Skip to main content

'Fleishman Is in Trouble' is a Trojan horse for women's stories, says Lizzy Caplan

Lizzy Caplan-one of the stars of the series Fleischman is in Trouble–talks about marriage, parenthood and middle age. She’s also known for her roles in Mean Girls, Party Down, Freaks and Geeks and Cloverfield. She was nominated for an Emmy for her performance in the series Masters of Sex.


Other segments from the episode on January 31, 2023

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 31, 2023: Interview with Lizzy Caplan; Review of Shrinking



This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. The series "Fleishman Is In Trouble" stars our guest, Lizzy Caplan, along with Jesse Eisenberg and Claire Danes. It was adapted for TV by writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner from her novel of the same name. The complete series is now streaming on Hulu. Lizzy Caplan spoke with FRESH AIR's Ann Marie Baldonado.

ANN MARIE BALDONADO, BYLINE: When you first start watching "Fleishman Is In Trouble," the show is mostly about Toby Fleishman, played by Jesse Eisenberg. Toby is a divorced doctor and dad living on the Upper East Side of New York City. He's starting to date with limited success and figuring out how to co-parent his two kids. One morning, his successful ex-wife, played by Claire Danes, is set to pick up their kids from his apartment, but she doesn't show, so he has to figure out where she is and, in general, what went wrong with his life. The show is narrated by Toby's old college friend Libby, played by my guest, Lizzy Caplan. Libby's also struggling, and as the show goes on, it shifts to focus more on her. She's wondering about her marriage, motherhood, her career, or lack thereof, and what happened to her youth and potential.


LIZZY CAPLAN: (As Libby Epstein) Lately, I couldn't stop thinking about Toby on his dates, coming home alone, coming home with someone. I didn't have a thing for him, and I didn't want to be divorced. It's that Toby's life was no longer predictable, that he had somehow had the sense of possibility return to him. I'd been feeling so old. Here was Toby, exact same age, just realizing how young he was. I couldn't believe that it was possible for two people to be the same age and feel so different - which one of us was right? - which is a way of saying that I was going through something too, right then, but I couldn't name it yet.

BALDONADO: Lizzy Caplan is an actor known for her roles in comedy and drama. Her first acting job ever was in the critically acclaimed but short-lived TV show "Freaks And Geeks." Her breakout role was playing Janis in the 2004 movie "Mean Girls." Her other films include "Hot Tub Time Machine," "Bachelorette," and "Now You See Me 2." And her other TV shows include her Emmy-nominated role in "Masters Of Sex," cult favorite "Party Down" and a forthcoming miniseries that's a reboot of the '80s film "Fatal Attraction." Lizzy Caplan, welcome to FRESH AIR.

CAPLAN: Thank you. It's great to be here.

BALDONADO: This series starts with Toby Fleishman, the dad, and his side of the divorce, and this mystery about where his ex-wife Rachel is. But then it becomes as much about the women of the story, if not more, like Rachel and what happened to her and your character, Libby. And it's about their struggles as women, as workers, as mothers. It's almost - it's not a bait and switch, but it's a refocus. And I think that's, like, a great surprise of the series. Was that something that you were drawn to?

CAPLAN: Yes. You know, one of the main ideas behind both the book and the show are that - and it comes from Taffy's own personal experience as a female writer at men's magazines, for the most part.

BALDONADO: We should say that Taffy Brodesser-Akner is the writer of the novel "Fleishman Is In Trouble," and she also wrote the show.

CAPLAN: Yes. Yes. And she discovered - and Libby discovers in our story - that people don't seem to care about her stories if they're written about a woman. They care about them if they're written about a man. And so Taffy manages to kind of Trojan-horse the real story into this - you know, you think that you're watching this story about a man getting divorced, figuring it out, dating apps, and you're really not watching that story at all. You are - you have to wait until Episode 7 until you see the Rachel Fleishman side of the story. And then you have to wait till Episode 8 to kind of get the whole picture, which was that this entire thing was really an exercise in Libby's mind.

And it's a sad truth, I think, is part of the whole thing, which is, yeah, I mean, I don't know if this show would have been watched by as many people if it was about a woman going through horrific postpartum depression and anxiety and another woman having sort of a slower-burn midlife crisis. Like, I think that immediately turns off a lot of male viewers and, honestly, a lot of female viewers as well. It's true what Taffy has discovered.

