On Season 2 of the Showtime comedy series Episodes, it is four months after the events of Season 1 and Pucks! has gone from a pilot to full-blown series while its creators, Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig) are no longer living together. As Beverly struggles to save her marriage, Pucks! star Matt LeBlanc is determined to save his bromance with Sean, network head Merc Lapidus (John Pankow) is trying to salvage the plummeting ratings, and his second-in-command and mistress Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins) is just trying to get the recognition she deserves.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Kathleen Rose Perkins, whose pitch-perfect performance is both hilarious and heart-breaking, talked about what fans can expect from the new season, the advantage of getting to have the same writers and director for the entire season, how they stick to exactly what’s written in the script, and how exhausting it is to play someone so high-strung. She also talked about playing a haggard Las Vegas prostitute in Diablo Cody’s untitled feature directorial debut, about a woman (played by Julianne Hough) who denounces her faith in the Christian church, and then goes to Vegas for a night and meets all these different types of people just so that she can experience sin. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
Collider: What can fans of Season 1 expect from Season 2 of Episodes?
KATHLEEN ROSE PERKINS: I think it’s just a lot more of the same, but bigger and better than the first season. I thought the first season was really well put together, but in the second season, I think they trumped themselves by creating these even more intricate relationships. Carol just goes deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole, in her relationship with Merc. This season, I had a very hard time with it because I’ve grown to be a really big fan of my character and really want her to succeed. In her work life, I think she’s really good at her job. In her personal life, she’s just a mess. I wish there was a clone of me, so I could shake her and slap her around and say, “What are you doing?! You deserve better!” But, you can’t unless you’re crazy, like Black Swan, and you can see yourself in mirrors. I had to just come to terms with her being a real damaged person, and there’s something really lovely to play in that.
There’s more growth, there’s more fighting, there’s more sex. In the first season, I didn’t know she was as in love with Merc as she is in the second season. It was news to me, and I had to reconcile that. It’s interesting, to me, to see what lengths she’ll go to, to get this man who is just awful. I loved it because it just makes her more of a real, interesting, damaged person. That’s always more fun to play than somebody who’s perfect. And I love pretending to get high. I’m a big hiker. I love the outdoors. So, when they wrote the hiking scenes, that was absolutely my favorite day of shooting, in my entire life. We spent the whole day shooting all of those scenes that take place in the wilderness between me and Beverly, played by Tamsin [Greig] in Griffith Park, and I wanted it to last all week. I loved it!
What was it that initially attracted you to this show and this character, and how different is she now?
PERKINS: Well, it was the writing, first and foremost. They wrote all seven scripts before they actually did any casting on the first season, other than Matt LeBlanc who was already tied in, obviously. They were hanging it on him, so they knew how to write for him, but everybody else was a character that they put together in their minds, and then tried to cast it off of what they thought would work the best. I read the first episode and was so nervous for the audition because I knew it was picked up and that it was going to be shot in London, and it was a fantastic story and an unbelievable character. I had to go in a second time, so Matt and a couple other executives could be there, and I was breathing so hard because I was nervous that I had to stop in the middle of the audition and go, “I’m gonna need to go back because I’m incredibly nervous right now.” They were all really lovely and understanding, and it went well enough so that I could get the job.
The first season was all just me trying to figure out what they had in their minds, initially, when they wrote it. And then, the second season was really interesting because they had all of us, the actual people, in mind. To read what they wrote in the second season, I was sitting there with the scripts going, “Oh, so this is what you think of me! Awesome! Okay, let’s try it!” I’ve just tried to stick to what they see. Carol is a very strong character, and it was pretty easy to see what they wanted out of her, but in the second season, they added parts of me into it, a little bit more. It’s interesting to see the finished product and go, “Yeah, she’s evolving into half me and half this executive that was their initial idea.” It’s a little alarming, but it’s cool.
Do you feel like there’s an advantage to having the same writers (David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik) and director (Jim Field Smith) for each episode and having that one unified vision?
PERKINS: Yeah, I do! It’s pretty perfect. It’s more time consuming and there’s a lot more pressure on them, as the writers and creators of it, but they’re the only ones who could write what they write. It’s actually shot like a very big movie. We block shoot the entire thing because the entire season is written already. This past season, when I went into work, I would do a scene from the first episode, and then the seventh episode, and then go back to the sixth, and then go back to the fifth, and that would be my day. So, throughout the entire season, I would have to know where I was, at every time, because we were shooting all over the place. To me, it’s the way things should be written. If a show is written like a serial with an overlying story that goes from the first episode to the ninth episode – and those are my favorite kinds of shows, like Breaking Bad – you have to watch the first one to be able to watch the seventh. I love when there’s a through-line through the entire season, and you really get hooked in and you really want to see what happens next. That’s my favorite kind of writing. To me, it’s perfect storytelling. It’s my dream to be a part of something like this. This has been awesome! If we only have this much, it was more than enough. I couldn’t ask for more.
Do you get to do much improvisation with the show, or do you stick with the script?
PERKINS: Honestly, they write such solid scripts that they, as well as the actors, really want to get it word-perfect, on screen. When we come in, it’s about saying exactly what’s written. At the beginning and at the tail of every scene, you can play around and you can also collaborate with the writers a little bit, if you have an idea. But, they have such a vision on this show that they will shoot you down immediately, if it’s not right. It’s a real safe, lovely environment where you can trust their writing. I never really ever felt like I needed to add anything. I just wanted to deliver exactly what they had, as best I could, because it was so good. So, no, there was not a lot of improv in my stuff. Matt [LeBlanc] might have a different opinion. I barely worked with Matt. I don’t even know that we’re in the same show, other than watching the final episodes. I don’t think our characters have ever said anything to each other. I don’t think his character really clocks my character. He doesn’t know my character’s name and he doesn’t really care whether I exist or not, and he’s just a product to Carol. It’s interesting ‘cause, this season, our relationships are so much more intertwined, but we still don’t even clock each other.
