Amber Tamblyn Interview: Joining “House” and Performing Poetry
HollywoodNews.com: Amber Tamblyn is joining the cast of House for a limited run as a new doctor on the diagnosis team. Meredith M. Masters is a fresh young medical student, so expect a lot of friction with House’s veteran unorthodox methods. The TV and film legend discussed her role on House with the media in a conference call, as well as her poetry projects and personal reflections on her time in the industry. House airs Monday nights on Fox.
Q: What sort of medical research did you do to join the cast of House?
AT: I didn’t do any medical research. I did episode by episode research. If something was involved in small pox, I would look that up. If there was a specific word I didn’t know, which is about 90% of the words, I’d look that up and see what it meant. As far as the onset training when you’re trying to draw blood or IVs, they have an incredible nurse who’s been there for many, many years. There’s a woman named Bobbin [Bergstrom] who was a nurse for many years then retired to come be on the show and help us learn how to do anything we’re doing on that episode. If we’re giving someone a traich[eotomy], if we’re taking blood, anything we do she shows us how to do it and makes sure it’s the right way. That’s the training. There was no reading anything beforehand.
Q: What are your impressions of Martha M. Masters?
AT: Ah, big question. The part of Martha Masters was originally just an idea. David Shore and Katie Jacobs came to me and say, “We want to write a character for you. Are you interested?” I said yes and it wasn’t until I signed on to do a bunch of episodes that I got to read a script. The character is based on somebody that I know very well who’s real name is Martha Meredith Masters. My friend Meredith is similar to this character but this character is a very exaggerated version of her. She is in med school and she often makes jokes that I don’t understand that are about Euler’s number or something that I and most people in the room don’t know what she’s talking about. She can be a little socially awkward sometimes which is what the character Masters is like on the show. I feel fortunate to have at least the building blocks to create this character. Everything else I just ran with it. Of course it’s David Shore’s writing too that allows me to play those things.
Q: What surprised you on the set?
AT: I think it’s how well oiled they all are, how well everyone works together and not just the actors but the producers and the writers. They’ve really got it down to a science how they do things there. I think a lot of other shows, certainly ones I’ve been on, could take a cue from their show.
Q: Have you had any memorable moments on the set?
AT: There’s so many but they’re so tiny. I love the fact that Omar Epps is always getting food trucks for everybody. It’s really great for our crew. They’re always brining food on set. It’s a happy and great atmosphere that way. He goes, “Amber, I’m going to get something from Rock Sugar. Want anything?” We end up getting something for the whole cast and crew.
Q: What’s the difference between joining a series in progress and launching one like Joan of Arcadia or The Unusuals?
AT: I don’t know if The Unusuals was ever launched. I think two people watched it, my poor beloved Unusuals. It’s just kind of the same thing. I wish I had some crazy story about how mean Jesse Spencer was to me but I just fell right into it naturally with them. Maybe they were even relieved because I can imagine being such a well oiled machine like that and if you have someone come in and slow down the machine, it can be frustrating. We just really clicked. I’ve always preferred working with large groups of guys so it was perfect for me. I think that’s because I don’t have any brothers, I’m guessing. I talk like a dude. I cuss a lot which I’m not doing today. I get to play around with them a lot. It’s really enjoyable.
Q: At this point do you prefer TV or film?
AT: I like them all. I have a movie coming out this week, the Danny Boyle film 127 Hours and that was also incredible, equally as incredible as this experience has been. Actually Danny Boyle and Hugh Laurie are similar in a lot of ways, what powerful geniuses they are but how humble and interested in what they’re doing they are. That’s always a really great thing. There’s a lot of trust going on, either one. As long as you’re doing something fun, it can be an off Broadway play and if you’re having a great experience and developing something people will love, it doesn’t matter to me. They’re all good.
Q: Would you consider starting a new show again?
AT: I’m always open to everything. The only thing that I for sure I know I want to do is write a third book. I’m also an author and write poetry and short stories. That’s something I know. Everything else, I leave all my doors open. I never shut them and say that was one experience, I’ll never do it again. If an idea pops in my head, I’ll try to develop it but I love them all equally. They’re all my children.
