Lizzy Caplan on Mastering Sex, Being Taken Seriously and the One Thing She Really Needs in Her Life

Lizzy Caplan has officially graduated from snarky sidekick to luminous leading lady.
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Tracy Phillips
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Lizzy Caplan has officially graduated from snarky sidekick to luminous leading lady.
Lizzy Caplan Emmys 2014 Photo

A train of newfound fame: Lizzy Caplan at last night's Emmys stole the show on the red carpet. (Photo: Getty Images)

It’s been a breakout year for the actress, who earned her first-ever Emmy nomination for her dramatic role in the critically acclaimed Showtime series, Masters of Sex.

We interviewed Caplan on the Los Angeles set of the 1950s drama, where she told us the Emmy nomination came as “a total and utter surprise.” Since she wasn’t expecting to win Monday night [the Best Actress in a Drama Emmy instead went to Julianna Margulies for The Good Wife], Caplan wasn’t worried much about a speech, but the dress, well, that was another matter.

Finding the right Emmy gown to play up her willowy frame was “a committee effort,” Caplan said, adding, “It’s apparently a very big deal.”

Well, they found a winner: The black Donna Karan Atelier gown, with sexy side cutouts, a long white train and glamorous old Hollywood feel, landed Caplan at the top of everyone’s Best Dressed List on Emmy night.

“People kind of do take me more seriously now that I’m doing drama,” Caplan said of how Masters has raised her profile since her Mean Girls days.

Lizzy Caplan TCA 2014 Photo

Caplan at this year's TCA-Showtime event. 

I don’t take myself as seriously,” Caplan continued, “I’m still figuring out what it means to be a dramatic actress — I still feel like a fraud and I’m not sure if that feeling ever goes away. [But] I’m certainly being taken more seriously when it comes to being up for other dramatic roles, which is a concept that seemed completely foreign to me just a few years ago.”

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Caplan, 32, has been steadily building her career for more than a decade. She made her film debut in 2004’s teen classic Mean Girls playing mouthy high-school outcast Janis Ian; by 2012 she was still playing the snarky sidekick in films like Bachelorette. Notable-but-brief TV roles of the sassy-and-sexy variety followed in between on such shows as HBO’s True Blood, Starz’s Party Down and Fox’s New Girl.

But it was when she was cast as Virginia Johnson, a sexually enlightened single mother who helped pioneer the groundbreaking Masters and Johnson sex studies [Michael Sheen stars as William Masters], that Caplan grew up, so to speak, on screen.

Currently airing its second season, and just renewed for a third, Masters of Sex has been a blessing and a bit of a curse for Caplan: Her professional life is thriving, but the demands of the job, in turn, haven’t left much time for a social life.

“I don’t do anything in my life,” Caplan laughed. “I’m really not kidding. I don’t do anything in my personal life except come here [to the set]. I’m starting to go a little insane. It’s all about Virginia having sex.”

Read on for more of Bio’s Masters of Sex chat with Lizzy Caplan…

Masters of Sex Season 2 Photo

Michael Sheen and Caplan in a scene from the second season of Showtime's 'Masters of Sex.' (Photo: Showtime) 

The Naked Truth About Those Sex Scenes

“The sex scenes have never been particularly uncomfortable. We’ve been asked to do some more challenging sex scenes in Season 2, but — since we’ve accomplished what we’ve managed to accomplish so far — I dare them to present me with a sex scene that I can’t tackle.”

In the ‘50s, Even the Clothes Were Repressed

“From the minute I put on our girdles and long-line bras first thing in the morning, I’m transported to an era that is, if nothing else, very unfamiliar. It’s difficult to daydream about your day-to-day when you’re sitting in this uptight girdle that won’t let you slump over. You get used to it though, miraculously.”

We’ve Come Along Way, Baby? Not So Fast…

“The show says, I hope, many, many things about sex. Sex is complicated. It’s difficult to separate it from emotions, and from intimacy, and from love. How powerful sex can be in many different scenarios…

You can watch our show and think oh we’re making a comment on how far we’ve come since the 1950s, but I think if you actually pay attention, we’re actually saying quite the opposite — we have a lot further to go.”

Her New Life Philosophy

“I don’t really know what it’s a direct result of, getting a little older, I’m 32 now and I have a steady job for the first time in my 17-year career, and my philosophy now is to just try to be nice to myself … ‘cause boy can I say some terrible sh*t.

And I force all the people around me to do it, too, now. Any time somebody makes a negative comment, I make them say two positive comments about themselves…I’m turning into that annoying friend.”

The Master of Her Domain

“I actually just bought a house and re-did the whole thing; I’ve gotten very into design, mixing and matching things. It’s a 1956 mid-century modern California home, and when I bought it, it was just a white box, and I’ve turned it into this sanctuary that I never get to hang out in.”

She Really, Really Needs a Vacation

“As soon as we wrap [filming], I’m going out of town with some girlfriends to some kind of spa thing, which is not usually my bag, but it sounds really, really nice. Then a bunch of friends and I are planning a big Costa Rica trip. And, hopefully, I’ll get to go somewhere else in between.”

But the First Thing on Her To-Do List? SLEEP

“All I want to do, honestly, is go out to dinner and sleep in. That’s all I want to do. I never get to. I’m not kidding, I’m fantasizing about sleeping for two weeks and watching Netflix. It’s been really hardcore, but, luckily, the job is amazing.”

Masters of Sex airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime.