Amber Tamblyn, Actor
The lovely and talented actress, poet, and author, Amber Tamblyn (Joan of Arcadia, 127 Hours), discusses her new role as brilliant, but socially inept, Martha Masters, on House with us. How did she handle auditioning for a show she had never seen before (seriously – she had never seen a single episode of House!) and as an actress who has been on shows long-term, how she feels going into a role knowing it will be for a short period of time.
The Two Cents: What was your impression of Martha Masters when you first read the script?
Amber Tamblyn: The part of Martha Masters was originally just an idea. David Shore and Katie Jacobs had come to me and said, “We want to write a character for you. Are you interested?” I said, “Yes.” Then, it wasn’t until I had signed on and did a bunch of episodes that I finally got to see a script. It was a very personal thing to me because the character is based on my real life best friend who is a med student. Her real name is Martha Meredith Masters. In fact, they had made her sign a release saying she wouldn’t sue Fox. Pretty hilarious, but she is a med student. She’s very much like this character. I’m not saying anything out of turn or mean about her, but she’s incredibly brilliant, but sometimes she can be very socially awkward.
TTC: What appealed to you about joining a series like House for a short period of time? What was it about the show that you were excited about?
AT: Well, the main thing was, of course, Hugh Laurie. I had never seen the show before, but as soon as they came to me and said they wanted to write something, I went, “Oh, I don’t want to do a medical show. That doesn’t sound very fun to me.” I started asking my friends. They all went, “Are you an idiot? It’s not a medical show. You’ve never seen it?” I went, “No.” I felt very stupid for ever thinking that.
So, I rented a bunch of the seasons. I watched it. I was blown away. It is not just Hugh, though it is him, but it’s the idea that you learn so much about these doctors and about these characters, not through long monologues about their back story or through their life and what they’ve been through, but you learn about them based on how they’re tested in their work environment. So, you put them in a certain environment; it creates a certain kind of person. That’s how you learn who they are.
To me, that’s incredibly interesting and very smart writing. I think that’s a great way to create a character. So, I felt that I was in good hands to have a character written for me by David Shore. So, it was a combination of all of those things, of working with Hugh, of having David write something for me, just all of that. I felt very flattered by the whole thing, and fortunate.
TTC: What part of this character, what aspect, do you enjoy the most?
AT: I love the fact that she is so filled with non-sequiturs. That, to me, is fun, to try to act the fact that when Martha is not talking about scientific or medical things, when she’s just trying to talk to somebody about their life or her life, that it just comes out in non-sequitur sentences and bad, poorly judged metaphors. I love her awkwardness, how incredibly awkward she is. It just gives the character so much potential to grow.
TTC: What type of medical research did you have to do for the role?
AT: I didn’t do any medical research. I did episode-by-episode research. So, if something was involving smallpox, then I would look that up. If there was a specific word I didn’t know, which is about 90% of the words, I would look up that and see what it meant.
There’s a woman named Bobbin who was a nurse for many years and then retired to come be on the show and help us learn how to do anything that we’re doing on that episode. So, if we’re giving someone a trach, if we’re taking blood, if we’re— Anything that we do, she teaches us and shows us how to do it and makes sure it’s the right way. That’s the training. There was no reading anything beforehand.
TTC: How are you with that stuff? Are you squeamish around blood?
AT: No, not at all. I’m not squeamish at all. It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun. It’s very fast-paced. You get very good at doing it. Then, you feel like, “Man, if one of my friends, if something happened to them, I might be able to actually help,” which is dumb and not a smart thing to think but I do think that way. I feel, in an emergency, I could probably give CPR now.
Thanks to Amber for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to catch her on tonight’s all new House at 8/7c!
Shannon – Associate Editor