On Wednesday night, March 19, Emily Mortimer and Dolly Wells will take their real-life best friendship to HBO in "Doll & Em."
Mortimer took the time to chat with HuffPost TV about how much fun it was to work with her best friend, how she feels about "The Newsroom" coming to an end and why any woman -- or person, really -- who's ever experienced jealousy should be watching her show.
You and Dolly Wells are best friends in real life. What was it like mixing friendship with work?
At the risk of sounding annoying, it was really amazing. It was one of the best experiences of my life and one of the loveliest things I’ve done, both professionally and personally. It was something that we included not just each other in, but all of our families. My husband produced it and her husband performed as my husband in the show. Her kids play my kids, my son is in the last episode. My brother-in-law wrote some of the music and a great friend of ours directed it. Normally there’s a little bit of ... not bad feelings, but you go away to do your work, and you leave everybody that you love behind.
And they kind of start to hate you for it, understandably, and start to resent the project you’re leaving them for. Because they’re not part of it and you’re not with them. But with this, they got to experience everything too, and it was just the sweetest thing. In a weird way it almost ups your game, working with people you’re really close to. You just feel much more responsible for not letting them down. You want to be your best self because you don’t want to embarrass the people you love. It was just very sweet and easy.
But there are downsides to everybody feeling so invested, one being our sons -- who are nine and ten -- they’re so enthusiastic, but Dolly left her telephone behind one morning and went shopping in Brooklyn. She got a message while she was out from someone who she hadn’t spoken to in many years who had just heard about “Doll & Em” coming out in England. She said something like, “Congrats on your new show, it sounds so exciting, I can’t wait to see it." And our sons -- naughty sons -- took it upon themselves to reply to her.
They didn’t say that it wasn’t Dolly, and they wrote back, “Holy shitballs, ‘Doll & Em’ rocks.” Poor Dolly didn’t realize! By the time she came back there were many more messages on her phone, so it wasn’t until about two or three weeks later when she was clicking through her old text messages on the subway and saw the text from herself to this person saying, “Holy shitballs, ‘Doll & Em’ rocks.” And she immediately felt like she was going to vomit, and then she wrote back, “I’m so sorry, our sons hijacked the phone, please know that wasn’t me, how embarrassing.” And all she got back was, “that makes sense.” So for two weeks this woman has been walking around London thinking, “My God, that show has really gone to Dolly’s head.”
I loved seeing how tense it got when Doll went from just being Em's best friend to sort of invading her life. Was any of that based in fact or past experience?
Not really. Doll and I are sort of ridiculously close, and it’s just something … there’s never been a moment where it’s suddenly become too much, because it’s always been too much from when we were really young and way before we had families and husbands and children of our own.
We just told each other everything. And part of the way our friendship works is this impulse to confess everything to each other. In some ways it’s probably very unhealthy, but it’s always been that way. But what we do really like exploring, and what I’ll be proud of if we’ve achieved it, is that feeling of jealousy. Jealousy is an emotion that’s very unexplored. When you see it explored between women in movies, it’s often very "single white female" jealousy, whereas if you’re jealous of your friend it means you must be a horrible person who does nothing but masturbate.
Jealousy is one of the most common emotions, and it’s one of the things everyone feels most ashamed of. So it doesn’t get talked about that much. It’s very often that you feel it toward the people who you love the most and toward the people for whom you want the most. Obviously I want the world for Dolly and she does for me, but in the context of being right in each other’s niche it’s incredibly difficult to process and talk about [jealousy], and you feel monstrous for feeling those things. But everybody feels them, and I think we’ve both felt that. Not just toward each other, but toward our husbands or even our children. I mean, it crops up so much in our lives, and yet it’s such an unexplored emotion. In some ways I hope we’ve been able to out that feeling and get people to feel like it’s okay to feel like that.
I have to ask you about "The Newsroom." Are you nervous that now that you and Will have gotten together it will create a "Jim and Pam" dynamic and all the tension will be gone?
I don’t know. I’m sure that Aaron has got a lot more drama and trauma in store of them. I don’t see either of their characters making for a harmonious marriage, if they even get that far. I’m sure it’s just the beginning of a whole new world of pain.
What's it like going from a show like "Doll & Em," where it almost feels improvised, to the "Newsroom," where you have to get every word down?
Obviously it's a very different experience. I’ve enjoyed both tremendously, and I love the element of “The Newsroom” where it almost feels like you’re speaking in verse at times. Me improvising about current affairs would be the most disastrous thing. I would not know what to say, so the thought of not having every word spelled out for me on a show like “The Newsroom” is just terrifying. Part of the pleasure of acting in it is the exactly the fact that you’re speaking in a certain rhythmn. He writes in a style that’s all his own, and it’s a really exciting way of honoring that and also making it real and true to yourself as your’e doing it. It’s a totally different thing, but one I really love. I’m looking forward to going back to it.
How do you feel about the show ending?
It’s bizarre, actually, coming back to LA, where I am now. I’m about to start “The Newsroom,” and just sort of thinking, “My gosh, this is for the last time.” It’s a weird feeling knowing that, because everything is unknown on television. You don’t know from one season to the next if you’ll go again or not. You get to used to living in a state of uncertainty. We’re all coming back -- even my kids, they’re coming back to their little school in Hollywood -- they’re coming back knowing it’s the last time for them. It’s a really sweet and sad feeling, but I think we’re all very excited to do it again. I’m pleased that we know. It will make it a precious thing. You spend your whole life complaining about not working, and then when you work you complain about working. I think it’s nice knowing that this is the last time and ending it and valuing every second of it rather than wishing it away.
Who have you had the most fun with or gotten closest to on "The Newsroom"?
Oh, everybody. I haven’t done a lot of theater, and I think lots of the actors on the show have. So they’re used to having the kind of relationships you have when you work with people for a long time. I’m really only a movie actor apart from the show, but it’s really incredible to get to know people over years rather than someone you met over the course of a few weeks. It feels like a little family. I’m going to miss the whole crew.
"Doll & Em" premieres Wednesday, March 19, at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.