BALDONADO: I'm interested in your voice and the fact that your character is the narrator, and your voice is throughout the whole series. You're everywhere.

CAPLAN: Yes. Yeah.

BALDONADO: Your presence is there. How did you feel about that, being the voice throughout? I think I read that you, as an actor, you don't like to watch your stuff as much after, but what about your voice? You have such a distinctive one.

CAPLAN: I do have a very distinctive voice, and I think most people - I mean, you know, you listen to your voice all the time. It's jarring. It's less jarring to just hear my voice than to have to hear my voice and watch my face as the voice is coming out of my face. I really usually don't like doing that. But I did do it with "Fleishman." I did watch it, and I'm glad I did. I think part of it was curiosity to see if it would work, this really heavy use of voiceover, which is something people usually shy away from and for good reason. It can be used as a narrative crutch a lot of times. It's - can be lazy. In this case, it was so deliberate. And you don't really realize how it's deliberate until - towards the end of the series.

BALDONADO: You had just become a mom before filming began in 2021. One of the great things about the series - that it complicates this idea of motherhood - is, like, it's realistic about it. It deals with postpartum depression, the extreme pressures of motherhood, the fact that sometimes, you know, a mother cannot be just focused on their kids, you know? And I appreciated the look at motherhood not being natural or idealized.

CAPLAN: Me too. And it was the - I mean, for so many reasons, it was just a lucky break to get to do this show in the dawn of my own motherhood because the curtain was being ripped away on a daily basis for me, especially in those first three months, as I think it is for many new mothers. I mean, I didn't go into it - I think this is another benefit of being a bit older. I didn't go into it thinking it was going to be, like, this completely blissed-out experience 24 hours a day. But this is what we're fed as new mothers, that it needs to feel a certain way. And that way is nothing but overwhelmingly positive. And it's the best thing you've ever done in your life at every moment. And if it's not, you're doing it wrong, and you need to feel bad about that.

BALDONADO: Definitely. Another thing that Libby is struggling with is being a female writer at a men's magazine, being a woman who mostly works with men, when the writing is about, quote-unquote, "masculine" or "dude subjects," like cover stories about climbing mountains and extreme eating - like, eating animal hearts. And she - as a writer, she's frustrated because she isn't getting the same kinds of assignments. She isn't getting the same career advancement as her male counterparts, some of them even younger. And I want to play a scene from the show. Here, Libby has been at the magazine for 15 years, and she goes to a party for this senior reporter, like, this Gonzo journalist-type guy who's being celebrated. And she feels like she's done. She can't do it anymore. So she's back home. She's talking to her husband, played by Josh Radnor.


CAPLAN: (As Libby Epstein) I'm lost. I don't know what I'm doing.

JOSH RADNOR: (As Adam Epstein) Why? What happened?

CAPLAN: (As Libby Epstein) I was just - was rereading "The Heart Is A Lonely Dinner." I just - I don't know. I always thought, like, if I write good stories, if I proved myself, then one day, they're going to send me to the top of the mountain to eat the still-beating heart of the ox, and I'll know the secret to life.

RADNOR: (As Adam Epstein) You'll get there. You will.

CAPLAN: (As Libby Epstein) I won't. I won't. I won't. I won't. I won't. I'm not even close. Oh, God, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think I have to leave.

RADNOR: (As Adam Epstein) Listen. Come here. Come here. Listen; those guys who embody the ethic of the magazine, they're blowhards. They come to you when they want a good story without the pages soaked in blood.

CAPLAN: (As Libby Epstein) They come to me when they want a story that's filed on time. They do. I want to soak my pages in blood. You know, I want people to read my stories and cry and rend their garments.

RADNOR: (As Adam Epstein) They will.

CAPLAN: (As Libby Epstein) They don't. They don't. God, I just feel so stupid. I was never in the game. You can be a great writer at a men's magazine, but no matter how hard you work, if you're a woman, you can't be a man. It's like, I don't even feel like anybody reads anything I write unless it's about a man.

BALDONADO: That's a scene from the series "Fleishman Is In Trouble." Now, after this, she decides to quit and write a novel. But then she struggles to write that novel, and that's sort of where she gets stuck. But I was wondering if you've ever felt the way that Libby does here, that way as an actor in your work, that kind of frustration of being passed over or left behind.

