‘Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll’: Elizabeth Gillies and Elaine Hendrix on Playing Strong Women

     August 17, 2016

sex&drugs&rock&roll-interview

Centered on washed up early 90s rock star Johnny Rock (Denis Leary), whose band was on the brink of becoming famous until they broke up the same day their only album dropped, Season 2 of the FX series Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll has seen the sudden passing of an old friend and former bandmate, forcing them to take a hard look at their lives and careers and decide what makes them feel creatively fulfilled. As everyone has started branching out into other artistic avenues to varying degrees of success, Johnny and his daughter, Gigi (Elizabeth Gillies), have found themselves unexpectedly bonding over their own jealousy.

While at the FX portion of the TCA Summer Press Tour, co-stars Elizabeth Gillies and Elaine Hendrix (who plays Ava, Johnny’s girlfriend and a bad-ass singer, in her own right) sat down with Collider for this exclusive interview about playing such strong women, what a great collaborator Denis Leary is, a better and stronger Season 2, shooting the “Feast” musical episode, and having no idea where things could go, in the future. Be aware that there are some spoilers.

Collider: I love the fact that the women on this show are hot and talented, and they also don’t take any shit from men. Was that something that was important to both of you?


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Image via FX

ELIZABETH GILLIES: Yeah, for sure. We’re playing these chicks where it’s important that we keep these guys in check and we’re strong. [Denis Leary] wrote us really strong, and we have a lot of authority in this show, I think.

ELAINE HENDRIX: It’s a whole combination. Liz and I came into this having a background playing these types of characters. These are women who are in our wheelhouse, so to speak. And then, that’s matched up with Denis Leary, who loves those kinds of women and writes for those kinds of women. Dare I say, it’s a perfect storm situation.

And Denis Leary made sure to hire female writers and directors for the show, which is nice to hear.

GILLIES: Oh, absolutely! It’s a collaboration. Sometimes we’ll read a scene and be like, “Girls don’t really talk like that. Here are our notes.” And he’s like, “Do it! Take it away!” We had a great female writer this year, Julieanne Smolinski. She’s excellent. She gave us so much fun material. It was really fun to have her as an addition to the show. But, Denis is really cool with all of that. He’s the best!

What do you guys feel you got most right with Season 1, and what were you hoping would evolve or change for Season 2?

GILLIES: I think Season 2 is better and stronger. I love this season.

HENDRIX: It looks better. I think they gave it a little bit more of a distinct style, and I think it really became an ensemble. A lot of that is just the nature of Season 2 because they know who these people are now and the people behind the scenes know what to do with us now. We get to go deeper and start flushing everybody out a little bit more.

GILLIES: We’ve been in our skin longer. We know each other better, behind the scenes, and we know the characters better. There’s a familiarity and a comfort that’s even deeper this season. We feel we can really walk around in these characters. And there’s more drama. It just gets crazy cliffhangery.

When you got to the end of the season, were you both like, “How do we come back from this in Season 3″?


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Image via FX

GILLIES: Totally!

HENDRIX: We don’t know! It’s such a mess! I’m so conflicted because, as an actress, it’s like, “This is so good!” But then, as a person, I’m like, “I didn’t want it to go there!” I’m very conflicted.

GILLIES: It’s so crazy! I don’t know what you do after this.

HENDRIX: When I saw where it was headed, I would go into work every day and go to Denis like, “Okay, but then you’re going to do a rewrite, right, where this was all just a dream?” I pushed so hard to make this not happen the way it happens. But, you’ve got to. That’s the journey and that’s the fun.

GILLIES: We don’t get the scripts, all at the same time. We’ll be half-way through the season, and then get the last ones. But, it was fun. I’m worried for our characters, a little bit.

HENDRIX: It’s challenging, but that’s what makes for good TV.

GILLIES: Definitely!

When all is said and done, can Gigi and Ava ever trust each other again, or is it all just rock ‘n’ roll?

HENDRIX: In our world, Johnny and I and Flash have been together for 25 years. We’ve done it all and seen it all. This is actually nothing new for us. It’s really having Gigi in the mix that changes everything and makes it all very different.

GILLIES: Gigi is everybody’s child, in a way. It’s weird. She’s Flash’s baby, in some way. She’s definitely Ava’s baby. She’s Johnny’s baby. She’s never seen it, like she’s seen it with this crew, even with Bam Bam and Rehab. It’s new to her. She’s cut a little deeper from it, which makes everyone else look at it in a new way and be like, “This is bad!” It makes everybody take a step back, which is sad because we’re all so close. We like having scenes together. They’re fun.

What was it like to not only have this musical, “Feast,” as part of the storyline, but then to shoot an episode during the performance and have full-out numbers going on?


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Image via FX

GILLIES: Oh, they performed it. We didn’t know. We didn’t see rehearsals.

HENDRIX: No joke, it was a full-on musical. We thought it would just be some movement in the background, but there was a choreographer and dancers and full-blown numbers.

GILLIES: It was unbelievable! They kept saying there was dance rehearsal and I was like, “For what?!” And then, I get there and it’s Broadway dancers doing Broadway dances. And I had never seen Campbell [Scott] do anything on our show before. I had no scenes with him. So, I saw it an was like, “No way! This has been happening!” That was the most fun to watch. We didn’t know what anybody was doing. Sometimes I’m like, “Elaine, when did you shoot that emotional scene?!” And she’s like, “The day we had lunch.” And I’m like, “Why didn’t you say anything?!”

HENDRIX: For Season 1, we worked together, all the time. This season, it was like, “How are you? What did you do today?”

Elaine, what was it like for you to have Ava get to step out of the shadows and have some performance numbers of her own, this season?

HENDRIX: Because that’s the background that I came from, and I started doing stage work and performing, it’s nice. It was a dream that I thought one day I’d get to be on a show and do all of that, so this is a dream come true. I’m just relishing every single second of it.

GILLIES: And that pink suit was amazing!

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Image via FX

As actors who are no strangers to this business, what’s it like to be a part of a show that you’re not only clearly having a blast on, but you can’t wait to actually watch your own show?

GILLIES: It’s rare as hell! We love it so much.

HENDRIX: It’s rare. I don’t put this out there to make it a reality, but I keep thinking, “Who am I going to go work for next?!”

GILLIES: Nothing is going to touch it, and I don’t mean that in a good or bad way. It’s the most unique and wonderful experience. It’s just fun. It’s like being in college. We come in and we’re like, “Oh, my god, hi!,” every morning.

HENDRIX: And when we’re apart, we’re always texting each other or calling.

GILLIES: We have a group text.

This show really knows how to make full use of everyone’s talent.

GILLIES: Which is wonderful. Denis finds everything. He watched a video of Elaine roller-blading and singing, and it went into the show. He’s God, basically. What he says, goes.

HENDRIX: You’ve gotta be careful what you say.

GILLIES: I’m so mortified that I said I tap-danced, as a child. Every time I see him now, he says, “If we get picked up, Gigi will be tap-dancing next season.” And I’m like, “You better not, man.”

Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll airs on Thursday nights on FX.


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Image via FX

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