How Bridget Jones’s Baby Reminded Me That I Like Her, Just As She Is

Posted by Sage

As far as I’m concerned, Fielding had a duty to write a laugh-out-loud book about a female protagonist who’s in her 50s and fumbling realistically in a new stage of her life. I’m 30 and I hardly ever feel like I know what I’m doing. And I doubt that will change much in 20 years. Mid-life crisis Bridget is my future, or at least more likely than the standard Earth Mother or disenchanted adulteress. There is a gaping space for her in popular literature; and when I first heard about the sequel, I secretly hoped for a Bridget story so irresistible that the gang would come back together for movie #3.

So, back in 2013, I was sent a complimentary copy of the most recent Bridget Jones novel, Mad About the Boy. I read it. And then I reviewed it, to save anyone else who had an affection for the British singleton from doing so themselves. I am not being at all dramatic when I say that I hated every moment of it. It was a tone-deaf insult to everything I’d ever loved about the first two books and about their leading lady in general. Pushing aside for the moment that writer Helen Fielding MURDERED MARK FITZWILLIAM DARCY, Mad About the Boy celebrated a nasty, ignorant Bridget Jones who ignored her children, exhibited little self respect, and showed a shocking lack of growth for a character who’s tripped over as many things as she has. So when it became apparent that they really WERE going forward with a third Bridget movie, I was not the excited, nostalgic fan the marketing team was probably hoping for.

With trepidation comes the opportunity for a great and welcome surprise. Guys, Bridget Jones’s Baby is so god damn wonderful. I’m glad those Suicide Squad reddit fanboys didn’t succeed in their moronic efforts to shut down Rotten Tomatoes, because I probably wouldn’t have bought a ticket for this movie without that Certified Fresh rating.


Source: galahaed

Source: galahaed

The first place the production went right was in retconning Mad About the Boy completely. If there’s a script for that adaptation lying around somewhere, I hereby give Hugh Grant full Head Over Feels authority to use it to light a fire in one of his country homes. Anyway, MARK DARCY LIVES. And he’s STILL FINE. Bridget Jones’s Baby is loosely based on some of Fielding’s newspaper columns, but introduces a new main character in Jack Qwant, an American matchmaking millionaire played by post-Derek Shepherd Patrick Dempsey and the second possible father for Bridge’s unborn child. Better than all of that, Bridget is the girl I remember, but with an actual emotional memory.


Source: boothseeley

Source: boothseeley

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“It’s only a boundary if you allow it to be one.” – Masters of Sex Recap – Inventory



Masters of Sex Season 4, Episode 2
Posted by Kim

We’re two episodes into season four of Masters of Sex and we’re seeing a major paradigm shift in the characters of Bill and Virginia. Bill has always been the more emotionally constipated of the two, stuffing down his desires until he bursts (usually with devastating consequences). Virginia, while just as damaged as Bill, has at least always seemed to be in tune with her feelings and her actions. So far this season, we’re seeing the opposite. Be it through his reluctant participation in AA or simply the fact that he’s hot rock bottom, so far Bill has been more open to exploring his emotions and the havoc his past actions have wreaked. On the other end of the spectrum, Virginia seems to be spiraling and putting up her walls even higher as she lives in denial of JUST how much of a mess her life is. She’s ALWAYS been calculating in her actions but everything she’s done in this season so far has been cold, even cruel at times. I’ve always been on Virginia’s side but I found her actions in “Inventory” to be incredibly hard to swallow. This is NOT the Virginia Johnson I’ve come to know and love over the past three seasons. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

There is one thing Bill and Virginia have in common right now: their children hate them. Johnny shows up at the clinic only to find that his father is living there, having grown tired of paying for a hotel. Johnny cuts right to the chase: he doesn’t want to see Bill and neither do his siblings, so he needs to stop pestering Libby about it. “Why do you want to see us anyway? You don’t like us.” Ouch. Bill insists that is not true but it’s merely a case of too little, too late. The damage is done. Johnny is right, after all. Bill has shown little to no interest in spending time with his children up until now. Now that he does, his children don’t want to see HIM. He promises Johnny that he’s in the process of finding an apartment but Johnny has no interest in Chinese dinners once a week with his Dad. (But Johnny, sesame chicken is DELICIOUS.) Bill offers to walk Johnny to school (since he can’t drive, as his son disdainfully points out) but Johnny declines him. “That would just be the walk of shame.” Did I say ouch already? OUCH.

Despite all our pleas that she go to boarding school, Tessa is still around to sulk and pass judgement. Gini tries to play off her escapades in Las Vegas as a simple vacation, plying Tessa with a new charm bracelet and talking about the gift she bought her father. Tessa is having none of it and she relays how HARD it was for them while she was away. “Do you know that Lisa cried six hours straight last week? I mean, her face was red, she was covered in drool. It got so bad that we had to call Libby.” That’s just salt in the wound, isn’t it? But Gini just brushes it all under the rug, as she is wont to do. Then Tessa twists the knife by saying that she’s spoken to Dan and we FINALLY get some answers about just what happened in Vegas. Gini and Dan didn’t get married. Gini’s been lying to everyone. WHAT HAPPENED? Who dumped who? (It was Dan, right? He KNEW that Gini was waiting for Bill to stop her.) These are things we need to know.

Tessa calls her mother out for lying and Gini stumbles about saying she was just waiting for the right time, which is a big load of bullshit. She also asks Tessa to keep up the charade because it protects her. That’s the second time Gini’s said that, by the way. The thing is…Gini was married to George and it didn’t “protect her” so what’s the difference to this fake marriage to Dan? Is it because Bill was threatened by him? Because Bill knew that Dan was clearly the better option? Is it because SHE would be faithful to Dan and not George? Honestly, I don’t know what the fuck her reasoning is and neither does Tessa. “What you need, mom, is a shrink.” DING DING DING.

At the clinic, things aren’t any better for Virginia. Betty DiMello is still 500% done with all this shit but her reaction to Virginia is significantly cooler than that to her reaction to Bill last week. (When it comes down to it, Betty’s always going to be #TeamBill because if there is one thing Betty DiMello is, it’s loyal.) Annaleigh Ashford’s “Bitch Please” face is a thing of glory as Betty hands Virginia her stack of messages. “Some of them I told you were on sabbatical, some of them I told you were on safari.
You’ll have to sort them out yourself.” BLESS. Betty also smugly informs Virginia that Bill’s prospective new partner, Nancy LeVeaux (who apparently interned with Barton even though we’ve never seen her before) is here for her interview. Nancy is tall, blonde, and sports perfect cat-eye eyeliner. Virginia basically hates her on sight, so she puts her down immediately, calling her “Ms.” instead of “Dr.”. THIS IS GOING TO BE FUN.

What happens next is the Lady equivalent of a dick measuring contest. (Boob measuring contest? Ovary measuring? What’s the equivalent?) Gini has a reluctant Betty and Lester roleplay an intake interview for Nancy to audition with. (Lester, when told he had secondary impotence: “Again?!”) Gini assures Nancy that she is only there to observe but of course she butts in before Nancy has even managed to complete a sentence. Nancy takes it all in stride though and gamely takes all of Virginia’s criticisms. When Betty Mrs. McGillycuddy expresses her issues (“It doesn’t fit.” DYING.), Nancy says they will proceed with a physical exam. When Gini stops her to say that she should take a sexual history first, Nancy sweetly says that all of the “symptoms” point toward vaginismus, which is probably causing the impotence, as Gini herself pointed out in an interview last year. “Yes…that’s true,” Virginia stammers. POINT NANCY.

