Amidst a cast of talented newcomers and reliable stalwarts, actress, Caitlin FitzGerald has emerged as an undisputed standout on Showtime’s hit drama, ‘Masters of Sex’. That’s because the luminous performer imbues her character – the elegant if confined Mrs. Libby Masters – with such grit and grace, that one can’t help but connect with this woman’s powerful emotional journey.
Recently, FitzGerald took a break from filming the show’s highly-anticipated second season to chat with MoS casting director and BGB Studio co-founder, Risa Bramon Garcia about her challenging role, how she handles escalating expectations, and of course, her love of acting.
In one word, how do you feel right now?
No doubt, about the upcoming Season Two… What are your hopes for the show in its sophomore year?
“I hope (that) we continue to ask compelling and difficult questions about sex and its ramifications, and that the characters get to be ever-increasingly complex. Also, that we get to do it for many seasons to come.”
Where would you say is the point at which you leave off and the character of Libby begins?
“I think the game of trying to discern where an actor ends and a role begins is an easy one- when something doesn’t feel truthful as you watch it, chances are the actor is at a distance from their character. The trick comes in trying to tease out how to relate to all of the colors of your character’s life. At least I think so currently. Check back in with me in a few years and I might have a totally different opinion, as it’s ever evolving.”
How did getting this role change you as an actor?
“If you’re lucky – as an actor – every role changes you, I think. I’ve learned a lot from Libby. This is also my first experience following a single character through multiple seasons of a show and it’s really interesting to think about how to keep from taking anything for granted and to continually invest in discovering different dimensions of her.”
What is the audition process like now for you?
“I hate auditioning. I wish I could say I am one of those actors who just “loves any chance to act.” I’m not. At least not as far as audition acting goes. It feels really artificial to me to sit in a tiny room on a folding chair and act with a reader who is often not an actor and try to make something happen. It just feels contrived to me and not like a good or collaborative space in which to explore. I also get really nervous which is funny because I don’t usually get very nervous when I am actually doing the job. I want to say at every audition: This may suck, but if you hire me I will make you proud. But this may suck.”
How do you prepare then?
“I try to be completely off-book first and foremost. One of my best acting teachers says that you can’t do two things at once: you can’t be reading your lines and also trying to act. I also think if there is a prayer of connecting with the reader through the haze of nerves, it can only happen if I know my lines backwards and forwards. And then I try to figure out how to connect with the material in a way that moves me deeply enough to propel the scene and the character. I also warm up before every audition and in LA I try to sing really loudly in the car all the way there.”
You mention an acting teacher… Have you trained formally?
“I’ve been acting since I was a little kid and did my 10,000 hours doing plays like crazy growing up. Then I went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where I trained at the Stella Adler studio. I also spent a semester studying Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London
Do you still take classes? If so, how do they serve you?
“I try to always be acting and if I’m not working, I am usually in a class of some kind. Currently, I’m really interested in the physical side of (the craft) and how to access character and emotion through the body. To that end I work with an amazing voice teacher named Susan Main and am doing Alexander work whenever I can.”
Other ways you keep yourself primed when you’re not working?
“I’m also a member of two amazing companies in New York that keep me inspired and working. One is the Barefoot Theater Company, which is a terrific theater company dedicated to new work, who also recently helped produce a short film that I wrote and directed. And I’m a member of the Actors Center Workshop Company, which runs classes with incredible teachers for professional actors.”
Can you talk about your work as a writer/director/producer?
“I’ve made a couple of film projects with a great group of friends… One is a feature film that I co-wrote and acted in called ‘Like the Water’ that can be seen at www.seedandspark.com, and the other was the aforementioned short which I am in the final stages of post-production on.”
“I think all actors should be ‘hyphenates’ and get curious and excited about making their own work and collaborating. It’s important and empowering to remember that we are artists no matter who is saying yes or no to us. I’m really excited to continue to make my own work and collaborate with my favorite people.”
Describe the feelings you’ve had about your career up until now… What kept you going through disappointment/slow times/wanting a role?
“I have had all the feelings that every actor has about their career- disappointment, excitement, joy, depression, despair, elation, pride, satisfaction, etc. But what has kept me going (is the fact that) I like to create my own work, even if that means simply getting together with a group of friends to read a play.
“It’s also valuable for me to (see) other people’s work because it allows me to recognize the community of artists that exists in the world. This can be going to the theater, listening to music, seeing art, reading books, and so on. It can even be watching a talented friend cook a really good meal. Whatever makes me feel excited about living in the world and continuing to tell its stories.”
What brings you the most satisfaction as an actor?
“Oh there are so many things!… I really get off on being scared of something and doing it anyway. This could be a streak of masochism but I like it a lot. I would also say (that) I’m satisfied when I feel like something I have done has reached or touched someone else, or even started an interesting conversation. That’s when it all feels worthwhile and even, dare I say, valuable.”
With so much anxiety and frustration out there, what would you say to young/new/any actors auditioning or even trying to get an audition?
“Really figure out why you want to be an actor. Get down deep into that question and then let the answer inform the way you move through this business. It’s really easy to get caught up in a lot of nonsense that has nothing to do with why you wanted to act in the first place, and so I’ve found it useful to keep coming back to the “why.”
“The “why” is usually beyond ego too, so it makes it easier to let go of disappointment or feeling like you aren’t young enough, pretty enough, talented enough- all the ways our egos torment us about how we don’t measure up. If you focus on the “why” you can rise above a lot of that shit and get back to giving the world the singularity and brilliance of who you are and why you love this work. And that makes everything better for all of us.”