Emmys 2014: Lizzy Caplan on snubs, TV's 'flood' of great female roles

Emmys 2014: Lizzy Caplan on snubs, TV's 'flood' of great female roles
Lizzy Caplan, seen here at an L.A. Times Envelope roundtable event in April, is an Emmy nominee for her performance as sex researcher Virginia Johnson in Showtime's "Masters of Sex." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

On the Showtime 1950s-set drama "Masters of Sex," Lizzy Caplan stars as famed sex researcher Virginia Johnson, a role that has required her to wear restrictive period-appropriate undergarments, perform all sorts of intimate acts on camera and, perhaps most difficult of all, move beyond the "Lizzy Caplan Type" -- that is, the smart, sarcastic girl who's always ready with a cutting remark.

The efforts paid off Thursday morning with an Emmy nomination in the intensely competitive lead drama actress category. We talked to Caplan about this year's heavy snub count, the richness of roles for women on the small screen and what's ahead in Virginia's complicated (to say the least) relationship with boss Bill Masters (Michael Sheen).


Did you get up early or did you opt to sleep in and see what happened?

I absolutely slept through it. I don't see the point in waking up for bad news. I guess I was leaning more toward that. I thought that it probably wouldn't go my way this year. Why wake up? If it were good news, somebody would wake me up, and that's exactly what happened.

So who woke you up?

My very good friend and her husband called me on my land line because everyone else was calling me on my cellphone, which was on silent. Then one of my best friends just flew in from New York last night and I hadn't even seen him and so I ran into his room and woke him up by jumping on his bed. But he's back asleep already.

How are you going to celebrate?

I'm home sick with bronchitis but I'm drinking tea right now, hopefully that will coat the ol' vocal cords enough to move on to Champagne.

You're in what's considered one of the most competitive categories in the Emmys. How do you feel about your fellow nominees?

Because I've been home sick, it was the first opportunity to really think about the Emmys. I've had the luxury of being so busy shooting the show that it hasn't crossed my mind all that much. If anything, I think it says something really, really positive how steep this category is and how many deserving women got snubbed, and it's because they are writing on television the most nuanced, layered and wonderful female roles. You hold those roles of up to film roles and they just pale in comparison. So to be part of this wave of exciting acting opportunities for women, as an actress I've been doing this a very long time and I know that they don't come along very often. So to have this flood of incredible female performances more than anything I think says something really, really positive about our business.

Is there anyone you were particularly surprised about?

Yeah -- all of them! All of the ones that weren't included -- Vera Farmiga, Tatiana Maslany. All of them, there should have been more slots. They need to expand it. They honestly might have to. There's absolutely no reason why certain people got nominated and certain people didn't. I don't think it's for lack of equal talent.

What's ahead for Bill and Virginia?

Things are a lot deeper and darker and more rocky for Bill and Virginia than even in the first season. Where the first season explored how they met and the beginnings of their research together, Season 2 starts to explore the aftermath of that research. I have yet to see a single episode yet, but based on the scripts and what it felt like on set, there's definitely a bit of a tonal shift and I hope that the audience finds that exciting. I think it will be an ever-changing mood as the two of them move through their 30-year journey.


Are you thinking about Emmys dresses yet?

I'm not. I guess I didn't want to jinx it yet by thinking about that. Also for the first time in my life I'm now excited about wearing beautiful dresses on the red carpet. That was never my jam and so I didn't want to go there mentally and get so excited about the possibility of wearing something truly spectacular and then not get to. Now that this has happened I will be thinking quite a lot about it. From here on out it's nonstop pressure.

Speaking of snubs, were you at all disappointed that the series and your costar Michael Sheen were not nominated?

I think it's very, very unfair that the show and especially Michael were not nominated. It makes no sense for one of us to get it and the other one not to because it's such a shared experience and I know firsthand how hard Michael works and how much he brings to that character and how spectacular he is in that role. It seems so arbitrary and decidedly unfair. I don't think anybody deserves it more than Sheen.

How far are you along in Season 2 right now? 

We wrap July 31. Let me tell you everybody is pretty exhausted, pretty sick, creeping toward the finish line. It's been a pretty long season mainly because first season we shot the whole thing and then didn't have to start the onslaught of press until months afterward. This year they were happening simultaneously and that seems to be pretty hard on the old body.

Sounds like you've been very busy, but have you had any time to watch TV lately?

Because I've been sick I watched the second season of "Orange Is the New Black." I'm very happy Taylor [Schilling] got nominated. Other than that, honestly, I have big plans to watch "Fargo." That's my next one. But I've been watching a lot of antibiotic-induced Netflix documentaries.