In the observation room, Gini and Bill trade barbs about schedules and who’s to blame for their current predicament. (Answer: they both are.) They can’t even make eye contact and it’s PAINFUL. Gini disses Nancy’s qualifications, which is rich considering she has not degrees herself. She even goes as far as demanding that Lester install recording equipment everywhere because THAT will certainly help things. Betty interrupts them, clutching a massive bouquet of roses for Virginia. Virginia pointedly asks for Betty to read the card and if looks could kill, Gini would be dead and buried. The roses are supposedly from Dan, causing Bill to slump out of the room, mumbling about making Nancy a final offer. This is the last straw for Betty. “I’ve spent the past two months tap-dancing as fast as I can trying to keep this business together with spit and Scotch tape. And in all that time I didn’t hear so much as a peep from you,” she spits. (Me: YAS BETTY TELL HER.) Gini tries to placate her by fake apologizing but Betty isn’t letting her off the hook. It’s time for a (well deserved) raise and Gini is going to give it to her. Why? “See, I have been working here for ten years. And I know your handwriting from a mile away. Now, I don’t know why you’re sending yourself flowers from Dan, and I’m not asking. What I am asking for is a little bit of support.” Basically, Betty knows that Gini is Cher Horowitz-ing and she’s going to use it to her advantage. Have I mentioned that Betty is my hero lately? She’s my hero.



At AA, the step of the week is “taking inventory” aka taking responsibility for your actions by taking good hard look at yourself aka the title of the episode. Bill still thinks he’s above it all, rolling his eyes at Louise as other attendees rattle off their lists. Yes, the guy speaking that night was doing the list wrong, by listing all the people who wronged HIM rather than the other way around, but, as Louise points out to Bill, at least he’s trying. “Change is a process, not an event,” she reminds Bill. Bill thinks he’s FINE though. His business is back on track, he’s hired Nancy, and now he’s going to go hammer out a custody agreement with Libby. He’s a success story. “And where are you living these days, Bill? ‘Cause I’ve been picking you up and dropping you off at your office almost like you’re sleeping there, but that can’t be true. I mean, for a success story like you.” I AM HERE FOR NIECY NASH CALLING HIM ON HIS SHIT EVERY WEEK. Especially in all of those fabulous outfits.

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“Fashion is the most powerful art there is.” – Emmy Fashion 2016

Posted by Maggie

It was a long summer, devoid of major red carpets with only Louis Tomlinson’s daily trips to Starbucks to sustain us, but the Emmys are finally here. Jimmy Kimmel aside, that was a fun night, right? So many great looks, some pleasant surprises and only a few disappointments. I’m a little distressed by the amount of sheer skirts, but I can handle it. So let’s topple the patriarchy and look at some gowns!


Kristen Bell



Hands down, best look of the night. Look at this pattern, you guys, I think I even see birds in it. The silhouette is amazing on her, I love that even though she’s so petite, this gown isn’t overwhelming her.

Art. Source:

Art. Source:

Sarah Paulson



This hits a lot of buttons for me — I love a v-neck with long sleeves, I love a well executed green look, and my god, do I love beading. Especially when someone can still move gracefully like Sarah, if she was feeling weighed down, it didn’t show. Those earrings were the perfect choice, too.

Allison Janney

National Treasure. Source:

National Treasure. Source:

SHUTTING. IT. DOWN. I love everything about this, bow down.

Constance Zimmer



I’m so into this. I love how this look could be described as romantic or very feminine, but somehow she still looks tough as nails. I feel like this was the exact right shade of pink, I’m dying over the sleeves, and I need to stop looking at this photo soon before I take it to my hair stylist.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus



Okay, THIS is how you do the sheer and black romantic look (ahem, Sophie Turner, but I’m getting ahead of myself). It shouldn’t really surprise loyal readers that I liked this very much overall, and I was especially taken with the criss-cross detail at the bust. I’m really glad that she decided to attend, given the passing of her father last week, not so I could immediately slot her in the best list but because she looked genuinely thrilled when Veep won at the end of the night. I was really moved by her acceptance speech, and I thought it was very generous of her to share it with us.

Priyanka Chopra



Yes, the detail at the bust bothers me too, but isn’t this gorgeous? I think this is the best she’s ever looked. I love this color on her and the way the dress moved was stunning.

Kerry Washington



No disrespect to the 90s, especially because they really are back (damn), but last time Kerry walked the red carpet while pregnant I thought she looked like an extra from the 10 Things I Hate About You prom. (Yes, that prom was cool as hell but it wasn’t a major awards show red carpet, okay?) But this, you guys. How is this working so well?? She looks so cool and comfortable and breezy and we know it was like a thousand degrees out on the red carpet last night. If you look closely, the boob collar’s not great? But it doesn’t detract too much from overall look.

Kate McKinnon



I am living for Kate in this classic red. L-i-v-i-n-g. She looks beautiful and comfortable and like a goddamn winner.

Looks like a winner, is a winner. Source:

Looks like a winner, is a winner. Source:

Kirsten Dunst



There was an unfortunate amount of sheer skirts on the red carpet, and Kiki’s put them all to shame. THIS is how it’s done. I wrote down “DYING I LOVE THIS CABARET HOTNESS” and I love the hair, although I think she might have pulled back too much on accessories.

Taraji P. Henson (Ceremony)



This second look was much more the drama that I was expecting from her. It’s sleek, it’s elegant, it’s sparkly. And I love the lighter and darker brown colors in the pattern.

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You Don’t Own Me- Life Lessons from The First Wives Club

Posted by Maggie and Sarah

Months ago, I saw a copy of First Wives Club on sale for $3 and instinctively picked it up, planning on finding it a good home (I’d already upgraded my VHS to DVD). That good home turned out to be with Sarah, who woke up a few weeks later to me screaming via text that I was a genius for thinking we had to reunite for a life lessons post (ICYMI, we collaborated on this one for Troop Beverly Hills and enjoyed the hell out of it). Delightful text thread aside, we were both immediately on board. Not only are we celebrating the 20th anniversary of this modern classic, but there’s a TV Land series based on the movie in development and the three leads are reuniting for a new project at Netflix centering around former members of a girls group (if they don’t perform “You Don’t Own Me”, so help me). What better time to take a look back? (Also, I wrote “90s are back, damn” in my notes for this and I don’t think Sarah will forgive me if I leave that gem out but seriously you guys, the 90s are back. Damn.). I highly recommend a rewatch if you haven’t seen this one in a while because it holds up. Everything the ladies go through is relevant today, and there’s still much to learn from our beloved Annie, Brenda and Elise.


First of all: Maggie IS a genius, and if you’ve followed her HOF posts, you already know this. Second of all: I can sleep better knowing our dear readers know that the 90s are back, damn. I remember seeing the First Wives Club VHS in my mom’s collection when I was a kid and thinking nothing more about it than how interesting it was to see the lady who sang “That ‘I’m beautiful dammit’ song” on the cover (I heard that song A LOT growing up and it’s still in heavy rotation now, thanks Mom). Once I and my undying love for the Divine Miss M grew, I finally saw for myself what an amazing movie this is, and continues to be. Sure, it’s fun and it’s extremely quotable, but the most important thing is that everyone can gain something from this. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never gone through a divorce, and it doesn’t matter what age you are. These ladies are doling out life lessons like crazy, and you just might take them to heart in the middle of all that laughing you’re doing.


It’s okay to eat alone.

This is such a fleeting scene, but it’s one of those things that makes me shout “WHY” at the screen every time I see it. Brenda sits down unaccompanied to a meal at a restaurant while literally everyone around her throws the most unnecessary side eye her way, and it’s incredibly frustrating. There’s a stigma to eating alone in public when there really shouldn’t be. Everyone at this restaurant obviously assumes that Brenda is lonely and therefore should be pitied, but since when are alone and lonely the same thing? And why is the default reaction to seeing someone eat alone condescension? A table for one doesn’t mean you’re unloved, so let’s start shedding the stigma, unwarranted side eye and all. Because sometimes, you want to take yourself out. Sometimes, nothing says “Me time” like a meal you didn’t cook and peace while you eat it. And sometimes, you’re just hungry and want to do something about it.

I mean, you’ve got to eat, right? So treat yo self. You deserve it.


