'Episodes' Star Kathleen Rose Perkins on Season 2 and Playing The Enemy
July 1st, 2012 3:00pm EDT
On Showtime's Episodes, Kathleen Rose Perkins is in the business of smashing people's dreams - but in real life, the Michigan native is someone that's honestly a joy to be around.
Talk about irony. As Carol Rance, the network executive working above the perpetually frustrated writers Sean and Beverly Lincoln (Stephan Mangan and Tamsin Greig) while they try to navigate the choppy waters of American television, Perkins is called upon to be almost schizophrenic. Carol is part of the faux-network machine, carrying on an affair with her boss Merc Lapidus (John Pankow) while at the same time developing an odd friendship with Beverly. She might be missing a piece or two.
And then there's Perkins herself, who is about as hilarious as the show she's currently starring in, bright and charismatic and able to laugh at how dysfunctional a role she's playing, or even herself. But that's why they call it acting, isn't it?
Her path to acting started in high school, then as a musical theater major in college. "I never had another minor or another major. I never learned another skill, because I thought if I did that, I'm not going to put my all into this acting thing," she confides during a recent interview, then adds with a laugh. "But looking back now, it would have been so nice to know how to do something else!"
She relates a story that's probably familiar to many struggling actors out there today: "My last job was with Merrill Lynch as a receptionist, and I lied about so many things just to be able to get out of work for auditions," she says. "I remember making up so many stories. I had a boyfriend at the time and told them that he had cut his hand [and] I had to rush him to the hospital, he had to go in for surgery. I probably killed off my grandmother. My last day, I got a pilot, and I had to call in to work. The next week I came in with a letter of resignation and that same day they called me into the office and fired me."
Yet it's those types of stories that make Perkins so perfect for her role in Episodes: because she's been in the trenches like so many other hopefuls past and present, there's a certain sweet satisfaction in being on the other side of the table. When she's turning the screws, she knows exactly what it feels like.
"When I got the job, I was so excited, and that excitement kind of wound down and now I had to go about figuring out how to do the character," she explains. "I realized 'Oh, shit, I have to find some kind of sympathy for a character who's basically based off the type of people who've been rejecting me for seven years. These are all my enemies. This character is basically kind of my enemy.'
"I had to kind of figure out how these people do what they do, because they're slightly schizophrenic and diabolical. They're the ones who say yes and no in the same sentence. The amount of turnover in those executive jobs is insane. They're fearing for their jobs, unless you have some kind of a breakthrough." But the role also has its perks, she concedes with another laugh: "And then it's just really fun to watch other people audition and tell people how they should fire actors."
But Perkins has definitely done what she set out to do: as frustrating as Carol can often be, there's a certain sympathetic quality to her, a sense that she's almost caught in the middle as she's trying to appease Merc and maintain a friendship with Beverly. Both of those relationships are something you'll see more of in the second season of Episodes.
"My favorite thing this season was to work with Tamsin Greig, who plays Beverly," she said. "We've kind of developed this Lucy-Ethel relationship in a way, where we just go hiking and sit around and smoke pot together. A lot of pot. It's the most fun that I had in this season.
"I also have a running line with the guy who plays my boss [John Pankow]. I'm having an affair with him and that whole relationship goes to a couple of different levels which is very fun and gross and sad and funny all at the same time."
"I'm so proud of [Episodes] and I feel really privileged to be a part of it," she continued. "And I really love what they've captured. I love the character of Carol Rance. She's really impressive and really tragic; it's almost as if there's two characters in this character, and I love playing it."
Like many series, Episodes has grown just a little more now that it's past its first season, but its approach is still very different from your traditional sitcom.
"When they cast this show, they had written the entire thing prior to casting it. They wrote all seven episodes. Whoever they got to do it had to do whatever they had in mind. They're amazing writers, so it was easy to say their words," Perkins explained. "Then the second season came along and they knew who they were working with and what they could get out of us, what we were capable of. They wrote the entire season again before we shot anything. I got all the scripts at the same time.
"The first season it was like, 'Okay, just keep your job. If you can keep your job and not get fired, that's great.' The second season it was like, 'This is what they expect of you.' And they made it a really safe environment. We had a lot of room to play and ask questions."
And if, after tonight's premiere, you still haven't seen enough of her, you can next see Perkins in another entirely different role.
"There's a movie that I just finished shooting in New Orleans that's called Lamb of God. That'll come out next year. I play a small little role of a haggard Vegas prostitute," she said, then paused to reflect. "When I got that audition, I had to put it on tape in London because we were finishing up the season, and I was emailing my manager going, 'I love this part but there's no way they're going to give me this.' But they said, 'She's perfect.' I just chalk it up to commentary on how good of an actress I am," she quipped.
But perhaps she's not far off from the mark. There has to be a certain kind of fearlessness - or at least, a self-deprecating quality - in an actress who can play a more than slightly quirky pot-smoking network exec in one project and a Sin City hooker in another, and also be able to laugh while she's doing both those things. She's clearly ready to dive into anything and she's going to enjoy doing whatever comes her way.
In fact, sometime soon she might find herself in Sean and Beverly's position. "I want to write a series; what I'm working on now is writing the perfect pilot and it's very hard," she admitted. "If nothing comes from this at least I get a lot of sympathy for writers. I'll never knock them again because [it's] the hardest thing to possibly do."
That's the versatility of Kathleen Rose Perkins: she acts in roles that are completely different from one another, she writes, she can personally make you laugh like nobody's business...and as if that's not enough, she can also beat you up, because she's a martial arts expert, too.
"I've been studying tae kwon do for the last 12 years and I'm actually going to be testing for my third degree black belt at the end of this year," she told me. "It's something I wish I could get more work doing because it's something I've put so much effort and time and pain into."
Not unlike her early struggles as an actress. But those are behind her now, and we can just enjoy how talented and hilarious she is each week on Episodes - and remember that she's just as funny but much sweeter (and perhaps just a little more lethal) in real life.
Episodes starts its second season tonight at 10:30 PM ET/PT on Showtime.
You can follow Kathleen on Twitter (@KRosePerkins). For more from Brittany Frederick, visit my Starpulse writer page and follow me on Twitter (@tvbrittanyf).
(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.
Photo Credits: Showtime