CAPLAN: Yes, I think that's sort of part and parcel of the gig. But I do remember when I was younger - especially when I was younger. I don't really feel this way anymore. I feel like roles for women, especially in television, they just get more interesting. They have for me as I've gotten older. But I know that is certainly not something that everybody feels. I know that I'm lucky to feel that way. But I definitely remember when I was younger and auditioning for, like, a lot of this, you know, high school stuff or some early-20s stuff. And it's just, the male roles were always better. They always got to do the more fun stuff. And you were sort of relegated to, you know, a few different archetypes as a girl, especially back then. It has changed a lot. I see in, like, a lot of the teen shows now, there is a shift.

But there was, you know, the hot popular girl. There was the nerd. There was, like, the alternative best friend, which was very much my lane for a while. And, you know, I was very fortunate to be in some projects that kind of skewered the archetypal nature of those things. But for the most part, the things I auditioned for, certainly, I remember asking many times when I was younger, like, can I audition for the guy part? Can - is there any way? There's no reason why he has to be - this character has to be a guy. It can be a girl. And I certainly had, like, nowhere near enough clout in the business for anybody to do anything other than laugh at that request.

BALDONADO: Let's take a short break here, and we'll talk some more. Our guest is Lizzy Caplan. She stars in the series "Fleishman Is In Trouble." Her other films and TV shows include "Mean Girls," "Party Down," "Freaks And Geeks," "Inside Job" and "Masters Of Sex." More after break. This is FRESH AIR.


BALDONADO: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Ann Marie Baldonado, back with Lizzy Caplan. She stars in the series "Fleishman Is In Trouble," which is about marriage, divorce, career, parenthood and middle age. Her other films and TV shows include "Mean Girls," "Party Down" and "Masters Of Sex," for which she received an Emmy nomination.

Now, you were born in Los Angeles, and you grew up there, but you didn't think you would be an actor early on. I think people who don't live in LA would think that everybody who lives there is exposed to acting. Were - but you weren't?

CAPLAN: I wasn't. I wasn't. I think that is the general misconception about growing up in LA without any - you know, if your parents are not in the industry. It's a very normal upbringing. The only difference is that you see a lot of famous people, and it doesn't really faze you as a kid to see celebrities. That's just, like, part of living in LA. But very few of my friends from growing up, none of whom had parents or family members in the industry, nobody became an actor. Nobody went into Hollywood. Like, maybe a couple peripheral friends. But for the most part, it just wasn't the path, which feels so nuts because I'm actually jealous of that version of an LA upbringing, which has - is now no longer an option for my son, let's say. He's now the child of actors. And so his version of LA will always be different than my childhood in LA. My dad was a lawyer. My mom was a teacher and then a political aide. And I never thought about being an actress, ever. I went to a performing arts high school, but I went for the piano. And that's where I, like, truly stumbled onto acting. It was something that I never thought about.

BALDONADO: If this is too personal, let me know. Your mom passed away when you were young. And I was wondering if you were interested in acting early enough that she knew that that was something that you were interested in.

CAPLAN: No, it's not too personal. And no, my mother had - she passed away when I was 13. And I didn't start thinking about being an actress until I was 15. And I do remember, with the intensity of a angsty 15-year-old, feeling like I don't know what to do with these feelings. I had no idea how to process my mother's death. It took me many, many years, but I knew that it gave me a darkness that, in my mind, was a requirement for being an actor or the kind of actor I wanted to be. I needed to have this, like, inner pain in order to do it. I remember going to an acting class and auditing it when I was 16 years old. And it was in Hollywood, and it was a pretty prestigious acting class, and it was full. There was a hundred people in it, and it went really late, till, you know, 1 a.m.

And I stayed there, and I watched it the whole time, and then I met with the teacher afterwards to see if I could join the class. And she looked at me and asked me how old I was, and I said I was 16. And she said, you haven't had any life experience; you can't be in this class, and booted me out. And that moment - it's so crystallized in my brain because I remember feeling like, oh, no, no, no, no. This is the community that's supposed to see these things in me, that I do have the depth that is required to be in this class. But you just see some dumb little teenager who hasn't been through anything when the reality was I had been through what is still the most monumental tragedy of my life.

BALDONADO: What do you think about what you thought about as a kid - that, like, you needed a darkness in order to be an actor? Like, what do you think about that thought now?

