In the Matt LeBlanc-fronted “Episodes,” the real star is Kathleen Rose Perkins.
As Carol Rance, head of network programming at the fictitious, unnamed network that airs “Pucks,” the show within a show starring LeBlanc, Perkins portrays a high energy yes man who never seems to land a win. In season four of the Showtime satire (premiering Sunday at 10:30 p.m.), Carol comes no closer to landing her dream gig as head of the network. In fact, she’s passed over for another woman, Helen Bash (Andrea Savage), who may or may not have a bone to pick with her.
I spoke with Ms. Perkins earlier this afternoon about the season she calls the best one yet. “It’s… messier,” she told me. We also spoke about some of her recent film roles.
theTVaddict | This may sound silly, but do you ever feel like you’re portraying a character on the precipice of a nervous breakdown?
[Laughs.] Yeah, every season, but she’s amazing at keeping it together. I think if I was her, over the course of the four seasons so far, I’d probably have at least four breakdowns, and a couple of panic attacks. She holds it together somehow, and I think a big reason is the marijuana. It helps her calm down, and I think that’s why she has to have it.
theTVaddict | And you’re playing this character who, in one way or another, always appears to be in this frantic state of mind. I would imagine that’s probably as grueling as it is fun to keep up this high energy throughout the entire performance.
It’s exhausting. We only do nine episodes, and we do about two and a half months of shooting. We storyboard the whole thing, so it’s blocks shot like a big movie. Everything is basically shot location to location, so every single scene that happens over the course of a season that’s in the network office, we do all of those back-to-back-to-back.
For two weeks, I’m in every scene. Those days are brutal because, not only is my body tired, but my mind is tired. We’ll start shooting a scene on episode one, then go to episode seven, then episode nine, and then end up back at episode five. That’s just one day of shooting. It’s crazy!
theTVaddict | You mentioned shooting in batches, so do you get all the scripts up front?
Yes. They write the entire thing, and they send us everything. We go to London, and we sit down and have a table read of every single episode in one day. For four and a half hours, we sit and read every episode. We know what happens before we shoot anything.
theTVaddict | In the season premiere, your character rallies for the network president job again, but Elliot clearly doesn’t have her in mind. At this point, do you think Carol will ever get the promotion she’s been after, or do you think she’ll always remain second fiddle at the network?
That’s such a good question. Being a fan of the show, I hope she finally ends up in the hot seat at some point, but as a character, I don’t know. Being the head of something would be great. [Laughs.] But, I don’t know that that’s ever going to happen.
She really is very good at staying second fiddle. She knows how to speak to the creators – be the person between the creatives and the boss – so, she’s in the perfect position for her talents. But boy, I’d just like to see if she could do it. Not only would I love to see it, but I’d really love to play it. I can never assume with these writers, David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik. I can never imagine where they’re going to go because this season, I’ve been blown away. I had no idea what they were going to do, and the same goes for every season. I have no idea how they’re going to play it, and then when they do it’s like, “of course!”
theTVaddict | Yeah, I don’t think anyone could have predicted Castor Sotto’s breakdown about the primetime show with the bees. That was pretty great.
Wasn’t that brilliant?
theTVaddict | He was brilliant.
You know, that was like a five-page monologue that Chris Diamantopoulos just crushed. He was amazing at it. The writing of it – like three-fourths of it was complete fluff, and then it was only the last quarter where he goes nuts and crazy. But [Castor] was really smart and maybe he had a handle on where network television should go. Then, he went absolutely crazy, and that was just a commentary on, you know, this business. [Laughs.] The crazy ones run the asylum.
theTVaddict | Personally, I’d love to see how Carol handles the pressures of the job, and I think it would be really fun to see how she handles the powers that come with that.
Do you think she’d be good at it?
theTVaddict | I think they would find a way to give her the job, and then probably take it away somehow. At least temporarily.