The importance of self-care.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Elise is working out and says she gets her best ideas then, it clears her head and makes her think straight, everything makes sense. Unfortunately it’s not quite the same for me, I spend most of the time working out counting down the minutes until I can stop, but I do have a similar thing. When I do my hair and makeup in the morning, I get time just to myself, with no one making demands of me, and I’ve gotten tons of ideas and small breakthroughs then, sometimes for HOF posts, sometimes for work, even ways to solve problems with friends that have weighed on me. I usually have my phone on the bathroom counter and can make a note or send a quick text so I don’t forget. It’s a pretty simple thing to take that 45 minutes or so for myself, but it helps set me up to be in a good place for the rest of the day.

And listen, I think a lot of the time when people tell you to take care of yourself, they end it with something about how you can’t be any good to anyone else unless you’re good to yourself first. But forget about the part about everyone else. Whatever your self-care is, prioritize it. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself for you.


Anger is healthy.

Before it’s revealed that Dr. Leslie Rosen is a terrible person, sleeping with Annie’s husband while treating her (hi, morals are a thing and they’re helpful), she does have a valid point: Annie struggles with unexpressed anger at the beginning of the movie. Surely a product of her efforts to present a happy and trouble-free home life to the outside world, Annie opts for saying what she thinks people want to hear, rather than what she really feels. Look, I get avoiding unnecessary confrontation, and I understand the desire for keeping the peace, but not to the point where you think anger is forbidden. I love the scene where Annie gets absorbed in Dr. Rosen’s foam bat exercise because for a brief moment, she’s finally getting all that pent-up anger out before she even finds out about the affair. You shouldn’t have to swallow injustices, and you shouldn’t feel like expressing your true feelings is wrong. Keeping everything bottled up is a surefire way to self-destruction, so let it out if something bothers you. That weight off your shoulders will feel so wonderful.


“You’ve stopped apologizing for yourself all the time.”

Considering the way that Annie’s mother and soon-to-be ex-husband speak to her (“I don’t mean to criticize but you have no feeling for noodles,” “You couldn’t possibly pull off something like this” just for starters), it’s no wonder that somewhere along the way she lost that confidence to be unapologetically herself, out loud. But once she reconnected with Brenda and Elise and had the support she needed, Annie started to take back her agency and, as her daughter pointed out, she stopped apologizing for herself all the time. By the end of the movie, she’s telling Aaron to drop dead and dancing in the streets with her friends, belting out “You Don’t Own Me”.

Listen, if you make a mistake, if you hurt someone, of course you should own it, try to learn from it, and apologize — but women have got to stop giving in to the conditioning to apologize for speaking up, for merely existing. Raise your hand if you’ve ever proofread a work email before sending it and noticed an opinion or suggestion prefaced with “I’m sorry, but” *raises hand* It’s crazy to me that this is still a thing in 2016, but here we are. Sure, we have the first female presidential candidate from a major party, but does she get criticized for being shrill and told to smile? Of fucking course she does. I know firsthand it’s difficult and it’s a process, but pay attention to how often you apologize and for what exactly, and try to restrain yourself when all you’re doing is contributing to a conversation, whether it’s at work or with a significant other, friends, family. You deserve to take up some space in this world.


“Lesbians are great nowadays!”

Aside from being one of the best lines in this thing (come on, you know it is), the events that come after highlight the benefits of being open to social change. The scene where the ladies visit Chris at the lesbian bar is a standout, because each of them gets something positive out of it in spite of having little connection to the LGBT community: Brenda commiserates with a woman who’s in the same boat, Annie has a unique bonding moment with her daughter, and Elise is having the time of her life dancing her ass off. And all of that wouldn’t have happened if they succumbed to the discriminatory outlook on society that prevailed when they were Chris’ age.

We could even broaden this to include all women regardless of sexual orientation, because while the times were starting to change when the ladies graduated college together, there was still a twisted mentality about the roles of women in society. And in a way, you can see the progression of that mentality in the generations of Annie’s family. Up until the end of the film, her mother represents the antiquated theory that all you need is a husband to make you happy. On the other end of the spectrum is Chris, completely progressive and eager to give the men that wronged these women a taste of their own medicine. Annie sits somewhere in the middle, struggling to present a happy marriage on the surface, but starting to inch out of that as the movie progresses until she completely shuns the façade and becomes a happier person as a result.

Prejudices are taught, not inherent; growing up in a conservative town, I’ve seen it happen time and time again. But if you do your best to simply keep an open mind to what’s foreign to you, I promise you your life will be better because of it. It may not result in dancing in a gay bar (although, who knows?), but you will be subjected to so many wonderful experiences you will never have had otherwise. You will encounter amazing people you may not have expected to cross paths with. Not to mention, you will be one less person carrying unnecessary hate in their back pocket. And this world needs all the love it can get.


“I’m saying this to you with love, compassion and the spirit of true sisterhood: You are full of shit!”

When the ladies hit a low point in their journey, it’s obvious that Elise is drinking too much and feeling sorry for herself. She’s lost perspective and is full of excuses, leading Brenda to once and for all call her on her shit. Now, if Brenda didn’t care about Elise, she probably would have let her get away with claiming that she drinks because she’s highly sensitive (“I do have feelings. I’m an actress, I have all of them!”) and not pointed out the ridiculousness of Elise being surrounded by her image. But she does care, she doesn’t want Elise to continue on a downward spiral and that’s why she won’t let it go. When Elise was cleaning up after their fight, she stopped and took notice of how many empty bottles there were, when she might have breezed right past it without Brenda’s words in mind. And this is important: It’s Brenda that Elise goes to for help, it’s Brenda who she still trusts because she knows that when Brenda said “with love, compassion and the spirit of true sisterhood,” she meant it. Everyone needs this friend who’s not afraid to tell you the truth and then help you deal with it. I tend to call this the Miranda friend, after Sex and the City, but we can go with Brenda friend too. We’ve seen all too frequently what happens to public figures who surround themselves with yes men and lose touch with reality, so why chance it ourselves? While the truth may hurt sometimes, it’s necessary to hear and a true friend will use it to help you instead of hurt you.


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“Ugh, break-ups are the worst.” – Masters of Sex Recap – Freefall

Source: invisibleicewands

Source: invisibleicewands

Masters of Sex Season 4, Episode 1

Posted by Sage

Yes, Playmate of the Month for January 1971, break-ups ARE the worst.

One of Hef’s consorts says this to Virginia, who seems to be dealing with two at once. When last we left Mrs. Johnson, she was running away from Bill to become Mrs. Logan. Did she? Masters is holding that answer back from us for now, but Josh Charles is decidedly not present in this episode and is not due back at all. Instead, Virginia is taking on Vegas on her own, day-drinking and night-drinking in the same bar, telling her young and handsome hook-ups that her husband is due back any minute, and plotting her next career move. Did Dan leave her or did she give him his walking papers? (I lean toward the latter; I believe Dan really did want to start a new life with her.) I’ve never thought of Virginia as a character who cares much about saving face; her constant references to her disappeared spouse have nothing to do with shame. They are another way for Virginia to keep her distance from things that scare her. Including – as we see at the end – her former partner. “Do you know what my husband really is, Rick?” she asks the nice boy in her bed. “He’s protection.” Rick doesn’t get it. “From?” “You, for starters,” she answers.

"Rick." Source: invisibleicewands

Source: invisibleicewands

At any given time, there isn’t one soul in Vegas without any regrets. Virginia carries hers around, but tries to drown them in Bloody Marys, room service, and Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man.” To a stranger, she probably looks like she’s living her best single girl life. But she sits in her hotel bed and watches through last night’s mascara as women burn their bras and live in their power on the news. She looks down at her own, thoughtful. Their revolution wouldn’t be possible without the one that she and Bill started. But she still feels separate from this second wave. And she likes her lingerie, sue her. She looks good in it.