CAPLAN: Honestly, my knee-jerk reaction to it is that sounds like a very immature way of thinking, but I kind of think I still agree with it. I think that without having experienced real pain, I don't think I'd be wanting to experience that pain in a more public way or try to, like, figure out how to process that pain in a more public way being through my job. All I knew was I felt very different from my friends when that happened to me. And all of a sudden, my friends who I was so close with, I felt very other. And only much later in my acting career did I realize that the other people I was acting with that ultimately became my close friends - they were as traumatized or broken as I was from different things in their life. It's like - it's something that I think a lot of actors, a lot of the ones that I'm close with and are my friends - we gravitate towards other actors and this line of work because we're looking for a place to talk about how we're feeling coming from pasts where maybe that wasn't so easy to do.

BALDONADO: Your first role was on "Freaks And Geeks," which was a short-lived but critically acclaimed TV show that was on from 1999 to 2000 by Judd Apatow and Paul Feig, and it launched a lot of actors' careers. What was it like having that be your first role?

CAPLAN: Little did I know that critically acclaimed and short-lived would describe the vast majority...

BALDONADO: (Laughter).

CAPLAN: ...Of my future projects. It was - the experience itself was very overwhelming and just, like, stepping into this completely different universe that I had no idea about it. I mean, I grew up in LA, but I had never been on a movie set before. I didn't know how any of it worked. I didn't know about, you know, marks on the ground and coverage and close-ups and how long everything was going to take and hair and makeup and how many outfits I'd have to try on for this one line that I was going to say. I remember being in my tiny trailers - they call them honey wagons, the trailers that have, like - I don't know - six or seven little compartments. And it's where we all start out - in the honey wagon. And just looking in the mirror for hours, just reciting this one line over and over and over and over again and being terrified and just in love with the idea of this moving village with these hundreds of people all working towards this goal together but also feeling, again, completely overwhelmed, very shy, not bonding in any way with any of my castmates or anybody. And I know that I look back at that experience, and I am - it was just honestly pure luck to end up on a show that ended up being so loved and so respected for so many years 'cause I really did audition for all kinds of nonsense, and just - that was the first place that picked me. But it wasn't a fun experience for me. It was mostly just scary.

GROSS: We're listening to the interview FRESH AIR's Ann Marie Baldonado recorded with Lizzy Caplan, star of the series "Fleishman Is In Trouble," which is streaming on Hulu. After a break, Caplan will talk about her breakout role in the film "Mean Girls," what it was like filming sex scenes in "Masters Of Sex" and having to turn down the "Party Down" reboot. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I am Terry GROSS. Let's get back to our interview with Lizzy Caplan - she stars in the FX series "Fleishman Is In Trouble" - about marriage, parenthood, career and middle age. The series is streaming on Hulu. Her other films and TV shows include "Mean Girls," "Party Down," "Freaks And Geeks" and "Inside Job." She was nominated for an Emmy for her work in the series "Masters Of Sex." She spoke with FRESH AIR's Ann Marie Baldonado.

BALDONADO: One of your breakout roles was in the 2004 movie "Mean Girls" - written by Tina Fey - about girls in high school where there's this popular group of mean girls and a plan to take them down. You played Janis Ian, a smart, snarky outcast at the school mostly because one of the popular girls started a rumor about your character being gay during middle school. Your character - with her friends, one of them being the new kid played by Lindsay Lohan, your character hatches this plan to take the main mean girl, Regina George, down.

I want to play a scene from near the end of the movie. There has been all this drama, and all the girls at the school are having this big meeting trying to resolve it. Girls are getting up, making public apologies. They're doing trust falls. And your character gets up. Regina George, played by Rachel McAdams, speaks first.


RACHEL MCADAMS: (As Regina George) Oh, my God. It's her dream come true - diving into a big pile of girls.


CAPLAN: (As Janis Ian) OK. Yeah. I've got an apology. So I have this friend who is a new student this year, and I convinced her that it would be fun to mess up Regina George's life. So I had her pretend to be friends with Regina, and then, she would come to my house after, and we would just laugh about all the dumb stuff Regina said. And we gave her these candy bar things that would make her gain weight.


