Lizzy Caplan Tackles “Masters of Sex” and the Marvel Universe

From "Bachelorette" to Showtime's latest, actress takes on diverse and ambitious slate of film and television roles.

Get ready to see a lot more of Lizzy Caplan, and not just because she’s got a series called “Masters of Sex” coming up.

The 30-year-old's career has definitely hit a new groove. After standout stints in films like “Cloverfield” and “Hot Tub Time Machine” and the cult fave series “Party Down,” she’s just about everywhere all of sudden: movies, TV, iTunes, even superheroic home video – the unique Marvel Universe tie-in short film “Item 47,” debuting Sept. 25 on the “Avengers” Blu-Ray.

It seems like it's pretty good to be Lizzy Caplan right now?

I don't know if I'm like, 'Oh, yeah, I'm on top of the world!' I'm a complain-y Jew – I don't know how to appreciate things so well. I think the little victories – stuff like the movie, 'Bachelorette' doing really well on iTunes and people kind of finding this little tiny movie that I really believe is like an impressive piece for all of the actors in it – are just cool. It's cool. It feels like I might get to be an actress for a few more years, which is always good.

What attracted you to the indie film “3, 2, 1 ... Frankie Go Boom”?

I needed a job! That was definitely part of it. But I read the script and really fell in love with it and really wanted to go after it because I thought it was so strange and yet so funny. Just real laughs when reading a script are difficult to come by. And I also thought it would be a very challenging character because even though for the second half of the movie she's pretty straight and sweet, those first early scenes, I knew would be something that would terrify me right before he yelled 'Action.’ And that's the kind of stuff I seek out.

Then there’s “Item 47,” that short film on the “Avengers” disc that ties into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Oh, it was awesome! I think we shot for four days on that. And a four-day Marvel short film has the budget, I think, of [all of] 'Frankie Go Boom.' I actually don't think that's an exaggeration – In fact, that may have been more expensive. And I just read the thing and I'm not this die-hard comic book nerd or anything, but I love the idea of blowing stuff up. And I loved making 'Cloverfield'. That was one of the most fun movies to make, even though it was, by far, one of the most difficult. And so to get to shoot an alien gun and have big explosions that I knew were gonna look awesome because it's Marvel and they have so much money and know how to make explosions look awesome maybe better than anybody else, it just seemed like a no-brainer. We got asked a lot of questions about, 'Do you think this turns into a character in one of the films?' And that was never one of the motivations in doing it for me. Never, ever. It was just, ‘Yeah, four days of this? Sure.”

But I'm sure, though, when Marvel announced that there's a SHIELD TV show coming up, those questions now resurface. Have you been wondering?

No. Because I'm not available so I don't even have to field those questions. I have my own TV show that has nothing to do with being a SHIELD agent – but I'm sure it'll be awesome. I mean the fan base for anything that comes out of Marvel is so impressive. They are so supportive. And they're unbelievable. I mean I got a little taste of it on 'Cloverfield’: the sci-fi fans are the best fans. They're not snobby. They just love it.

On Halloween, if you see someone dressed as your character in a pink ski mask will you feel like you made it?

Yeah. I think at that moment I'll probably revel. And at Comic-Con this year there were people dressed as 'Party Down' caterers, and Adam Scott and I were losing our minds over that!

Tell me about your TV show.

It's called 'Masters of Sex'. It's on Showtime. I don't know the air date. We shot the pilot but we haven't begun shooting the series yet. It's about Masters and Johnson, the famed sex researchers in the 1950s. I play Virginia Johnson and Michael Sheen plays William Masters. It's based on this book, this biography of the two of them, and it is one of the most fascinating stories I've ever read. It is so outlandish, what these two people did, and yet it all really happened. And so I'm very excited to make a show where if anybody's like, 'No, that's unbelievable.' It's like, 'Well, read the book.' Because these people did it. And they did it in real life in Missouri in the '50s.

How did you get your hooks into her? What helped you crack the code as to who she was?

Well, I read the book, and there were little things peppered throughout the book that were pretty strange coincidences. Just little tiny things that wouldn't be mind-blowing but that I started to feel sort of connected to her. And there was something so brave to me about this woman who was so comfortable with her sexuality at a time where women weren't. They had no ownership over their own sexuality. And she was this twice-divorced woman with two kids and a nightclub singer and she sort of hustles her way into this hospital and becomes this doctor's assistant all by virtue of her own moxie and personality.

And she becomes half of what is the most important sex researcher team that I think has ever been. Showing up on set with Michael Sheen, who's an actor who I respect so much – I refer to him as a real actor because he's like played Hamlet and is one of those trained actors. And it felt like the dynamic was already in place because I felt like this scrappy little comedy actress coming in and playing with this big gun. And that was how it was for the two of these people, so before we even started rolling it was like, 'Okay, whoever's casting this show is smart because they're setting up this like power situation like from the get-go.' And Michael and I have since become good buddies and we're gonna have a blast shooting the show. And I'm like ridiculously excited.

Crazy sex fact that you learned as a part of that gig?

The craziest sex fact that I learned as a part of that gig was that before Masters and Johnson kind of blew the lid off this, everybody considered the male orgasm to be the only important orgasm, the only one that mattered. And it's all Freudian s***, like the virginal orgasm was the only one that counted and a clitoral orgasm was bullshit. And like people really lived their lives like that. That's crazy. I'm gonna have to say the word 'clitoral' so many times in the next year.


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