Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan Talk ‘Masters of Sex,’ Plus What’s Coming Up in Season Two

Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan Talk 'Masters of Sex,' Plus What's Coming Up in Season Two
Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan Talk 'Masters of Sex,' Plus What's Coming Up Season Two

He was doing “Hamlet” while she was doing “Hot Tub Time
Machine,” but Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan proved they are equally endowed
with wit and comic timing in a delightful panel appearance at Paley Fest Monday
night to promote “Masters of Sex.” The pair plays pioneering sex researchers
William Masters and Virginia Johnson in Showtime’s sharp freshman drama, which
unfolds in the same era as “Mad Men.”

“What does that say about the culture?” Sheen demanded in
mock outrage when the mention of “Hot Tub” got raucous applause from the crowd,
while his “Hamlet” credential — he was pulled straight out of a London
production to do the Showtime pilot — elicited “Nothing! Tumbleweeds!” as he
put it. To compensate, he leapt up and
launched into a soliloquy that he identified as “Act 5, Scene 2.”

“How else could it end?” said Caplan about season one’s
final moments, in which a man stands in the rain confessing his love for
her. “Everything I’m in ends that way,”
she said demurely.

In truth, she confessed, she fought hard for the role,
seeing it as her shot at proving she could do something other than the contempo
comedies (“Mean Girls,” “Party Down”) that had become her métier. The constricting period undergarments she
wears to play Virginia became a kind of metaphor for what it takes to harness
her modern sensibility to fit that era. “No
more mumbling or padding lines,” said Caplan. “I’m not used to being
‘word-perfect’ in a script, but it’s made me a much more disciplined
actor.” Caitlin FitzGerald, who plays Libby, Masters’ long-suffering
wife, expressed her consternation at the elaborate hair and makeup rituals the
period requires. “The truth is, women
would be running everything,” she exclaimed, “except that we’re too busy
getting ready.”

Since just after Christmas, creator Michelle Ashford and the
writing team have been scripting season two. Shooting on the new episodes began
this month on the Sony lot in Culver City. Ashford, joined onstage by producer Sarah Timberman, said the pair had
come to the Paley Fest session, held at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood,
straight from the set, where an emotional scene involving Beau Bridges and
Allison Janney was underway.  

“We were
both weeping,” she said, indicating that whatever happens next between hospital
chancellor Barton Scully (Bridges) and his wife Margaret (Janney), who are
struggling with their marriage after her bombshell discovery that he is gay,
the feelings run deep. Also present for
the panel were cast members Annaleigh Ashford (Betty DiMello) and Teddy Sears (Dr.
Austin Langham), who said his favorite scene so far was the one in which he and
Janney rekindle their attraction during a nighttime encounter at the university
swimming pool. “She’s the best in the
business,” he said of Janney.  When the
show returns in July, it will feature Betsy Brandt (“Breaking Bad”), who joins
the cast as Dr. Masters’ new secretary.

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