Julie Ann Emery previews her stint on MASTERS OF SEX

Photo Credit: Nogen Beck

Photo Credit: Nogen Beck

Being such a fan of Julie Ann Emery (@julieannemery, BETTER CALL SAUL’s scene stealing Betsy Kettleman), I jumped at the chance to speak with her as she starts a 2 week run on one of our favorite shows, MASTERS OF SEX, this Sunday.  She couldn’t give away too much but we did dive deep into the process of working with director Adam Arkin, who she might share some scenes with, and what comes next for her!  Read on to find out more!!

I’m excited about the MASTERS OF SEX gig! I know you probably can’t say much because that show keeps a lot of their story locked up, but what can you talk about with this character and what the episodes will brings for us?
I can tell you that I’m in a very unusual relationship. Both of the episodes mark a return of Allison Janney to the show. My storyline winds up sort of intermixed with hers. It was such a good and great pleasure to work with her. I’ve been such an admirer of her work for so long. As an actor it was such a thrill to be on set with her.

I feel like she’s someone who can literally do whatever someone puts in front of her. With the big differences between MOM and MASTERS OF SEX.
Yeah, she’s the real deal. In a world of actors, there are certain people who are famous and there are certain people who you really geek out over their skill level and she has such a wide set of skills. Incredibly wonderful. It was really great to get to work with her.

Was this a show that you had watched from the beginning, or did you binge watch once you got involved?
I did watch – I watched the first season as it aired. The second season was airing – I was in Calgary and Albuquerque, I was all over the place, and that happens a lot when you’re an actor. You wind up traveling and not be able to stay in real time with your shows, so I went back to watch Season 2 before we started. It’s a great show. They bring such high end actors, and it’s really such an honor to be cast by them.

I really like what they’re able to do where they bring these actors in in ways where a lot of the times, we’re not expecting, which makes for an even better to watch, because it’s someone you know but don’t know.
Yeah, it’s also one of those shows where as a guest star, you’re not put in a box about what you’re going to do. It’s not LAW & ORDER where you’re going to be the victim. MASTERS OF SEX seems to have such a wide range of creative ways to utilize recurring roles and guest star roles. It’s really great [laughs]!

What I’ve noticed and seen, as your roles pop up here and there. There’s always a distinct difference, but we know it’s a Julie Ann role. Do you seek out the variety?
I think it’s a combination – I’m very much a journeyman actor. I’m not a huge star, so straight offers come across my desk from time to time but not very often, but I am sort of beholden to whatever comes across my desk, but I can tell you creatively that I am very drawn to what is different from what I just played. In terms of me auditioning, I think that creates a spark for me that makes that role something special. I think I tend to book things that are usually very different from what I just did. I think that’s where my passions lie. I love to step into different people’s shoes. I love to look at the world from different people’s points of view. I feel like that’s my place in the world, as an actor, to help other people do that.

I totally get that – we get that sense from the characters you choose. Often times, the audience is relating most to the character you bring in – we can understand a lot of relatability from who you are on screen.
That’s nice, thank you [laughs]! I think a lot of that is possibly approach. I generally, I started in theater, I went to theater school. When I get a script, I very much look at the whole, where I fit into it, from a wider point of few. From a character point, I dig in as deep in the character as I can. Someone like Betsy Kettleman on BETTER CALL SAUL – I dig, and dig, and dig, until I can find her reasons why, and find her reasons that everyone can understand, whether they relate to them or not. I think that’s how I approach my work, period. If we can all understand each other period, then we can live in a much nicer world.

Speaking of BETTER CALL SAUL – what a delight it was for me as a fan to hear about all of the well-deserved Emmy love!
As someone who is part of, it’s absolutely thrilling. It also is the nicest group of people on the planet. Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould are truly good and decent human beings and they surround themselves with wildly talented and decent human beings and there’s something about seeing that get rewarded that feels like vindication. That feels like everything is right with the world.

Talking about the show – are they going back for season 2 soon? Have there been more conversations about how the Kettlemans could fit in?
I can’t tell you that! They just started shooting Season 2. What I can tell, and what I think we talked about last time, maybe since last time, Peter Gould had said in several interviews, publicly, that they are looking for ways to bring the Kettlemans back. I don’t know when that will be or to what degree. I leave that in the very capable hands of the writers. BETTER CALL SAUL is very specific. It’s not about a hospital full of people. It’s about how Jimmy McGill becomes Saul Goodman. If the Kettlemans can serve that purpose, then there’s no doubt we’ll be back. I know that there’s a desire for it.

You have done some web series, developing material for yourself – is that something you look to continue?
I wrote and directed an award-winning web series in 2009 / 2010. We have 21 episodes up online. Through that, it was a very good experience for me. I did it as an experiment just to see if I could. Through that, I had started talking to production companies, I’m writing for a couple production companies now, potential scripts. I’m really hooked on the filmmaking, on the directing. I would like to see myself move that way. I would like to see more female voices in that world. I’d like to see more female writers and directors. It can be very tough for women, so I kind of feel like I have that interest and I do have that passion, I have to step up and do what I hope everybody else does. I’d like to see more women in that space. I hope that opportunities come. It’s hard to break in initially. I am taking steps in that direction, so we’ll see where that goes. I hope it goes somewhere great.

