Caitlin FitzGerald’s Libby Masters, on Showtime’s freshman drama “Masters of Sex,” has had to endure quite a lot of pain this season.
A lonely woman desperate for a child, Libby’s soldiered through her sometimes clinical marriage to Bill Masters (Michael Sheen). He’s been so focused on his practice — and sex research — she had to hatch a plan with another doctor to get pregnant. And, just when things had started to look up for the pristinely presented housewife, she lost the child she was gearing up to welcome into the world.
Things didn’t improve during their recovery getaway when Libby caught Bill discussing research on the phone. She suggested he should go back to work, and he did, leaving her behind in a very fragile state of mind. But, last week, her resilience forced her to bounce back from the tragedy. She’s once again roped Dr. Ethan Haas (Nicholas D’ Agosto) into her pregnancy plot, and even got Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) to speak to her husband for her — about coming home less tired and more up to performing his marital duties.
While in the office it seems that Bill is looking a little more curiously at his research partner, Caitlin’s character Libby has a handsome young man headed to her doorstep. Speaking to AccessHollywood.com earlier this week, Caitlin hinted at the surprises ahead after we asked her about her character’s penchant for calling her husband “daddy,” of course.
AccessHollywood.com: I don’t know if you’ve ever typed in ‘Libby Masters’ into a search engine, but the second thing that comes up in the auto fill options is ‘Libby Masters daddy.’ Are you surprised fans have freaked out over Libby calling Bill ‘daddy’?
Caitlin FitzGerald: You know, when we were shooting the pilot — I say it in the pilot and I remember being like, ‘That’s weird.’ But it felt really period to me and kind of appropriate for their relationship. … But, after the first episode aired, I got a lot of phone calls.
Access: From friends?
Caitlin: Yeah. My father found it a little disconcerting and a lot of friends were sort of like, it’s really creepy, or kind of naughty in a good way or we’re not really sure what it means. Yeah. ‘Daddy.’ Who knew? Apparently the whole internet is abuzz.
Access: Two episodes ago, Libby had a mental break of sorts lying about having children and saying she was a widow. From your point of view, how much of that was her husband’s fault?
Caitlin: I don’t know if I’d categorize it as a mental breakdown. … The miscarriage episode — to me it seemed like a pretty logical response to a major trauma. I think people often invent alternate universes to live in when you can’t handle the pain of your own life, so I would say it’s somewhat Bill’s fault and the kind of toxicity of our marriage, but also just coming out of what had happened.
Access: Is Libby back on her feet or are we going to see more trouble for her?
Caitlin: [It] definitely, I think, resonates through the rest of the season, that miscarriage. But, I also think she’s a survivor and I think in some ways, the miscarriage revealed both to herself and to us as an audience, some of her strengths and her fortitude and I think she kind of picks herself back up and tries to figure out how to move on, have another baby.
Access: What you think their marriage is like at this point? It seems like she is so lonely in many ways.
Caitlin: I think ‘lonely’ is really apt. I think when Libby’s begging Ethan to help her get pregnant again, part of it is that she wants to have something to share with Masters and part of it is I think she wants to have a baby so she’s not alone. I think Libby has a very big heart and a lot of love to give and is unable to give it to her husband because he doesn’t want it or can’t handle it, so she’s there in her perfect house, all by herself and I think feeling a little purpose-less. I think her desire for a child is manifold and complicated.
Access: As an actress, why do you think she loves her husband? Why do you think she’s in this marriage and not willing to give up?
Caitlin: I think it’s complicated. My thought is that she really saw Masters’ potential and believed that he would be a great man and she believes he is a great man and a great doctor and gives women the hope of children when they’re seemingly infertile. And she was, I think, really excited to kind of have this partnership with him and be the doctor’s wife and kind of be this power couple. I think also in the ‘50s, women didn’t work the way they do now, they didn’t have their own careers, their own financial lives and I think Bill offered to her a sense of security and safety that she really craved, particularly because of her past, which we find out more about later on this season, which was pretty complicated and terrible. So I think she does love him, but I think it’s also tempered with a needing to feel secure and safe and taken care of and as those things sort of deteriorate… I think she’s questioning the marriage for sure. But without the marriage, what does she have? She doesn’t have a career of her own, she has no money, no sort of social standing. It’d be really hard for her.
Access: She’s got great hair.
Caitlin: She’s got great hair and great clothes.
Access: In this week’s episode, based on the trailers, the handsome handyman, Walton, is coming. What can you hint at? Looks like he might be teaching her some dance lessons.
Caitlin: Well, he arrives in Libby’s life at a very opportune moment and I think helps her see that there could be other possibilities for her in the world. And that’s probably all I should say (laughs).
Access: Michael Sheen – does he stay in character on set?
Caitlin: No, it’s annoying. He’s so good that literally we go from chatting and laughing and he’s Welsh so he’s got his accent going and we’re talking about who knows what and then they call ‘Action!’ and he transforms into this cold Midwestern doctor. The first couple of times we shot together, it was so jarring that transformation and he’d gone from being my friend to kind of looking at me without any affection and it was quite devastating, but good for me as an actress — sort of true to Libby’s trajectory.
Access: You went to Britain’s RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art). Being around Michael did it remind you of your school days?
Caitlin: Yeah. He went to RADA too, and the first time we met, we met in New York, I had been cast. We were having a kind of cast and producers dinner right before we started shooting the pilot and he and I sat next to each other. He had just finished playing Hamlet and we talked about Shakespeare for like an hour and I was like, ‘Oh, we’re gonna be good friends!’ He definitely came up in the theater and loves the same things that I do about acting.
Access: What sort of things?
Caitlin: I went to RADA to study Shakespeare specifically. I fell in love with acting as a kid doing Shakespeare – very watered down Shakespeare, but Shakespeare nonetheless and I wanted to be an actor because I loved the language, I loved the stories, I loved the characters. I loved how complicated it was and I loved poetry. That initial impulse gets perverted along the way as you’re reading not such great material that seems to be the norm in Hollywood, but I think Michael has a lot of similar urges as an actor.
“Masters of Sex” airs Sunday nights at 10 PM ET/PT on Showtime.
-- Jolie Lash