CAPLAN: (As Janis Ian) And we turned her best friends against her. And then, oh, yeah, Cady - you know my friend Cady - she made out with Regina's boyfriend and then convinced him to break up with her. Oh, God. And we gave you foot cream instead of face wash. Oh, God. I am so sorry, Regina. Really, I don't know why I did it. I guess it's probably because I've got a big lesbian crush on you. Suck on that. (Vocalizing).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, vocalizing) Janis. Janis. Janis. Janis.

BALDONADO: That's a scene from "Mean Girls."


BALDONADO: I don't know the last time you heard that, but...

CAPLAN: I mean, so long. My voice was so high. It was like a prepubescent boy.

BALDONADO: (Laughter) Well, Janis is a beloved character. What was it like for you after that movie came out - or maybe even later when the movie became kind of even bigger over time?

CAPLAN: Yeah, it really has. All I knew was that it was the funniest script I had ever read, and I would do anything to be in it. And then, the making of that was so fun. I mean, that is a perfect example of - you know, we were in Toronto and young and living in this hotel together, and it was just a wonderful experience. And then, it did well when it first opened. And so I thought that meant that I was off to the races. And that is certainly not what happened. I didn't work after that for a year. I didn't know - I didn't really understand how I could be in something that seemed to be successful, and, like, none of that success seemed to be rubbing off on me. So I did what most actresses in the early aughts did and got a spray tan and dyed my hair blond and just joined a show on the WB network. That felt like the antidote.

BALDONADO: Can you talk about the kinds of things that you were going out for in that time after "Mean Girls"? Like, remind us what the WB was and what kinds of things were available for you.

CAPLAN: Yes, the WB. Oh, it was very symbolic to actors my age. The WB was the network that had, like, "Dawson's Creek" and "One Tree Hill" - all those teen shows. And that was kind of a necessary stepping stone for many people. And I really wanted to be seen as anything other than Janis. And so, like, doing something on the WB, like, honestly, playing, like, a blonde, tan girl, like, felt as far a departure as possible.

So I did this show on that network called "Related" about four sisters. And it was kind of piggybacking on the success of "Sex And The City," but it was, like, for a network so much more tame and about sisters. That got canceled. And then, the next job that I was up for was this show "The Class" and playing a role that was much more of a Janis than anything else. And I remember being really resistant to going out for it because, again, I just didn't want to be seen as this one thing.

And my agent at the time, who is still my agent today, Warren Zavala, reminded me - it's funny. I was just at dinner with him last night, and we were talking about this very thing. And he told me to shut up because nobody was paying attention to my career in the same way that I was paying attention to it. Nobody was tracking, like, oh, I had already played a girl with dyed black hair who was very snarky before. Nobody cared. Stop thinking that people are watching you as closely as you're watching yourself because you're going to hold yourself back. And he was right. I mean, "The Class" ended up being canceled very quickly as well. But it was one of the most amazing, fun experiences I've ever had, and I learned a lot on that show.

BALDONADO: I want to ask you about "Party Down," another beloved series that you were a part of. It was about a group of caterers in LA begrudgingly working at parties, but most of them are trying to make it in Hollywood. It ran for two seasons in 2009, 2010. You played Casey, who's a comedian, but also working for this company. I want to play a clip from the show. It's from the first episode, and you're talking to Adam Scott's character, who's another one of the people who works for this company. You're talking for the first time.


CAPLAN: (As Casey Klein) So do you act?

ADAM SCOTT: (As Henry Pollard) Do I look familiar?

CAPLAN: (As Casey Klein) You do. And you smoke Parliaments.

SCOTT: (As Henry Pollard) I dabbled. Are you a...

CAPLAN: (As Casey Klein) A professional waiter? I'm not.

SCOTT: (As Henry Pollard) Oh.

CAPLAN: (As Casey Klein) No. No. I'm a comedian.

SCOTT: (As Henry Pollard) Oh.

CAPLAN: (As Casey Klein) Yeah, I figured that my natural hilariousness would have tipped you off by now.

SCOTT: (As Henry Pollard) Right. Right, right.

CAPLAN: (As Casey Klein) Wait a - were you that guy?

SCOTT: (As Henry Pollard) Yes, I was.

CAPLAN: (As Casey Klein) You were. You were totally that - that is bananas. I remember that.

SCOTT: (As Henry Pollard) Yeah.

CAPLAN: (As Casey Klein) I remember you.

SCOTT: (As Henry Pollard) Yeah.

