Is there a future for Margaret Scully and Austin Langham??
With both characters going through their own personal drama of late – Margaret realizing just how troubled her marriage is and Austin maybe thinking with his head and not his you-know-what for a change – we saw them come back together in Masters Of Sex Season 1 Episode 10, appropriately titled, “The Fallout.”
We have two more episodes left to air in the stellar season one to find out where things go but I talked recently to Teddy Sears, who plays Langham, to breakdown that pool scene as well as some of Langham’s other motivations that we’ve seen in the Showtime hit, which will be back for a second season. (And, in case you missed it, creator Michelle Ashford also weighed in on the episode in today’s Jim’s Notebook)
TV Fanatic: Tell me about shooting that pool scene with Allison Janney (Margaret), which I was so impressed with in terms of the dialogue and just the look of it.
Teddy Sears: That was such a difficult day. Because of how the cameras were setup and the specific framing, we had to stay in one particular place at the pool. We had to be close enough to be almost touching but not touch. So, we’re sort of floating and we have to keep ourselves in the same place and we have to keep our heads above water so we could hear each other, which was difficult and challenging because our necks were killing by the end of it. And then we had to say the lines and be attached to the material and we just shot it and shot it and shot it. It went well. Allison and I were both just so ruined by the end of that day.
TVF: The dialogue was amazing and really showed where these characters are at this point and I personally liked that this was an emotional connection and not a physical one.
TS: It was interesting to go seek her out. I’m so happy that they wrote that in that she’s a draw for him. There’s something about her that he needs and that fulfills something inside of him. I could wager a guess, probably some mom stuff. I have no idea how deep we’ll ever get into that. I imagine that there’s something there related to probably needing the love and nurture and attention of someone who was a mom figure. Here comes Margaret Scully, who embodies that.
I think probably the reason that our affair was so brief is it’s a two-hander that Margaret was coming on really strong and it was no longer fun for Austin because she was no longer an object to have fun with. But there was also something probably that scared him about her because maybe it was more real than anything he’d had. Or touched some sort of a nerve that was very uncomfortable and he didn’t really know what to do with and it didn’t really fit into his plan of ‘I have a happy go lucky, wonderful life and I can do whatever I want with whatever woman I want.’
I love that he goes and finds her at the pool. They’re both untethered. The script said that they are like two astronauts floating in space, sort of floating away from their moorings. I don’t know if it captured that but that was sort of the pool as a metaphor for two astronauts floating in space.
TVF: One more thing about you and Allison is that you two had such a nice chemistry as actors. I really did want to see you two back together in some way.
TS: Thank you. It started off screen. We just instantly liked each other. There was a real rapport when we first met. That, of course, helps. I mean the stuff in front of the camera you hope is there in terms of chemistry. I hope that that is emphasized, for lack of a better word, by how we get on off camera. So the fact that we’d always sit together and we’d always shoot the breeze. We were just very comfortable around each other. I’m glad to see that that translated to the screen.
But even if that weren’t there I would still want that because I think that there has to be something unspoken between them that maybe because of who they are or where they are in their lives it may never come to pass that there would be anything more than maybe this fling. I don’t know what they have in store for the second season. I know Allison is on another CBS show (the sitcom, Mom) so I don’t know. My hope is that we get to explore that a little bit more.
TVF: Backing up, did you create a backstory for Austin?
TS: I built my own backstory. I read some books. I mean one book specific to the 1950s, David Halberstam’s “The Fifties.” That was my foundation for existing in the mid-1950s. I wanted to get a hold on the decade and the feelings of the people living in that time and the political climate and the economic climate, etcetera, etcetera.
I also read a really great book called The Men on My Couch [by Dr. Brandy Engler with David Rensin]. It was a female psychologist who each chapter was interviewing patients of hers as well as male support groups. Just to sort of fill me in on types of men, what their issues are, what their hang ups are. Specifically, I should say that she’s a sex and relationship therapist in terms of men tackling their issues when it comes to sex and sexuality in the parameters of a relationship or as a perennial bachelor.
Then there were some things that I knew based on the character. Austin Langham is loosely based on the character in the book. We couldn’t have it be him for legal reasons. But he’s inspired by an actual subject. I think he was even the first subject, the same as I was, in [Masters & Johnson’s] study. So, I sort of took a couple pieces of this guy’s background. He was Harvard educated, he was in the Signal Corps in World War II. He was a prominent doctor, he had a family, a wife and two, three kids like Austin does on the show. There are certain details that parallel with this particular guy but the rest of it just me doing my own thing here.
TVF: I’m glad we did get to see a little glimpse of Austin’s home life even though it doesn’t seem like a happy home with his wife, who doesn’t seem clueless as to what he’s up to with other women.
TS: Yeah, which is very interesting. That is the only time we’ll see her this season, I can say that. It’s fun to get a little glimpse of that home dynamic. Just give us the smallest glimpse really. I remember feeling like the scene was over before it began in how quick it was. It was interesting to see because I didn’t see it on the day. I was rolling around on the floor. But to see how my wife played that line, because I wasn’t sure if she was going to do it as someone who was totally beaten down, tired and at the end of her rope. But she wasn’t. She just seemed to play it like very matter of fact. Like that’s a reality…there was no anger. There was no hostility. She was resigned to accept that this was the man she married.
I was truly convinced that my character would just be universally reviled. Every script I would get I would sort of laugh and say, “I’m doing that this episode?” Well, okay. Here we go. Now no one’s going to like me for sure. I can’t really watch myself objectively but one thing that I have sort of felt through watching the season with Austin, through it all, all of his different decisions and various behaviors with these women who aren’t his wife, he still somehow is a likeable character and there is a little bit of a desire to root for him.
TVF: We’ve seen Austin give Haas (Nicholas D'Agosto) relationship advice. Is he really the best person to give anyone marital advice?
TS: No. God, not at all. But what’s interesting, I guess if you consider the hospital as ecosystem and you have the various sort of major players walking the halls. If you’re Haas you’re probably looking around going Masters is…I don’t want to talk to that guy about this stuff. I know way too much about him. Then there’s Virginia and I’m in love with her and I can’t talk to her. Who are my other peers who I can talk to? At least of the peers we’ve seen, that kind of leaves Austin as the only guy.
TVF: What else are you up to? I saw you tweet about a movie called Curve?
TS: Dare I call it a psychological thriller? It’s a drama. I have to say, it sets up like a play. It’s a largely two character movie. It’s Julianne Hough and I and there are two other characters who have a scene or two. Otherwise, it’s she and I the entire time. I’m a sociopathic hitchhiker who spends the movie, by and large, terrorizing her. What I love about it is it’s not mustache twisting, sinister stuff. I think the violence and the terror comes from just a quiet sort of kinetic place. It’s not me running around like, ‘Boo,’ terrorizing her the whole time. Let me just preface it by saying that it’s not what we’ve typically seen from Blumhouse [Studios] where it’s gore, blood and horror or a paranormal thriller. It’s something a little bit different.
Masters Of Sex airs Sundays at 10pm on Showtime.
Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.