I think the comedy comes in the tragedy, so it’s not as much fun to watch these people succeed. It’s more fun to watch people fail, and fail miserably.
theTVaddict | Definitely. I think this is definitely a show where everyone involved, probably everyone except for Merc, deserves a win in the end, but until you get to the end, it’s not fun to watch anyone win.
No, no, no. It’s much more fun this way.
theTVaddict | At the start of the season, your character is worried she won’t be able to keep her job because of a certain affair from her past. As it turns though, she’s probably worried for nothing. Was it a surprise for you to read the first scene [in episode two] in Carol’s office with Carol and Helen Bash, and find out that unlike so many other things that have come before, this wasn’t something that was going to blow up in Carol’s face?
That’s the thing: I really, really love Helen. I know you’ve only seen the first two episodes, but it’s really amazing how it all plays out throughout the rest of the season. She’s a really cool character to watch and she’s not what you expect at all. So it’s going to be a lot of fun, and it’s really interesting to see how she effects Carol and what happens as far as the dynamic of the entire network office when this woman pops in. She’s a really, really dynamic character that Andrea did a great job of portraying. She’s been unbelievable. [Her story] goes to a place that is so interesting, and I had a blast working on it. It’s a whole new ballgame.
theTVaddict | The character exudes a vastly different energy than Merc or Castor. She’s much more grounded, at least at the start.
Yeah, certainly. We became really good friends, too, during the course of shooting the season. [Andrea] is a real professional, but also so down to earth. It was very easy to play off of her. Sometimes, it’s not so easy to play with another woman, but man I’ve been lucky in this job. Between Tamsin [Greig], who is this dream being to work with, and now Andrea. Daisy Haggard, who plays Myra, has become one of my good friends as well. I’m just compiling all these amazing actresses as friends, and all of these really cool colleagues.
theTVaddict | The show certainly makes great use of recurring characters, particularly Andy and Myra. The punchline is almost always Myra’s beyond amazing facial expressions, and yet the joke never gets old. Are those scenes as hard for you to get through without laughing as they are for the audience at home?
Oh, it’s impossible. We’ve never ever, ever, ever done one take all the way through. It just takes one person to crumble a little bit, or move their face just a little bit. I can’t look at her when the camera is on her and behind me, because my shoulder will start moving. A lot of times, they can’t even be over my shoulder or have it in the view because it’ll start shaking. It’s ridiculous! They just write in the scripts, “Myra: H-m-m-m,” and that’s it. Some people would just go “hmm,” but she just adds something special on every single one of her lines. A lot of times I’ll ask [Daisy] what she was thinking during [a take], and she’ll have a whole backstory and dialogue. She’s really brilliant at what she does.
theTVaddict | Yeah, if there’s any character who needs a web series, it’s definitely Myra. There’s always been one scene in particular, where Myra is reading over the latest “Pucks” script, and asks Sean and Beverly if they really need “the bats.” In actuality, the script asked that the actors “skip a beat.” Few moments have made me laugh more.
Exactly! And there’s one line where Beverly says, “yeah, and we’d really hate if someone’s bad at their job.” [Laughs.]
theTVaddict | The irony of Myra being the head of development for comedy is just brilliant.
It really is. They ask [Daisy] to do just enough. There’s a story line with her this season – you’re going to love it. It will tickle you to no end.
theTVaddict | One of the shows most reliable and grounded relationships is the friendship between Carol and Beverly, and their hikes have really become a regular part of the show. The dialogue in those scenes feels so natural, and you can sense what a good time you two are having. To your knowledge, were the hikes always meant to be a recurring thing, or is that something the writers went back to after seeing how well you and Tamsin played opposite each other?
Honestly, they wrote the first season prior to casting anyone other than Matt LeBlanc. So they wrote this scene – the first time they get high together happens in the first season, and they just wrote it as something to give two characters something to do. But once Tamsin and I got to do those scenes, the writers loved what happened, and when the second season came, they started writing hiking scenes. Not only is it a really fun day to be outside and shoot in Griffith Park in L.A., but we just come alive. I know I do. She’s my favorite person I’ve ever worked with. It’s also the only time I can play [Carol] without wearing really uncomfortable heels.