CAPLAN: (As Casey Klein) What are you doing working here?

SCOTT: (As Henry Pollard) Well, you remember me from anything else?

BALDONADO: That's a scene from the first episode of "Party Down." This is a show about people on the bubble of making it in Hollywood. Did it ever feel similar to your own experience as an actor?

CAPLAN: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I was the only one in that cast who had been a cater waiter of - I did, like, a few - I've catered a few parties. I remember very vividly catering the "Being John Malkovich" premiere party and walking around with a tray of passed apps, none of these people, like, looking at me, like, in the eye at all - I was just like a tray that moved - and feeling those feelings that all the characters in "Party Down" were feeling, which was basically like, oh, you don't know who I am now, but you just wait. You wait.

BALDONADO: I hope it's OK to ask this question. For years, I'm sure you were asked if there would be a reboot of "Party Down," and then they shot another season of the show. They did the reboot, but you weren't able to be a part of it because you were shooting "Fleishman Is In Trouble." Was that hard for you to not be a part of it?

CAPLAN: Brutal. That was so horrible because "Party Down" - it was the best-case scenario when you get along with people on set. We always refer to it as like a summer camp vibe. I've never had it feel more like a summer camp vibe than on that show. And so when it was coming back - I mean, we always talk about how we would all jump at the chance to come back. And, like, the "Fleishman Is In Trouble" opportunity came up. I was trying to do anything possible to make it work because "Fleishman Is In Trouble" was shot in New York and "Party Down" was shooting in L.A., and they were completely overlapping.

But I remember being on the phone and trying to make these deals, like, I will get on a plane every two days and fly back and forth. I will figure out how to do that with a 4-month-old baby. I don't care. I need to be able to do both. We need to work this out. And I think if it was any other time that wasn't a COVID time, maybe they would have let me do it. But it was just completely impossible.

And I really grappled with the decision, and my husband gave me the piece of advice that I needed to ultimately make the decision to go with "Fleishman." And he said, you just have to decide, is this a moment in time that you want to spend looking back or looking forwards? And I went with forwards. And the heartbreak is so real with "Party Down." But I just have to have faith that it's going to come back for another season.

BALDONADO: Let's take a short break here and we'll talk some more. Our guest is Emmy Award-nominated actor Lizzy Caplan. She stars in the series "Fleishman Is In Trouble." Her other films and TV shows include "Mean Girls," "Party Down," "Freaks And Geeks," "Inside Job" and "Masters Of Sex." More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


BALDONADO: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Ann Marie Baldonado, back with Lizzy Caplan. She stars in the series "Fleishman Is In Trouble," which is about marriage, divorce, career, parenthood and middle age. Her other films and TV shows include "Mean Girls," "Party Down," "Inside Job" and "Masters Of Sex," for which she received an Emmy nomination.

I'm wondering how doing sex scenes has changed for you over your career now that intimacy coordinators are required on sets. I know that your first nude scene was in an episode of "True Blood" that you shot. And in "Masters Of Sex," there's a lot of sex and nudity. Have things changed on sets over time?

CAPLAN: So much. So much, which is wonderful, especially for the young people starting out, for the young actresses that don't yet feel powerful enough to speak up on set because it's a very intimidating place to be when you're young and new. So in "True Blood," yeah, it was - like, it would never happen like that again now, where I was just, like, drinking vodka at 7 in the morning to try to, like, build up the courage to do this. And they were wonderful on that set. I never - I'm very, very fortunate. I never found myself in the situation doing any of these jobs where I felt unsafe or pressured into anything.

So I'm not really even the person the intimacy coordinator is there for. They're there for the people that are having a very different experience. "Masters Of Sex" - definitely no intimacy coordinator, and it's, like, a completely different time because since then I have worked on shows where there have been intimacy coordinators, and there's this whole other step that just didn't exist at all back then.

BALDONADO: So what are the new steps that are there now that weren't there for "Masters Of Sex," for example?

CAPLAN: "Masters Of Sex" - it was a show run by a woman. It never felt gross. I never felt uncomfortable. If I remember correctly, like, we would maybe draw out some rough parameters. And then it was a bit of a, like, improv situation. I mean, we knew where the cameras were going to be. We knew what we were trying to say in the scene, but not every single beat was preplanned.