Does Gini regret leaving Bill? If she does, it’s not high up on her list. She regrets protecting Bill’s feelings for so long. She regrets allowing their personal relationship to spiral out of control and annihilate their professional one. She regrets letting it get to the point where she HAD to leave him, for the good of both of them. (“It all became hopelessly tangled.”) Though it’s hilarious and vindicating to watch Gini completely roast a faux sex-pert in front of his potential book-buyers (“If you want to be technical about it…” “I do.”), it’s also sad that she has no other place to put her life’s work into practice but a ballroom in Nevada.

At least Gini can sleep soundly knowing she finally got through to Bill. In Season Three, Bill “You Poor Bastard” Masters could feel Gini slipping away, and it made him a) crazy and b) more of a pain in the ass than usual. Season Three Bill was reckless and petty. He was a kid asserting his dominance on the playground, and, as Kim beautifully said in her finale recap, “the ESSENCE of the ‘This pigeon isn’t giving up’ meme.” (Quite right too.) Bill finally took the loss at the conclusion of that episode. He let Ilsa Virginia fly out of his life on a private plane, knowing that the honesty and passion that he finally had the balls to show her came far too late. Don’t mourn the old Bill yet though; if experiencing that loss matured him, it was an insignificant gain. Season Four Bill Masters came here to wallow. And as the son of a miserable drunk, wallowing in his blood.


Source: invisibleicewands

Source: invisibleicewands

Masters and Johnson encourage honesty in their patients, and the science backs them up. People like Dale Connolly have to choose between keeping their secrets and having a healthy, satisfying sex life. When Bill finally takes that consultation, he recommends that Dale stop trying to predict how his wife will take the news that he has a pretty demanding foot fetish (“It’s weird to wanna fuck shoes.”), and just leave that part up to her.  Dismantle the idea that you are somehow responsible for someone else’s reaction to you, and you dismantle repression. Maybe Mrs. Connolly will freak out and leave. Maybe she won’t. Maybe deep down, she already has some idea about his needs. “It might come as a relief,” Bill says. “Either way it’s how you feel. You don’t really have a choice, Dale.”

Yet, in this premiere, Bill and Virginia both lie their asses off to strangers in bars. As is the way of the deep drunk, “bra salesman” Bill Masters eventually dives face-first into the truth. I mean, he doesn’t have anyone else to talk to.

Donald: Sex what? *laughs* There’s no such thing as that.
Bill: Oh, yes, there is. In fact, sex therapy is the way of the future. We explored it all, experimented, made significant breakthroughs, learned every inch of each other’s bodies.
Donald: Okay, buddy, I am now cutting you off.
Bill: But, you know, being sex experts, it’s not enough. Because when you’ve tried and tried and she still leaves you anyway, then you must look at yourself in the mirror and say the words that you’ve been too afraid to say…”

Source: invisibleicewands

Source: invisibleicewands

Bill is still a small man. He’s accepted the truth of Virginia – a truth he protected himself from for years, in the interest of self preservation – but that’s about as far as he’s gotten. If she doesn’t love me, Bill says to himself, might as well flame the fuck out. He endangers himself and others, damages public property, leaves poor Betty to fend for herself at the clinic, and becomes far too familiar with the inside of the courthouse. So Bill finds himself mandated by the court to spend 30 of his evenings in the kind of 12-step meeting he walked out of when it was his brother seeking some support. His meeting leader Louise is used to dealing with men who think that they are only the sum total of their mistakes. And she’s not letting Bill off that easy.


Source: invisibleicewands

Source: invisibleicewands

Bill: I ca-I can’t take steps. Why can’t you understand this? Not even a single step. There is no direction I can turn because-
Louise: Because you don’t know how. So show up where you’re needed, Dr. Masters. That’s it. Show up and see what happens.

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Climbing Mount Everest- A Celebration of Valley of the Dolls

Posted by Sarah

Cards on the table: I adore campy movies. When I want to unwind from the day with a flick, I will more often than not gravitate towards the She-Devils, Death Becomes Hers, and Mommie Dearests of cinema. I’m also low-key obsessed with anything that has Jacqueline Susann’s name attached to it. Her books, the film adaptations, that movie where Bette Midler plays her alongside Nathan Lane as her husband, which I still can’t believe is an actual thing. A resounding yes to all of that. So of course the crown jewel of the Susann empire, Valley of the Dolls, has a secure spot not only in my favorite books of all time, but also my favorite movies. But despite my penchant for camp, when I read that it would officially be part of the Criterion collection come September 27, I thought I was seeing things. I mean, really? Of all the movies, THAT one makes the cut?

Then I realized how much sense it made.

“But Sarah,” you say. “Look at the films that have gotten the Criterion treatment in the past. Valley of the Dolls isn’t even in the same league.” On the surface, it seems like a fair point. This movie is not good in the traditional sense of the word. In fact, it was absolutely trashed by critics upon its release; Roger Ebert cited it as containing “the most offensive and appalling vulgarity ever thrown up by any civilization.” (And the only reason I’m calling out this review in particular is because, in a hilarious twist, Ebert wrote the screenplay for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. In no way a sequel, it was filmmaker Russ Meyer’s 1970 sexploitation, I-don’t-remember-dropping-acid-but-I-feel-like-I-definitely-dropped-acid, GOOD-GOD-WHAT-ARE-THEY-DOING-TO-EACH-OTHER film, which is also being released by Criterion on September 27. Seriously, Valley of the Dolls plays like a Disney movie compared to this.) Why does this film deserve a spot in the Criterion collection?

I’m so glad you asked.

Valley of the Dolls is not a cinematic masterpiece by any means. It’s quintessential camp that took itself far too seriously. It’s filled with overly emotive performances. It’s a full-fledged soap opera clocking in at a little over two hours. And it’s an important part of the pop culture lexicon. It spit in the face of expectations of submissive women while shining a light on sexism. The underlying themes are still completely relevant in 2016. Not to mention, it’s fun as hell to watch. So join me as I celebrate the near fifty-year reign of a cult classic. These are the things that make it Criterion worthy, and the things that make it required viewing for the camp enthusiast. This is proof that “good” is an entirely subjective concept, and what falls outside of the standard should not be dismissed.

Let’s get on this merry-go-round!


Whether or not you care to admit it, Valley of the Dolls is an important point in the history of pop culture for a number of reasons. A quick glance at this movie, and it’s easy to label it as trash. Take a closer look, though, and you go beyond the mask of melodrama to see a film quite extraordinary for its time.

Feminism and camp are a wonderful mix

Despite whatever negative reactions it may have garnered, this was a big step in shedding the image of the submissive housewife. Yes, there were still boundaries to be broken (let’s not forget that The Brady Bunch, which premiered in 1969, originally intended for Carol to have divorced her first husband, but since that was still a taboo topic, they just didn’t mentioned what happened to him at all), but the times were definitely changing. The book and movie versions of Valley of the Dolls arrived on the heels of Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl, which stressed that being a single woman is *gasp!* not the end of the world, and single women should *GASP!* grab life by the horns and make what they want out of it. And when Jacqueline Susann sat down at the typewriter, she crushed the housewife “ideal” like it was a bug under her shoe. Thank god for that.

Anne Welles, Jennifer North, and Neely O’Hara are all bucking the system in Valley of the Dolls, but it’s Anne’s story that is perhaps the best example of this in the movie. She leaves her small hometown of Lawrenceville—and the man everyone expected her to marry—for a more exciting life in New York City. Right off the bat, you know that she’s not about to settle for less than what she wants out of life, as the voiceover accompanying her exit from New England makes clear: “I wanted a marriage like Mom and Dad’s, but not yet. First, I wanted new experiences, new faces, new surroundings. Lawrenceville would be there forever.” Girl, YES. There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting married and settling down, but the fact that she not only recognizes there are other things to get out of life, but also recognizes her strong desire to take them, is everything for its time. Hell, it’s STILL everything.

