s still liv­ing out of suit­cases in the 1956 mid-cen­tury-mod­ern house she just bought in L.A. be­cause she hasn’t had time to un­pack. “I never un­der­stood why you would want to buy a house or a car—the idea of a quick es­cape ap­pealed to me,” she says, brush­ing in­vis­i­ble lint off her jeans. “But now I’m putting down roots, and that’s nour­ish­ing me in ways that are sur­pris­ing. In the past, I would have down­played it be­cause the idea of be­gin­ning to get what I’ve worked for would over­whelm me and I’d have to pooh-pooh it. But now I can safely say that I’m en­joy­ing it in the mo­ment.” She takes a sec­ond to look out over the view. Hollywood’s hills roll out be­neath a cloud­less sap­phire sky. It’s too bright to look with­out squint­ing. “Now I re­ally am su­per-wide-eyed and grate­ful,” she says, re­fer­ring to the fact that she used to feel jaded, like some of her char­ac­ters. “It’s just weird.... It’s nicer be­ing like this, though.” n

Top (Alexan­der Wang) and skirt (Donna Karan)

Body­suit, skirt and belt (Louis Vuit­ton), ear­ring (Paige Novick), ring (Vita Fede), ar­row bracelet (Anita Ko) and clasp and square bracelets (Re­nee Shep­pard). For de­tails, see Shop­ping Guide. Stylists, Jill Lin­coln & Jor­dan John­son for Rachel Zoe...

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