Do you have a genre you like to write or you feel ore comfortable in?
I think with the writing, I wouldn’t say there’s a genre, but I would say that character based projects, I’m much stronger with. That’s something where I have something to contribute, to the conversation, or contribute for sure. That’s pretty logical, considering how I do my work as an actress, very character based, that way. So my web series was a comedy with some sort of tragic undertones. There is always sort of a sense of humor to my writing, but I’m writing something pretty dark right now! I think the big thing is, is that it’s character rich. I think I write best on a character study, instead of something that’s an action film because I love action films. I love sci-fi, but there’s nothing sci-fi oriented in my writing that’s appealed to me yet, or that I really latched on to. My fan tendencies are not following my writing!! I hope that changes.

Did you get to go to Comic Con at all or have you ever?
I would love to go to Comic Con. I went to E3 this year, and I went to the Star Wars celebration this year. I may as well have been a 7 year old at Disneyland! It was the most fun thing ever. I’ve never been to Comic Con; I’m dying to go to Comic Con! I’m dying to go!

Are there actors or actresses that you admire, or you’d like to work with that are on a short list you’d gravitate towards?
Absolutely! William H Macy I think is brilliant. My list runs odd. I always dreamed of working with Phillip Seymour Hoffman because I think he did such interesting work. Obviously, that’s not going to happen, sadly, now. I tend to not geek out over celebrities. I tend to geek out over really fine actors. I did a short-oolph Fiennes was really brilliant and interesting. Emma Thompson is unbelievable in my opinion. Helen Mirren. Anybody who does something that I don’t feel I do yet, or I’d love to work with people that sort of push me to the next level. Adam Arkin directed one of my two episodes of MASTERS OF SEX. I’ve always admired his work, but he was such a brilliant director. He really pushed us as actors to the outer limits of the scene.

He’s been doing such great work – he’s done some of my favorite episodes of SONS OF ANARCHY. I love that he’s made that transition.
He doesn’t come into scenes with something very set. He comes into scenes going, “well what if it’s this” and then he’ll come in two takes later, and say “oh what if it’s this” and it will be completely different. All day long, you’re sort of off-kilter, exploring things for Adam Arkin, who is managing to do things on a television schedule, so I’m really excited to see what ended up in the scenes, what wound up on the editing floor, what choice he made. The way he directs, the scenes went in wildly different directions, so he can choose in the editing room where he wants to go with it. I think he’s really interesting and I’m kind of dying to work with him again. Anybody that pushes me, I really latch onto quickly.

There’s a freedom there, I’d imagine, that you get to explore one character in a variety of ways.
I read an interview with Tom Hanks many, many years ago when I was just starting out. He said “my job is to show up with at least 7 different ways to do a scene, to do any given line, to do any given beat, to do the scene.” I thought, wow, that’s really interesting. He might have been speaking from a comedic point of view, but I think that’s true, period. I think of my job as an actor, when I look at a scene, not to say “this is how it should play” but to look at a scene and say, wow, here are at least 10 different ways to go. What’s the most advantageous to start with, and Adam is like that. He creates a really fresh and unusual approach to the scene work, and it was really a pleasure to be on set with him.

What else have you got going on besides MASTERS OF SEX that we can see soon?
There’s something I can’t talk about yet [laughs]. I”m kind of in the middle of [laughs]. When you’re not allowed to talk about things, but it’s the age of the internet. In some ways, it’s really sad, but in some ways, as a fan, I really hate hearing spoilers, so I do like to try to honor it. Either I’m working on more things that I’m not allowed to talk about, or it’s more becoming the nature of the industry in general, but as those things are available, I will let you know.

You’re so right about the spoilers these days – look at something like SHARKNADO where they were able to keep a huge guest star, George RR Martin, completely unspoiled. Made the movie that much more insane and exciting to watch.
Well, at least you and I are sitting here talking about MASTERS OF SEX! I shot BETTER CALL SAUL for the entire summer, last summer, and was not allowed to talk about it. I wasn’t allowed to tell anybody what I’d been doing; not even like my family. But then, wasn’t it exciting for you to see that pop up? And wouldn’t it have been a tragedy in season one of BETTER CALL SAUL if anyone had found out that Tuco was on the set? That would have been a tragedy. That was such a great reveal and such a great moment as a fan, so I do understand it and will completely try to clamp down on everything.

Have you seen any new shows that you’re looking forward to more from?
I haven’t gotten into MR ROBOT yet, but I’m dying to see it. I haven’t see HUMANS yet, but I’m dying to see HUMANS.

Christian Slater is doing great work on MR ROBOT. The show is weird and good – I think you’ll love it.
My husband and I tend to binge watch things, so we do like to save things up and watch them together when we’re not traveling. MR ROBOT, I’m so excited that USA is taking what I think was a big risk for them. As a creative, I’m thrilled to see them take that chance and see it pay off for them. And actually, my buddy Anson Mount, season 5 of HELL ON WHEELS [just started]. I’m a good Southern girl, I’ve always watched HELL ON WHEELS.

I love that that show has remained under the radar, but the ratings have increased every season it’s been on! I love it,
I do, too. I think it’s really wonderful. I tell him every time I see him that I’m jealous that he gets to go to work and ride a horse. That’s my dream job right there! That show, I always am trying to keep up with HELL ON WHEELS!

MASTERS OF SEX airs at 10/9c on SHOWTIME Sunday nights.