How difficult is it to learn all of the dialogue you have to do on this show?
PERKINS: It’s a lot of hours spent by myself, just memorizing. But, they’re really good at writing really great dialogue. When it’s good dialogue, it’s easier to memorize, always, but there were a couple of mouth fulls. There are some outtakes of me, just screwing up my lines.
Is it pretty exhausting to play someone so high-strung?
PERKINS: Yeah! Every night, I would go home to the little flat that they gave us in London – and it was over the winter, so it was freaking cold there – and I would run a bath and just crumble. I’d be like, “I’m just so tired!” But, it’s incredibly gratifying, as well. There’s a real sense of peace, when you’re at the end of that day, most of the time because they don’t let you go until you absolutely get what they want. That can lead to long hours or a really hard day, but you know that, once they’re done, it’s going to be something that’s really lovely and makes sense. So, in that way, I could totally trust their vision. I never went home and regretted what I did or thought, “Oh, I should have done this!” There was none of that. I just went home and went, “Okay, I’ve gotta gear up for the next day.” There’s something really lovely about being that exhausted.
When you were trying to find this character originally, did you look to anybody, in particular?
PERKINS: Now, I’m going to get in trouble. There were three particular people that I pulled from. Actually, what’s so funny is that my boyfriend is actually a creator/writer/actor as well and he was working with a network at the time, creating a show. So, when I walked into the audition, I said, “This person is basically everybody’s best friend, right? She is the ultimate yes man, but she’ll also say no in the kindest way possible because she’s trying to make everybody happy, at all times.” And they were like, “Yeah, exactly! That’s it!” And I knew that because my boyfriend would come home and go, “You would not believe what she said to me, and then said to another producer!” It was just diabolical.
So, yeah, she’s based off of people in my mind, and then, in the writers’ minds, she’s based off of completely different people that they’ve encountered in their lives. There’s somebody like Carol at every turn, in this business, just like the head of casting, Andy Button, played by Joe May, and the head of comedy with the scowl, played by Daisy Haggard, who’s just brilliant in that role. Everybody knows somebody who’s like her. She’s the head of comedy and she doesn’t laugh! What is that?! And yet, it’s true that there are people like that in this business. It’s hard to categorize them and stereotype them because, when you dig down, they’re all people, too. So, when I got the job, I was like, “Oh, crap, now I have to understand these people!” I don’t understand business minds. I consider myself an artist, and they just really don’t mix. But, it’s the same thing. Carol is just trying to keep her job. There’s so much fear inside these people’s minds because they’re just trying to keep their job, so I could totally relate to that.
Carol and Beverly have such a great friendship this season. What was it like to work to get to have that?
PERKINS: The writers said that when they saw us get stoned together in the first season, they were like, “It’s like Lucy and Ethel!” So, this season, they were determined to give us more opportunity to have these lovely little scenes with just me and her, talking about relationships. That’s all we do. We never talk about work when we’re together. We only talk about our love interests. I love it! Carol has no other friends. Who is she going to be friends with, the head of comedy? And Merc is a terrible person who’s married, so she’s got to keep that a secret, although it’s barely a secret. Also, Beverly doesn’t have very many friends either. So, it was really lovely for us to be able to find camaraderie in our desperation. We’re just not really good people persons, for different reasons. Beverly is just not very nice, and Carol is too fake and selfish.
What was it like to get to work on Diablo Cody’s untitled directorial debut and work with another writer who’s so dialogue-specific?
PERKINS: It was cool! I actually put the audition on tape in January, while I was still in London. When I got the audition, I read it and thought, “Well, this is fantastic! It’s really well written.” It’s Diablo Cody, and she’s unbelievable at creating characters and voices for them. It was just a couple of lovely scenes, but it was for a haggard Vegas prostitute. I was like, “I’ll try. I’ll put it on tape, but there’s no way they’re going to cast me!” Cut to me getting the call from my manager going, “They love you for this!” I was like, “Okay, awesome!”
So, I went to New Orleans for a couple of days and shot a couple of scenes with Julianne Hough, who is the lead of this really awesome, kind of controversial story about a woman who denounces her faith in the Christian church, and then goes to Vegas for a night and meets all these different types of people just so that she can experience sin, and I’m one of the people that she comes in contact with.
It was really awesome to show up there. They painted me with sun damage and they emphasized my crow’s feet with this spackle and they put huge eyelashes on me. I was a whore for a day, and it was awesome! That’s not something I normally get to do, so it was a challenge. It was really hard! But, Diablo was really nice and very happy, I think, with what I did, and it turned out to be a lovely experience. And I had never been to New Orleans before, so I got to eat some amazing food and see that sights. That was cool! The food blew me away. I think I gained a good five pounds.
Do you have a dream role that you’d love to do, if given the opportunity?
PERKINS: Yeah, I do. I will actually be a third degree black belt in Taekwondo, by the end of this year, so I would really love to use that, in some way. I don’t know if I necessarily fit in the action-thriller genre, but I’d love to do something where I could actually kick some butt, and then tell a few jokes. That would be awesome! That would be my dream job.
Episodes airs on Sunday nights on Showtime.