She's waiting until she can get it together, so she can share the news with Mason from a strong place. But what if she can't ever get there? That's terrifying.
So AJ Langer just told me over the phone, summing up her character's state of mind on Private Practice these days and responding to viewers who have criticized Erica for not telling Mason about her brain cancer.
"She's doing her best with everything she has," the actress said, explaining how she's spoken to friends and relatives that have suffered through the disease and how she's done extensive research online. "When you're talking to somebody really going through this, it doesn't take long to feel the empathy you need to get under their skin for a moment."
Langer said she had no idea a trip to Seattle Grace was on tap when she first signed on for Private Practice, thinking she'd only appear on three episodes. But we'll see her interact with Derek and Lexie on Thursday, accompanied by Charlotte, Cooper and Mason.
"Erica hopes the treatment works," Langer said. "But she's only focused on Mason, she's pre-occupied by his reaction to everything."
Many fans, of course, have questioned some of Erica's actions over the past few episodes, most recently asking: how could she get behind the wheel with a brain tumor?!?
But, again, Langer has done the research. She's talked to those battling various forms of cancer. She understands how "the levels of denials you go through are a very real thing."
"There isn't a way to really judge what's been going on," said the actress. "She's trying to stay positive, to stay focused, to stay grounded. She might not always do things to quote-unquote right way, but I have no doubt she possesses the purest of hearts."
Will Erica make it through this struggle? Will Coop and Charlotte end up with Mason? Langer wouldn't say, likely because she doesn't even know, only receiving a script a couple days prior to shooting each episode.
Like the character she's playing, it's clear Langer's focus has been less on the future anyway and more on the important present.
"Erica really had to be fully developed in order to respect the reality of this kind of diagnosis," she said. "I hope I accomplished that goal."