Q: What is the difference between acting and the creative spark of writing?
AT: It’s a good question. I think one informs the other more but they both inform each other in certain ways. I know writing helped me when I was younger get through my teenage years and learn how to process that part of the industry was becoming sexualized in a certain way, in the way that women are when they go from being teenagers into women. Suddenly you’re not this cute thing anymore, you’re supposed to look this certain way and play these certain parts. I had a really hard time adjusting to that when I was about 17 years old. So writing helped me a lot to make fun of that and be angry about it and get all my frustrations out without doing it in a real public way. It’s a way for me now I think as a woman to write about the things that I’ve seen and just sort of express my own journey in this industry and show the funny side of it and the humbling side of it which I think is the side people don’t ever want to admit is there. No one’s going to really say what’s going onto a reporter at a give time and they shouldn’t. We live in a time when everything is taken out of context so to me writing a poem, doing it that way [is better].
Q: What can fans expect if they catch your show at GiRLFeST in Hawaii?
AT: I took four months off last year for my book when it came out. I did a tour which was fun for me. My mom went with me and played guitar so we were like a band. We were like a comedy duo of sorts. A lot of the poems are about growing up with a father who was in the business. It was a lot about family so Mom and I would have banter on stage. Then you get Maker’s Mark involved and the whole thing turns into a different kind of show. It’s more like a variety show mixed in with poems, a modern kind of poetry, very loose and dark and musical and all those things together. That’s probably what we’ll be doing at GiRLFeST as well. It’s a really fun exhilarating experience performing on stage. The people who come to see me know me as an actress. That’s changed over the years, more people are reading my stuff now. In the beginning when I’d perform, you’d see the look on the audience’s face: Why is the girl from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants using the F word so much? It’s very confusing for them to separate that which is fine for me. I don’t mind them seeing an actress they think they know and then suddenly realizing they don’t really know her.
Q: How do you go about picking roles like House, 127 Hours or The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret?
AT: 127 Hours was very easy. It’s a small role but I feel like an important role in a film where there’s only a couple people, really only just James Franco in the movie. So I felt like that was a really cool role to pursue, to be the comedic relief of it, to be the dopamine of the film in a very heavy film about someone who cuts his arm off. Todd Margaret I just the luck of the draw. David Cross is my boyfriend and he said, “Can I write this thing in here for you?” I said yes. That’s how that part was decided.
Q: What advice would you give to young actors?
AT: I try not to give advice because I feel like you can really lead someone astray. All I tell actors is that it’s really a very difficult industry and you need to be ready to be rejected 5000 times over and over again. The rejection part of it can be rough. I think I also tell people to look at soap operas first. It’s one of the best mediums to get your foot in, as long as you don’t start having soap opera-ish acting. You have to be careful to stay out of the melodrama of it but as an exercise, as a way to be on the set every day and exercise your emotional intelligence, I think it’s a very, very good way to start out in the business. They do open casting all the times. Getting out of soaps is the hard part but I feel if I can do it, anyone can.
Q: Do you think there’s a connection between Hugh Laurie’s and David Cross’s humor?
AT: Yeah, I’d never thought about that but yes. I’m a fan of BlackAdder and I’d known Hugh before that. Certainly one of the most attractive things about David to me was his personality and humor. Instantly a few years ago when I heard one of his albums, I went, “That guy is amazing” and I instantly had a crush on him. I think a lot of my poetry is hard mouthed like that which is needs to be, because the subject matter is intense. It’s not without humor because like everything it’s not without humor. To get across how a producer asked you to lose five pounds to play Scooby Doo’s girlfriend in an animated thing, it’s much funnier than if you try to beat someone over the head with an angry feminist poem about it.
Q: How have you matured as an actor?
AT: I hope I’ve come a long way since 10, 15 years ago now, General Hospital. Yeah, I try to choose things that are fun and interesting and things that I enjoy doing.
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