Once her relationship with Lyon goes sour—i.e. he reveals that he can’t give her what she wants out of the relationship but fully expects her to still be down with sleeping with him in her childhood home, and bails when she refuses him—any heartbreak over it doesn’t keep her from taking her own successful path as the Gillian Girl. And when she hits her bottom after Lyon’s affair with Neely, she recognizes her need to get herself out of the situation and returns to Lawrenceville in search of a happier life, culminating in one of the most satisfying moments of the film. Lyon treks to Lawrenceville in an attempt to win her back—throwing out the possibility of marriage—and she responds by gloriously leaving him hanging out to dry.

Tables will turn, and Anne Welles will not have your shit.

Bey, Felicia.

Bey, Felicia.

Anne definitely fares better here than in the book, where (spoiler alert) she marries Lyon, has his child, finds out he’s cheating on her all over the place because he feels she emasculated him, but refuses to end the marriage on principle because hey, at least she’s got those dolls to distract her. As much as I tend to judge film adaptations based on what—if anything—they change from the source material, I love the movie ending so much more. Because Book Anne probably isn’t finding her situation anything to twirl around in the New England snow about, and dammit, she deserves to twirl.

These things are still happening today

One of the reasons Valley of the Dolls has endured for almost five decades is the fact that the things depicted in the pages and on the screen are still incredibly real in the present day. It’s so easy to pick out instances in the film that could easily happen in some capacity today. Let’s take ageism, for example. Helen Lawson calls herself a barracuda, and part of me believes that she wasn’t always like that, but grew into it the older she got. Because let’s face it: for the most part, viable roles are shaped for the younger generation of actors, and she refuses to be edged out of the game. It’s the logic behind Bellamy’s “Don’t give her that ‘I loved you when I was a little girl’ routine, or she’ll stab you in the back” quip. Even the slightest possibility of being upstaged by up and coming (and young) Neely leads Helen to demand the production drop her. And it’s probably at least partially responsible for her concealing her natural hair with a wig.

Then there’s the blatant sexism, which I would argue is a little more in your face in the book than it is in the movie; I recently reread the book for the first time in a couple of years, in that time forgot how much of an asshole Tony was in it and was legitimately heartbroken because I actually like the guy in the movie. But sexism is still everywhere on film—Bellamy refusing to hire Anne at first because she’s too good-looking, Bellamy’s “That’s not a girl, that’s my secretary!” at the notion of Anne becoming the Gillian Girl, and lest we forget Neely’s horrific experience in San Francisco—and since Jennifer is the showgirl of the group, it seems as though she’s subjected to the most obvious of it. You can tell that she wants people to see her as more than just a body, but the longer that doesn’t happen, the more she starts to believe that she has no talent, and is only what people see on the surface (the possible peak of this is when Miriam decides that the only way to keep paying Tony’s hospital bills is to enlist Jennifer to star in French art films). That belief has to be one of the things swimming around in her mind as she turns to suicide after the news of the mastectomy her breast cancer requires.

One of the biggest themes in the movie is the struggle with addiction (it’s right in the title, you guys), and Neely’s the one who truly embodies that. Jennifer and Anne also turn to pills at certain points in the movie, but Neely’s journey is the most troubled one. She quickly gets hooked on dolls, mixes them with booze, accidentally overdoses, does a stint in rehab, relapses to the point of not being able to go on stage during what was supposed to be her Broadway comeback, and ends the movie with a breakdown in the alley behind the theatre. In that time, you see her self-destructive behavior, her initial fight against any treatments the sanitarium provides for her before ultimately giving in. She betrays just about everyone close to her, and even when she thinks she’s got it licked for good, there’s still a tiny bottle of dolls there to tempt her into inevitable relapse. Melodramatic acting aside, it puts an enormous spotlight on how much of an illness addiction is, and how it’s not something one can simply quit on command.

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“I should have put you first.” – Masters of Sex Recap – Full Ten Count

Masters of Sex Season 3, Episode 10
“Full Ten Count” 

Posted by Kim

Season Three of Masters of Sex saw Bill Masters descend into what could only be called madness as he desperately tried to hold on to Virginia Johnson. Rather than just own up to his true feelings, Bill spent the season manipulating Virginia into staying with him, staying with the clinic, and staying with their work. The tighter he tried to hold on to her, the more he pushed her into the arms of Dan Logan, a man who’s everything Bill is not. (One would think that after working with Virginia for a decade that he would KNOW this approach was the exact OPPOSITE of what he should do to “keep” Virginia, but like I said, Bill went nuts.) The penultimate episode of Season Three, “Party of Four,” was quite perhaps one of the most devastating episodes of Masters of Sex as Gini FINALLY opened her eyes to Bill’s desperate machinations. He’s been on thin ice with her for a long time and the combination of steamrolling her with the surrogate program and the blatant relationship sabotage with Dan and his wife at that disastrous dinner BROKE something between them. I’m going to just quote my brilliant partner here cause she really said it better than I ever could: “All season, she’s humored Bill though she’s rapidly lost patience with him because she feared losing her place in the study. But she could care the fuck less now. His manipulations are done in the daylight now, and she finds that the life she’s too small for is the one where she’s the crutch of a broken and brilliant man. She’s reinvented herself before, and maybe it’s time for another go.” So “Full Ten Count” opens with Gini ready, ready, ready, ready to ruuuuuuuuuuuuun and Bill scrambling, once again, to keep his rapidly crumbling house of cards together.

It’s so fitting that “Full Ten Count” opens with Bill having a nightmare where he is in the boxing ring getting the shit beat out of him whilst his father and Johnny observe with disdain. Boxing has been a running theme in the series, from the MAGNIFICENT Bill and Gini bottle episode “Fight” in Season Two to Bill and his brother beating the shit out of each other in “Below the Belt”. One can easily blame this on Bill’s Daddy issues, considering boxing was one of his dad’s great loves, but it also serves as a perfect metaphor for Bill Masters just not being able to accept when he’s been beaten. Bill’s dogged determination and fierce obsession with control is what makes him so frustrating (and amazing) as a character. “You’re a bum, Masters!” Dream dad declares. “You’re beat. A man has got to know when he’s beat!” Season Three was one long exercise in CRINGING at Bill’s refusal to admit that he’s down for the count. He is the ESSENCE of the “This pigeon isn’t giving up” meme and it’s painful because you just scream from the comfort of your couch: “LET IT GO, DUDE. YOU’RE BEATEN.”

Meanwhile, in the wake of Bill’s betrayal and Dan’s confession of love in New York, Gini is ready to get the heck out of dodge and leave them both behind. “Usually when things get tough, you dig in all the more,” her father gently observes. I think that’s hilarious because in everything other than her work, I think the exact opposite is true. ESPECIALLY when it comes to her love life. Gini, bless her light, tends to think avoidance is the best policy, so she’d rather run away that actually confront her feelings for the two married men in her life. “I keep waiting for everything to click into place,” she tells her Dad. “So I can say, finally, my life is exactly as it should be.” The thing with Virginia is that she KNOWS something is missing in her life and she’s not sure what it is. And so she’s going to run until she finds it. She would have been gone too, had it not been for Libby showing up on her doorstep with the news of the accusations against Bill. “It always comes down to the two of us, doesn’t it Gin? The two who can right the ship.” Does Bill actually KNOW how lost he would be without these two women who are always willing to clean up his messes? DOES HE? I mean clearly he knows he would be lost without Virginia, hence his desperate manipulation, but Libby? LIBBY IS THE ROCK AND THE GLUE AND EVERYTHING THAT HOLDS THIS MESS TOGETHER.

At the clinic, we get an awkward as hell elevator ride with Nora and Bill as they encounter each other for the first time since their grope session. Nora tries to give the “We were both consenting adults” speech but it rings false. Something evil is a-foot. Meanwhile, Nora’s Bible Beating Boyfriend corners Gini and tells her to get out while she still can. There’s SUCH an impending sense of doom, it’s like the whole thing is one Jenga piece away from crumbling. Betty is running around like the little Dutch girl trying to keep her fingers in the damn as the press conference presenting the new book stands as an immutable deadline. Gini confronts Bill about the allegations and insists that Bill just pay off Dennis’ family so they can make the whole thing go away. Bill stubbornly refuses to do so because he’s innocent and SURELY he can talk his way out of this, right? “Libby and I are aligned on this,” Virginia grits out, with ice in her veins. “Just write the check so we can get back to work.” Of course, the subtext of the whole scene is a giant “Fuck you” for putting EVERYTHING they’ve worked for at risk. Bill is all “You’re still upset about New York” and Gini’s like “I don’t want to talk about it” but she REALLY means “Fuck yes, I’m still upset.” Bill keeps trying to push, saying they’ve come through much worse and hey guess what as a GESTURE of their equality, he’s planning on dropping the MD from his name for the next book. Gini is basically like “How magnanimous of you. Sign the check.” She’s 100% done.

Later Nora corners Bill in the Surrogacy room and gives him the whole song and dance (with bonus Disney Eyes) about how her devotion to the program has led to her being behind on her rent. Bill stammers about saying that he’ll speak to her landlord but Nora is insistent. She needs money. She hasn’t been able to get a job because she’s working at the clinic six days a week. She doesn’t have anyone else to turn to. “I know things are slightly strained with us because of our recent…intimacies. Surely you want to make things right with me.” Bill forks over $200, all the while not knowing that Nora has had the microphone button pressed, allowing her “surrogate” to hear the whole conversation. Beth Greene, why do you hurt me so?

Fresh off a quick trip to Mexico, Dan arrives at the clinic, tired of Virginia dodging his calls. Gini flounders, saying she needs time, that everything that happened in New York was a lot to take in. “I wanted you to know that I meant what I said,” Dan says. “So I am now officially divorced.” Oh. THAT was unexpected. And wonderful. Dan Logan is a man of ACTION. He’s a man that follows through and he’s a man willing to open himself up and lay himself bare to Virginia, knowing that she could still reject him. Poor bastard. Gini plays the “It’s not us, it’s everything around us” in regards to her reluctance. And this is where Dan is so amazing: he tells Virginia that he understands the hold Bill has on her. He understands how much of her life Virginia has devoted to the clinic and her work and he would never ask her to leave it. In fact, he insists that she stay. “I don’t see how you and the work go together,” Virginia confesses. “I don’t see him ever accepting us.” THEN Dan drops the ultimate truth bomb. “It’s not up to him. Bill can never make you happy, not as a man to love. You know this. I know this. Virginia, I’m here because I love you and I want you to be my wife. But I can’t run after you, trying to make you see things you already know. That, I can’t do.”

Therein is the essence of the whole thing, isn’t it? This whole time Virginia has been so concerned about how actions affect BILL that she stopped putting her own happiness first. Dan isn’t demanding that she be with him or that she leave Bill and her work. He’s simply standing in front of her offering a chance at happiness if she’s willing to take it. It’s funny because in some respect, Dan is giving her an ultimatum. He’s telling her he’s not going to keep chasing her. She needs to decide what she wants. He hopes she’ll choose him but he’s not going to manipulate her into doing so. That’s the difference between the two men in Virginia’s life and that difference is everything. He just wants Virginia to make a definitive choice. He SEES the constant state of inertia she’s in and he just wants to shake her out of it, even if it means she doesn’t pick him. “I was stuck in my marriage a long time, years longer than I ever should have been. And it was because of you, because of my love for you, that I finally got the courage to leave. Now I just want to do the same for you. Give you the strength to go. But only if you want me on the other end of it cause if not, then well. Then I will take my broken heart and go.” POOR BASTARD.

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Sleepy Hollow, Shakespeare, and Sorkin – An Interview with Zach Appelman

hof zach appelman


Posted by Kim and Sage

One recent sunny Sunday in New York City, we had the pleasure of a leisurely coffee date with Sleepy Hollow‘s Joe Corbin and frequent stage actor Zach Appelman. Fresh off of his role as Diomedes in the Public’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Troilus and Cressida (which we saw from the front row on a magical, rainy night), Zach sat down with us to talk about the pros and cons of fandom culture, the intersection of sci-fi and Shakespeare, and pranking Lyndie Greenwood. We covered a lot of ground, so let’s get right to it:

Sage: What was the con experience like for you?

Zach: New York Comic Con was my first one, I had never done any of those before! It was fantastic! What was interesting was that I hadn’t done that stuff before but from theatre, any time you do a play you do those Q&A talkbacks, so that part wasn’t foreign. But it was just really exciting, there was so much positive energy. You know I had never been to a con before, even as a fan, so I never knew what they were really about. There was something about walking around on the floor and I was like “Oh, I get it. This is a place where people of all ages can come and everyone is here because they fucking love these stories and they can go and celebrate that where no one is going to judge them.” There was such a sense of positivity and community there, it’s fantastic.

Team #SleepyHollow is in the building! #NYCC

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Sage: We met Lyndie in San Diego and she was in a FULL cosplay that she had made herself and we were like “Oh, you are a NERD.”

Zach: Both she and Tom really love comics and graphic novels.

Kim: Her costume was a character that was SO obscure. She was late to the brunch she and Orlando hosted BECAUSE she was putting it together.

Zach: I’m really sad I won’t be there this year. I’m thinking of just crashing.

HOF: You SHOULD crash.

Lyndie Greenwood and Zach Appelman Sleepy Hollow NYCC

Sleepy Hollow panel at NYCC 2015. Source: HOF

Zach: We did WonderCon in LA which was great. That one was really tricky because it was the week before the episode where I was getting killed. Lyndie and I were both trying our best to put a positive spin on what was going to happen without spoiling it. It was a really interesting time to try and do the promotion because we both knew what was coming and we couldn’t say anything about it.

Kim: It was so funny because we KNEW you were doomed when you were doing all the press for the week that episode. We were like “Oh, shit! He’s doomed.” (Zach laughs). How far in advance did you know that you were being killed off?

Zach: I found out a couple of episodes ahead of time, so about three weeks before we started shooting, which is not a lot of time. You get that phone call and you know it’s one of three things. It’s either we’ve been picked up for another season, we’ve been canceled, or you’re off the show. We really didn’t see it coming. We knew at that point there was a possibility of Nicole leaving, so because that was already happening, I don’t think any of us thought there’d be another death. It was a rough phone call. I had to call Lyndie and tell her.

HOF: Oh no!

Zach: It was not fun, there was a fair amount of drinking after. It was a bummer though. I had such a good time. The loss of the job ends up not being the thing that’s a bummer. It was having to say goodbye to everybody. But this business and this profession is so inconstant anyway. I could get a call tomorrow saying “Oh, you’re on Game of Thrones” and even then, you get that dream job and it could be gone in a second. I think in order to not go crazy in this profession, you have to really just be comfortable with never knowing where you are going to be in a month. Even if you get a nice long theatre gig that lasts four months, it’s only four months! It’s such a weird profession. You don’t ever get a job and it’s like “Oh I have a job now for the next few years!”, you know?

Kim: You’re a gypsy.

Zach: Yep. You could book a lead role on a new pilot and you don’t know whether it will be picked up. It can be picked up and then canceled after episode 3. I’m learning to be really zen about it.

Kim: This was your first major foray into television, right?

Zach: Yeah, all the stuff I had done before had been one episode guest star things, so this was the first time I was an extended series regular, which was a really great experience. I got lucky. I had great people to work with and they gave me a lot of material. Because you can also get picked up as a series regular and move to Atlanta and end up being in one scene per episode which means you’re working one day a week. And then all of the sudden you’re just out of place twiddling your thumbs. I knew going out there that could be the case. I had no idea what the plan was for me for the season. It ended up just being a wonderful thing where I would get the script and go “Oh, I have a STORY. I have a plot, I have a lot to do.”

Source: Fox

Kim: For a lot of the season it felt like Joe and Jenny had their own spinoff.

Zach: Yeah! We got to hold down the B-Story. Which I think was something in the past that Sleepy Hollow had struggled to figure out. It’s a logistical thing too when you have two lead characters and you don’t have a solid B-Story, you’re going to have two actors who just get worked to the bone. So part of it came from the necessity of being like “We need to figure out a way to make sure we’re taking care of our actors by sharing the work.” I was glad to be a part of that.

Sage: Had you watched everything up until that point?

Zach: When I came in for Season Two, I actually wasn’t familiar with the show when I got the audition.

Sage: And to your knowledge, it was only going to be for that one episode.

Zach: At that point, yeah. It was just going to be a one-off. When I got the audition, I had like 5 days to prepare, so I went on iTunes and downloaded season one of Sleepy and got up to speed really quick. I was like “Oh, this show is fantastic!” I went out there and did that first episode. The writer, Heather Regnier (I love her, by the way, she’s fantastic), she talked while I was out there and floated that if they got a season three, they would love to have me back. It was a whole lot of hypothetical at the time, so it wasn’t anything that I was expecting. So it was a nice surprise.

Sage: It made so much more sense. Having watched through season two when Hawley just kind of shows up and you’re like “Who’s this guy? Where did he come from?” I found it was hard for them to integrate him in a way that made it grounded and with Joe it was like, these people have a history with him.

Zach: I will give a 30 second loving on to Matt Barr (Hawley) though. When I was out there for season two, it’s such a weird thing to come out as a guest star. You fly out to North Carolina, where we were shooting at the time, and you’re put up at a hotel for two weeks. You can feel bizarrely displaced. That first night I got to North Carolina, there was a grocery store across the street. I went to buy coffee and beer for my hotel room, the essentials, you know? I had my six pack of Shiner and my coffee and I’m standing in line and I look at the line opposite me and there’s this absurdly tall, handsome, shaggy, blond man. I look at him and he looks at me and we hadn’t met but we were both just kind of like “Sleepy Hollow?” “Yeah!” And he ALSO had a six pack of beer, so we went and introduced ourselves, because he was at the hotel too. We ended up just going back to the hotel that night and having a bunch of beers by the pool. It was like INSTANT FRIEND with Matt Barr. It was really really nice to be out there and have a buddy. Did you guys ever see Hatfields and McCoys? It’s REALLY good and Matt’s one of the main characters in it and he’s so fucking good. So anyone who’s ONLY familiar with him from Sleepy Hollow needs to go watch it. It’s SO good. Anyway. That’s just my plug for Matt Barr.

Kim: You’ve obviously got a theatre background, and Tom does too…

Zach: And Nicole too! Nicole came out of Julliard. I think her first few gigs…she did a big play at Lincoln Center. The three of us had very similar backgrounds. Yale, where I went, and Julliard have very similar programs that overlap. So Nicole and I realized we had a lot of friends in common.

Kim: I feel like a lot of these genre shows attract classically trained actors. You look at Doctor Who, Outlander, Sleepy Hollow…all of these genre shows booking really strong actors and yet you don’t get the credit for the work you’re doing.

Zach: It’s interesting because I heard Patrick Stewart talk about this in an interview, so I’m going to steal from him. It’s the same thing with him, you know, and Ian McKellan, who are known for theatre and then genre films and TV. Someone was asking him about that and he said there’s a lot of overlap between the skill sets you need to do classical theatre and the skill sets to do genre and sci-fi/fantasy. You’re often taking scripts that are not completely realistic and the language is often heightened. I mean, you look at the language used in Lord of the Rings: it’s not colloquial English, it’s big, it’s epic. It’s the same task that you have if you’re doing a Shakespeare play: how can I take language that isn’t realistic and make it truthful? AND not try and apologize for the fact that the language isn’t realistic. When you try to do Shakespeare and try to make it sound colloquial, which is what a lot of modern actors and a lot of YOUNG actors try to do because they’re like “Oh everything needs to be ‘realistic'” so they take Romeo and Juliet and add a lot of “ums” and stuttering and breaking it up, when you actually just have to embrace the fact that this is big language. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be truthful. And it’s the same thing if you say “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”, you know? It’s epic and it’s big and I think that’s WHY a lot of casting directors find that classically trained actors have a knack for being able to sell that material.

Kim: Some of my favorite moments in Sleepy Hollow would be where Tom would just let loose. What was that one episode where he just speechified…

Zach: All of them?

Kim: Oh! It was when he was trapped in the room with the Hidden One and he was just going off about Shakespeare and poetry and it was just like look at you GO, Tom.

Zach: Ichabod, the way Tom plays him, could be a character completely at home in an Oscar Wilde play, in a Noel Coward play. The way that Tom’s able to make that dialogue pop: one, it’s just his own wonderfully unique sense of humor and personality, but there’s also a lot of technique in making those lines land and getting the wit of it. That’s something that I think you learn on stage and you learn through trial and error because one night the audience doesn’t laugh, the next night you change it and they laugh a little more, and the next night you change the pause and you get the big laugh. It’s finding where the rhythm is. It’s hard to learn on camera because you don’t have that immediate response but if you spend years and years figuring that shit out on stage, you start to get a knack of the little technical things. It’s why I think Tom can do that so brilliantly.

Kim: At New York Comic Con last year, a friend tweeted us after the panel saying he had seen you play Henry V. We were like “We had no idea he was a Shakespeare!”

Zach: I mean, basically most of my work when I got out of drama school was all classical theatre. I haven’t done a contemporary play since I’ve been in New York. It’s been all period stuff. I was getting ready to do Hamlet when I was doing my first episode of Sleepy Hollow, so it was a wonderful position of being in my trailer and learning my lines for Hamlet and then coming on set and turning into a wendigo. But I love it. I love doing both. I want to keep doing both.

Kim: What’s it like, at your age, to have DONE Hamlet and Henry V? Those are some MAJOR Shakespeare roles.

Happy 400th anniversary…Thanks for all the plays…. #shakespeare400thanniversary #mybooks

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Zach: It’s all down hill after that, right? No, and there’s no shortage of great Shakespeare roles for men throughout your life. You can literally go through the canon, working your way from Romeo to Henry to Hamlet to Macbeth to Iago to Lear. I was really happy to get to do Hamlet and Henry V pretty young, younger than they’re often cast. You often see a 40-year-old actor playing Hamlet and Henry V and part of that is simply because you need a certain amount of experience in order to be ready to do those roles. Neither of those roles are starter roles. Any actor who’s a big name wants to play that role, you still want to play it when you’re 45 and you should still get to do it. But they are both really young men, you know? Hamlet’s a college student, Henry V when he invaded France was 26 or 27. So with both of those I got to do them around the age they actually WERE, which is really nice.

With Hamlet, with all the endless scholarly shit that’s been written about it, the simplest thing is it’s a play about a boy who’s just lost his father. Simple storytelling: kid’s away at college, his dad dies, he comes home, and everyone else has gotten over it but he’s still mourning. The loss of a parent at ANY age is monumental but especially when you’re 20. A young man having to actually confront death for the first time in his life can really fuck you up, you know? You find yourself pondering those big questions. When you look at THAT way, it’s a really simple story and all of the philosophizing that goes on is really something any of us would do the first time we lose someone. We didn’t have to go into Freud and psychoanalysis and any of that stuff because it’s much simpler than that. I think when you have a 45 year old Hamlet who’s unmarried and at home with all these mommy issues, you’re dealing with an adult with some developmental problems, you know? (Laughs) When it’s a 20-year-old, you’re dealing with a really recognizable young man who’s on the cusp of adulthood and is not quite there yet and is really struggling with grief. It’s a different perspective than what we often see since it’s played older. Anyway. That was a tangent.

Hamlet at Hartford Stage

Hamlet at Hartford Stage

Sage: I saw Benedict Cumberbatch do it in London. The Tennant one is really great too.