Now it's treated much more like a highly choreographed dance. The intimacy coordinator - you usually have a conversation with them before you shoot any of this stuff, at the beginning of shooting the show, let's say, like, well before you're getting ready to shoot a nude scene or a sex scene. And then when those scenes are getting closer to being shot, they send you - because oftentimes in the script, it'll be like, they kiss and then begin to make love, let's say. This is my genius writing example. And then within that, the intimacy coordinator will beat out an entire scene of how they think it might go. It's very detailed. You know, this hand comes out of the shirt, and the pants come off here, and then you move over here. And then you all kind of talk about it, and you decide if you agree or disagree with the way the more detailed scene is laid out. And then from there, you shoot it. It's a totally different thing.

I mean, I would oftentimes think if we had an intimacy coordinator on "Masters Of Sex," we'd still be there shooting just because of the added time that it takes to really go into the granular detail of these scenes. And I just come from, you know, like, really, like, a different time. And I just think it's so important to have somebody there to look at if you're feeling uncomfortable who will swoop in and help you out.

BALDONADO: Your next project is a limited series that's a reboot or maybe a reimagining of "Fatal Attraction." And just a reminder that "Fatal Attraction" was a 1987 film starring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close, and this movie was a huge hit. It was the highest-grossing film worldwide that year. It got Oscar nominations and maybe launched kind of a lot of other similar psychological erotic thrillers. I think that's what they call them. But at the time and in retrospect, it gets a lot of criticism. In the new series, you play the Glenn Close character, Alex. And it also stars Joshua Jackson and Amanda Peet. Why did this new take on this story appeal to you and the people that you're making this series with?

CAPLAN: Well, it's important to note that I love the movie "Fatal Attraction." I think it's wonderful. I think it holds up in so many ways. It's still scary. It's still exciting. It's still very sexy. The performances are incredible. It looks beautiful. I love the film. But when you watch even the film now, I find as an audience member, it's really difficult to see it in the same way that audiences saw it in 1987. In 1987, you could go to a movie about a married man who's married with a child who has this torrid, weekend-long affair. Everything obviously goes haywire. She becomes obsessed with him, and she - we walk away feeling like that woman was evil, horrible, despicable, deserved to die. This poor man who made this one little mistake deserves nothing more than to ride off into the sunset with his wife and child. And thank God he prevailed against this horrible woman.

Now, when you watch it now, it's very difficult to not have some follow-up questions about that. That version of the film can't exist in 2023 because of these questions because we're now primed as audiences to want to know more about the woman, where she was coming from, and also to place some very well-deserved blame on the man. There's no blame placed on him in the film. So I think while it's - I completely understand wanting to preserve things that meant a lot to us as audience members, like, the holiness of a movie you loved growing up, there are other ones like "Fatal Attraction" where I think, why not? Let's do a deeper dive into this because there are now more questions when you rewatch it. And if nothing else, I really think that it holds a magnifying glass up to audiences and how much we've changed that a movie like that that was so hugely commercially successful as well as critically acclaimed and awards and everything that you said - the audiences today can't see it through that same prism anymore. We just have changed so much as a culture.

BALDONADO: Lizzy Caplan, thanks so much for talking to me today.

CAPLAN: Thank you so much.

GROSS: Lizzy Caplan spoke with FRESH AIR'S Ann Marie Baldonado. Caplan stars in the limited series "Fleishman Is In Trouble." All the episodes are now streaming on Hulu. Kaplan's next project, the miniseries "Fatal Attraction," premieres in April. After we take a short break, David Bianculli will review the new series "Shrinking," starring Jason Segel as a therapist and Harrison Ford as his mentor. This is FRESH AIR.


You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?


Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR


Daughter of Warhol star looks back on a bohemian childhood in the Chelsea Hotel

Alexandra Auder's mother, Viva, was one of Andy Warhol's muses. Growing up in Warhol's orbit meant Auder's childhood was an unusual one. For several years, Viva, Auder and Auder's younger half-sister, Gaby Hoffmann, lived in the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan. It was was famous for having been home to Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas, Virgil Thomson, and Bob Dylan, among others.


This fake 'Jury Duty' really put James Marsden's improv chops on trial

In the series Jury Duty, a solar contractor named Ronald Gladden has agreed to participate in what he believes is a documentary about the experience of being a juror--but what Ronald doesn't know is that the whole thing is fake.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue