It took Amazon's psychological thriller Homecoming to bring Julia Roberts back to television more than 30 years after her debut on NBC's Crimes Story in 1987. Emmy talks to the Oscar-winning actress about her partnership with director Sam Esmail and how her on-screen reunion with co-star Dermot Mulroney helped with the transition.
The award-winning official publication of the Television Academy hits newsstands May 23.
Although Roberts was immediately hooked on the Homecoming podcast — Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg's exploration of the manipulation of memory, on which the show was based — she was wary of committing to a series. "I have a lot of friends that work on TV as crew members, and I've heard for years and years about the grind of television," says Roberts.
In emmy cover story "Memory and Morality," Roberts discusses some of the challenges series television posed for even a veteran actress. "I was getting all these pre-production emails and thought, 'Gosh, what are people talking about? Block one, block two — letters that I didn't understand." Roberts reached out to first assistant director Peter Kohn, whom she previously worked with on The Pelican Brief in the early '90s, for help. "I needed a fast lesson in the nomenclature of television because I am not understanding the call sheet — which, 30 years later, I should pretty much have down," says Roberts.
Esmail (Mr. Robot) had initially signed on to direct the first two half-hour episodes, but Roberts felt strongly that he should be the sole director. "Our ideas for [the show] were so specific and stylish, and the tone is so surgical," Roberts says. "I felt that to have a synchronicity [the director] had to be one person. Maybe eight or 10 people can harmonize like that, but I felt it needed one person to be the captain."
Esmail did his part to help Roberts bridge the gap between film and television in the form of a creative casting idea. "My fanboy side took over," says the director, who proclaims to be the biggest fan of the 1997 romantic comedy My Best Friend's Wedding. He suggested to Roberts that they cast her co-star from that film, Dermot Mulroney. "Not only did she love the idea, but she was really good friends with Dermot, which sort of blew my mind."
That real-life friendship between Roberts and Mulroney proved helpful. "We didn't have a lot of time to rehearse, so Dermot and I would talk on the phone about a lot of things, having our ducks in a row a little bit more cleverly than if it was someone I didn't have a friendship with already," Roberts explains.
While Roberts' Homecoming character Heidi won't return for a second season, she remains an executive producer on the show, along with Esmail. As new scripts develop, Roberts hasn't entirely ruled out a return to the series. Since the completion of the first season, she has heard many ideas and theories of viewers and says, "That's what makes this show so fun; every time you think you have your story straight, then it changes."
Additional feature highlights from the new issue include:
Emmy, the official publication of the Television Academy, goes behind the scenes of the industry for a unique insider's view. It showcases the scope of television and profiles the people who make TV happen, from the stars of top shows to the pros behind the cameras, covering programming trends and advances in technology. Honored consistently for excellence, emmy is a six-time Maggie Award winner as Best Trade Publication in Communications or the Arts and has collected 52 Maggies from the Western Publishing Association. Emmy is available on selected newsstands and at TelevisionAcademy.com for single print and digital copies as well as subscriptions.
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