Zach: I mean Richard Burton did it when he was in his late 40’s and he was phenomenal. So it’s not that it’s better or worse one way, but it’s nice to see that it can work in so many different ways.

Kim: How did Shakespeare in the Park come about?

Zach: I actually hadn’t worked at the Public before, it was my first time doing it. I was itching to do a play, cause I hadn’t done one in about a year because I had been fighting monsters in Atlanta. I had come back to New York after Sleepy Hollow and I was trying to get on another TV show. I had a bunch of things that I really wanted, that I got very very close to and didn’t get. Which, that’s what happens, you know? I was feeling pretty down about it and then my manager came to me and was like “Shakespeare in the Park would be an interesting thing for the summer. It’s not a HUGE role, but what do you think?” I thought about it and I thought it would be good for my SOUL to do. I’d been in the rough world of TV land for the past year and just being back outside, with an ensemble of actors was a really wonderful and refreshing thing. I’d really missed the audience interaction, which you don’t get on camera, or you don’t get until you go on Twitter, for better or for worse. There’s nothing like it, especially with Shakespeare in the Park because it feels like such an event, a New York institution. There’s a real sense of community when you’re doing it. I came out of it just being in a better head space than I was three months ago. It cleansed me a bit, in a wonderful way.

Kim: And performing in the rain?

Zach: You know, that’s thing. The night that you guys were there, by the end, I think the audience was an eighth full but the people who stayed were the people who really really wanted to see it. It ends up being the best audience you’ve ever performed for.

Sage: We left being like, we ALL collectively went through something: the ushers, the cast, everyone who was there was like, “We are committed to seeing this performance through.”

Zach: It is a communal experience, for sure. It’s something I don’t get when I’m filming a TV show for a crew and then four months later everyone sees it. It was such a nice thing to be back to.

Troilus and Cressida, The Public Theater

Sage: I only read a couple of the reviews, but they were all positive. You rarely see a good production of Troilus and Cressida because the play is so all over the place tonally. Did you have that opinion going in?

Zach: I had only seen one production of it that was done when I was in drama school. It’s rarely performed and it’s a really tricky play to make work. I think what was interesting was our production made people go “Oh, it can totally work.” I think it’s a real testament to Dan Sullivan, who directed it. I went into it not knowing if it would work. As an actor, I knew it would be a really fun challenge. I think I said to someone that if people are coming to Shakespeare in the Park this summer expecting a nice summer evening in the park, this is not a nice play. It’s men behaving at their WORST. My character especially was really horrible. I was like “People might REALLY hate this.” I think I was surprised that without sacrificing the darkness of that story that we were still able to make an enjoyable dramatic performance. There WAS a lot of humor in it. Somebody said that it was like Shakespeare read The Iliad and then wrote fan-fiction. If you go back and read The Iliad if you’re a giant nerd like me, it’s this heroic epic. And Shakespeare just comes in and undercuts the whole thing! He takes all these giant heroes and just says “Nah! These guys are flawed, petty, disgusting human beings.”

Kim: Like with Odysseus! He’s supposed to be a HERO!

Zach: And he organizes essentially a gang rape!

Sage: THAT SCENE. The scene with the bracelet, the way it was staged with the guys in the background, I was blown away by that. It was so uncomfortable.

Kim: We were in the FRONT ROW and we were all just like “Oh, GOD.”

Zach: It’s so contemporary. You talk about everything that’s in the news right now about rape culture and it’s ALL in that play and it’s not different than it is now, you know? That was something that I was very conscious of when we were doing it. If we’re doing a play that’s showing this, we can’t skirt away from it and we can’t try to lessen it. If we’re gonna show it, then we need to SHOW it. I don’t know what we’re saying ABOUT it other than drawing attention to it.

Sage: That alone is really powerful. Because so many people argue that doesn’t exist and you’re putting a stamp on it.

Zach: Setting it in a modern context especially.

Kim: And that was all Dan’s concept?

Zach: I think he really wanted it to be contemporary, setting it with the Greeks in desert camo. I don’t think it’s much as a comment on the modern military as it is just a comment on modern masculinity. That machismo that is so evident in that 400-year-old play is really no different than that culture today, whether you’re in a locker room, barracks, or on the street. That’s when I locked into it and said “Oh this is what we’re doing.” And what happens to these women as a result? Do they fight it? Do they not fight it? How can they assert themselves under these circumstances?

Also, it’s a war that’s being fought for something that no one but these two guys, Paris and Menelaus, believe in. Nobody keeps quiet about that. I think that’s pretty familiar today. It was a nice surprise. I didn’t know it was going to be such a successful production. It was a wonderful ensemble.

Kim: A lot of dudes being dudes.

Zach: A LOT of dudes being dudes.

Sage: It is very unsettling to sit in the audience with people running around you shooting guns that sound very, very real.

Closing Night. Gonna miss these beautiful clowns. #troilusandcressida #shakespeareinthepark @publictheaterny

A post shared by Zach Appelman (@zachappelman) on

Kim: You’ve also worked with Julie Taymor.

Zach: Yeah. She’s so incredible. When I was in college taking my first theatre history classes, we watched documentaries about her. And then to get to be in the rehearsal room working with her was such a trip. I mean, she’s one of the greatest artists of our time. Really really doing things that no one else does. I can’t say enough amazing things about her. If you guys get a chance, we did a film of that Midsummer Night’s Dream that I did with her. It goes around to arthouse cinemas and screens every now and then, it did a screening at BAM earlier this summer. If it comes around again, I’ll let you know, I’ll tweet about it or something. It’s really beautiful. I hope it’ll end up on Netflix or something.

Sage: Would you want to do some contemporary plays?

Zach: I would love to, I would love to keep myself on my toes and challenge myself that way. Especially in New York, there’s so much star casting, which is completely understandable. If you’re going to do a Broadway show and charge $150 a ticket, people aren’t going to buy tickets unless they know something about the actor doing it. It’s different with Shakespeare in the Park, one because it’s free and two because it’s Shakespeare in the Park and you don’t have to rely on [star casting] as much. I’ll often find that with contemporary plays in New York, especially the big theatres, some of the great roles are not necessarily available to me in the way they are to others.

Kim: The stunt casting can be very frustrating.

Zach: But I get it! I think we’d like to be like “Oh, this is a new thing” but it’s always been like that. The ironic thing is that the best thing I can do for my theatre career is to keep doing as much film and television as possible. I want to do both, and you’re not making the decision to do one instead of the other. Ideally, every time I do a high-profile play, that leads to more television work. And that leads to more plays. It all just sort of builds. When I did that production of Hamlet out at Hartford Stage with Darko Tresnjak, who is one of the best directors out there, we really talked about wanting to do it together in New York. I said, “YOU could, but you’d have to replace me with Adam Driver.” And I don’t mean that disparagingly, he’s a fantastic actor and people in New York aren’t going to buy tickets to see ME in Hamlet. Well. Some people would. You guys would. (Laughs) If I did a couple more years on a successful TV show, it would be a different situation. I’d say to Darko, “Give me a couple more years, I’m going to try to get a little more famous.”

Sage: It was such an interesting thing that happened with Oscar Isaac and Hamlet and moving it TO The Public.

Zach: I would LOVE to see him play that role, I hope it still happens. I think he’s a tremendous actor.

Sage: It’s interesting when the director and the actor have this partnership that they can have the power to take it where ever they want.

Zach: That’s a luxury you have when you get to a certain point in your career. You can start doing things like that, which is wonderful. You can have that agency you don’t have earlier in your career. Oscar and Nicole were at Julliard at the same time. AND Adam Driver too. I’d pay to see Oscar Isaac do almost anything. Inside Llewyn Davis is one of my favorites. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I grew up on that kind of music.

Sage: What other stuff are you a big fan of, TV-wise?

Zach: Besides The West Wing.

Sage: Besides The West Wing. We’ll get to The West Wing. 

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