We really do bring it, and me and Tamsin get so excited about those scenes. Every season, on our own time, while she’s here staying in a hotel when we shoot in Los Angeles, I’ll bring her up to one of my favorite areas and hike, and we just rehearse on our own time. We spend the entire time rehearsing those scenes, so that when we actually get to set, we’ve learned it inside and out and know it backwards and forwards, and I think that’s also the reason why they keep giving us that kind of stuff to do.
theTVaddict | Your character has had plenty to do – probably even more to do – since Merc lost his job at the end of season two. Do you ever miss acting out that dysfunctional relationship with John Pankow?
[Merc] is like a bad, bad troll that you can’t get rid of. I absolutely love working with him, and I like working on the scenes I’ve gotten to do with him after the break-up of the relationship. John is really geniune in everything he does, so it’s a real pleasure to work with him regardless of what the relationship is between Carol and Merc. I actually like it more that we’re not together. There’s stuff that happens with him this season that I think is just fantastic. I cannot wait for people to see it.
theTVaddict | I thought last season was real clever, because Merc was pretty much off to the side for most of it, and then you realized in the finale that even though he didn’t have an ongoing storyline per se, the narrative was actually that he was building up this entire revenge against Matt.
It was ingenious. The whole story hinges on him. He is the reason why there’s a fourth season, and for everything that happens. He’s the only reason “Pucks” gets picked up. They use that character in such a smart way. This season is no exception.
I could die now. I don’t know if I’ll have ever have a job again where every single person I have scenes with is a real treat. If this is the only job I get to do for the rest of my life, I’m pretty lucky.
theTVaddict | I sincerely doubt it’ll be the last job.
Well from your mouth to God’s ears!
theTVaddict | Stepping away from “Episodes” for just a moment, I wanted to ask about the two movie roles you had in the last calendar year, “Skeleton Twins” and “Gone Girl.” I happened to be in the theater watching “Skeleton Twins” with a fellow “Episodes” fan, and the second your character came on screen, we each said that character was totally what Carol would be if she were the mother of a young, obnoxious child, and that was pretty great.
[Laughs.] It does translate, doesn’t it?
theTVaddict | Perfectly.
Yeah, that’s Middle America Carol. A real high-strung person pissed off about her life. She had kids, but didn’t want kids and felt obligated, and now she’s angry. That was really fun to work on – one scene with Kristen Wiig where I get to be the one who talks the whole time. I loved that movie. It was so impressive, and heartwarming and touching, and the performances were unbelievable. Bill Hader, I mean –
theTVaddict | I don’t think anyone expected such a nuanced performance.
Yeah, unbelievable, and so cool. It was such a cool movie to be apart of because I respected it so much. I had a great, tiny little role. They had to cut the scene down for time, but I’d love to see the full scene. I kept going on and on about my life and it’s this very funny story, but I was just happy being in it at all. It’s that thing of being able to say that I was a small part in a movie like “Enough Said,” and then “Gone Girl” as well. It was a fun, awesome, reputable movie that I feel so privileged to be in.
theTVaddict | I think those parts – your scenes – definitely came in at the perfect time and helped break up some of those film’s darker elements.
Yeah, and it’s very rare that you get to have those small roles where you actually get to have a point of view.
theTVaddict | They had depth.
Right. They had something to say.
theTVaddict | Before we go, is there a particular episode, or a particular moment in season four of “Episodes,” that you’re most excited for fans to see? Anything you can hint at without spoiling too much?
No, there’s nothing I can hint at. [Laughs.] But I will say that the finale of this season – when I read it for first time – my mouth just stayed opened the whole time. I just couldn’t believe where it was going. It’s just so satisfying for every single story line. All of these really cool comings and goings, you’ll wonder where everything is going, and then in episode nine it all pays off.
theTVaddict | So what you’re saying is that there’s less of a cliffhanger than there was less season?
Less of a cliffhanger? No, no I’m not. I’m not saying anything, but you’ll be wanting more.