Q&A: Lizzy Caplan

The ‘Masters of Sex’ star on Billy Joel, feminism and her favorite dirty word

Lizzy Caplan
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By Rob Tannenbaum
Dec 19, 2013

FOR THE PAST 10 YEARS OR SO, Lizzy Caplan has been Hollywood’s version of an indie band: beloved but often little-seen – as a snarky, vengeful goth in Mean Girls, a snarky, pink-bow-tied caterer in the short-lived Starz series Party Down, and a snarky, coke-huffing,- leg-spreading bridesmaid in Bachelorette. With Showtime’s new series Masters of Sex, the Caplan cult is growing. The 31-year-old actress – who is no longer in a long-term relationship with Friends star Matthew Perry – is as comfortable talking about anatomy as Virginia Johnson, the curious, determined sex researcher she plays on Masters.

How has your life changed since Masters of Sex debuted?

My day-to-day life hasn’t changed. I’m extremely stressed out from flying back and forth to Canada to shoot a movie while I’m trying to move into a house I bought, which is my first house. I’ve been too anxiety--ridden to pay attention to the show premiering. Which sucks, because I’m finally on a show people give a shit about. But I will say I’ve felt a shift in how people perceive me as an actress. They now see I’m capable of playing somebody other than the sarcastic girl in a comedy.

Do you get recognized in public now?

Not really. I think I give off a don’t-come-chat-with-me vibe. And it’s on cable. The number of viewers we get pales in comparison to a network show. It’s not like I’m one of the kids from Glee.

The show takes place in 1956. Were you surprised by the differences between sexuality then and now?

Yes. It’s strange to realize how much of my modern outlook on female sexuality was informed by a woman and a team of scientists I had not heard of. The world saw female sexuality as problematic and nowhere near as important as male sexuality. It’s funny to think about [William] Masters [played by Michael Sheen] as a feminist icon, but he sort of is. It’s certainly not what he set out to do, but the science, the truth, set a lot of women free.

Then again, a lot of the public reaction to your show has amounted to “OMG, boobies!” Maybe we aren’t as sophisticated today as we think.

Big-time. It’s glaringly obvious to me. Just the word “sex” makes people uncomfortable in America. I thought we might go through a period of people saying, “Oh, my god, this is exploiting women, look at all these breasts! It’s just smut and porn.” But people quickly figured out that it really is a feminist show and not just an excuse to show a bunch of titties.

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