It's a busy time for actress Mircea Monroe, who is currently appearing on the acclaimed Showtime series Episodes, which pokes fun at the entertainment industry in every imaginable way. Monroe plays Morning Randolph, a veteran TV actress, who looks as young and beautiful as the 31-year-old Monroe really is. But the joke: Her cosmetically preserved character is eligible for AARP.
Episodes follows the story of a British husband-and-wife, writing team who are persuaded to bring their successful British sitcom to U.S. television with the promise that it will remain as the writers envision. Their show about a refined prep school headmaster and the unrequited love he has for the school's lesbian librarian is transformed into the story of a hockey coach—played by Matt LeBlanc as a deliciously satirized version of himself—and the school's hot, hetero librarian, played by Monroe.
DivineCaroline: Episodes is such a clever and sarcastic show. Do you laugh out loud when you read the scripts?
Mircea Monroe: At our table reads, we go through every episode consecutively. Reading the entire season takes hours, which is not how any other show does it, yet everyone is dying laughing until the end. The material is so entertaining that the energy stays in the room the whole day. I feel that sort of says it all about the quality of Episodes.
DC: The performances have to be so carefully nuanced to bring people into the two-tiered story. How do you try to play Morning Randolph?
MM: She's seasoned. She's aware, but she still wants the validation and needs to get work done (plastic surgery) and some of these other behaviors. She's so real to me that it's less playing her and more sort of being who she is to me.
DC: She looks like you, but the joke is she's actually in her 50s. How do you play her with a sense of youthful enthusiasm, but keep the joke going that she was doing sitcoms more than 30 years ago?
MM: She's been in the business forever, but she has elements that are still really youthful and she's trying to stay that way and hang onto it. Youthfulness comes naturally because of my age in real life. The other parts of her are me remembering and knowing that in any situation, she's been there a million times more than I personally have. Anybody who has that experience would react a certain way. It's remembering that experience and combining it with how I approach these situations as an actress, then meshing the two together. Initially it was tricky, but I've eased into it.
DC: If she's lasted this long in the industry, she can't be stupid. But this is a woman who had YCOMT--an abbreviated reference to a sexual escapade--engraved on a pen. How do you think she's survived decades on TV?
MM: Maybe in some ways her naivety has helped her last that long. I think she's really smart. I think she knows how to get the results that she needs.
DC: What's it like to have James Purefoy (now starring in FOX's The Following), who is 49, play your kid brother?
MM: It's initially intimidating, because I'm supposed to be older than my cast members who are in reality more experienced than me. I think that I've grown into feeling really comfortable with those situations. James is absolutely lovely and a wonderful person to work with, but it is kind of hilarious that he is supposed to be my younger brother.
DC: It seems people are surprised by the success of this show. What were the expectations when it premiered?
MM: I've had at this point I think 10 pilots, so I try to approach them pretty neutrally and with the understanding that you never know what will happen. But with Episodes, I had high hopes because it was by far one of the best things I had ever read. I trusted that viewers would see that and it would do well.
DC: What is it like to be part of a show that shamelessly pokes fun at television and the entertainment industry?
MM: The business is so weird and bizarre, and yet I would never want any other job than the one that I have. I love that we tell the truth. It's fantastic.
DC: Episodes is nine episodes for the season, so you have time for other work.
MM: It's the best of both worlds. I'm able to do one show that I'm super proud of and the experience is so fulfilling and amazing, then I hop onto something else. It's challenging in the best way and keeps my brain fresh. This year I did most of the season of CW's Hart of Dixie plus I did a movie. The more I work, the better. I love it. It fills me up.
DC: The landscape for original content today is so vast—from network TV to cable to Netflix. What is that like for you as an actress?
MM: It's fantastic: The more avenues, the better. I absolutely love it. I've been working for about 10 years, and it's been interesting to see how things have shifted. I think change is wonderful. If you can go with it and be open to it, then I think it's fantastic.
DC: Is Pucks (the show within Episodes) going to survive or will Morning try to jump ship to Andrew's show about a British couple who come to Los Angeles to adapt their UK comedy show and then separate?
MM: If Morning had a chance to get on anything else that was bigger and more popular she would do it in a heartbeat, but she doesn't have the opportunity.
DC: Matt LeBlanc has so much courage to do Episodes. People think they are watching him and not the character.
MM: It's scripted. He's incredibly brave and so good at what he does. He's not scared at all to take risks and not worried about how he's perceived, which is pretty amazing.
DC: Are there any other projects you have on the horizon?
MM: There's a show called Enlisted on FOX on which I did a fun guest spot.
DC: You work a lot.
MM: I'm very aware of the embarrassment of riches. It's so cool to be able to do so many different things.
DC: Are you getting offers to endorse anti-aging products?
MM: I get approached by beauty companies to do their campaigns and advertisements. I have to say, "You know I'm not really 50." They don't always know, which is kind of incredible.