Tamara Tunie, who plays Julia on AMC’s Dietland, talks about her character’s next move and that vulnerable scene with Plum in Calliope House.
Q: What interested you most about the show?
A: I felt like this kind of show had never been done on television before. The subject matter was very intriguing to me and the timing of this show could not have been more perfect. All of the synergy just lined up… It was a different kind of role for me and very unexpected. I really wanted to sink my teeth into this character.
Q: Julia is welcoming and warm, but can definitely be stern and assertive when needed. How did you enjoy crafting her?
A: I loved it. There are layers to Julia and I think the show is the same way – there are layers. With every episode, more and more things get peeled away and revealed. So, jumping into that and also not always knowing where the story was going for my character – sometimes I would get some of the later scripts and think, “Oh wow! This is so cool and so interesting.” It’s just been super great.
Q: Does Julia being a black lesbian play into the way she sees what’s happening in this world?
A: Absolutely. She has a very strong point of view on society and how women are viewed and treated in our society. She has determined her own agenda on how she’s going to push back against that. She doesn’t necessarily carry her blackness or her sexual orientation in front of her, but it’s definitely a part of who she is and what she feels the world should look like. So, she’s taken it upon herself to make that happen and make that change in whatever way she can. It’s interesting to see how she navigates through all of this.
A: She’s dumbstruck that she’s fired… She really thought she was manipulating Kitty and handling her and she thought she knew Kitty well enough. When she does get fired, she totally freaks out because there’s some unfinished business she has to take care of and it’s a life-or-death situation. The stakes are incredibly high for her and she has to figure out what she can do now.
Q: What’s it like for Julia to share that vulnerable moment with Plum when she reveals she’s had a double mastectomy? What was it like for you to film that scene?
A: At that point, it was very important for her to really reveal herself fully and completely to Plum. I think it was a level of trust she wanted to elicit from Plum and really let Plum know who she is and why she has put on this facade in order to accomplish her goals. For me, it was really challenging. You’re basically getting undressed before the camera and it’s also in the context of revealing yourself. The point is to be naked… It was a very vulnerable feeling.
Q: How do you imagine it affected Julia to work for someone as superficial as Kitty this whole time? Is it freeing for Julia to reveal her true self?
A: It’s absolutely freeing. Julia’s been wearing a mask – the hair, the makeup, the clothes. I also think she’s demonstrating how constricting and imprisoning this idea of beauty can be. Her agenda is to conquer from the inside out. Her thought is that you have to be in it to win it, so she goes into the belly of the beast at Austen Media to deprogram and tear down the facade. So, for her to have to carry that and to pretend to be Kitty’s best friend – I think it’s a lot. It was a great release for her to go to Calliope House and be who she is and eat chocolate cake! [Laughs] It’s like, “Oh thank god I don’t have to do this anymore!”
Q: What was it like filming in that huge beauty closet?
A: It was beautiful. In the first episode, when Plum goes down there and that music happens, that’s what it felt like while walking in there. It was like arriving at the Emerald City. What was very cool is that every single product you see in there is a real product. It wasn’t an empty bottle. It was real stuff that production actually got from a magazine.
Q: What does it mean for the larger picture now that we know Jennifer also targets women? Does it speak to a collective responsibility?
A: Certainly, Julia had one position and opinion when Jennifer was targeting men, but when they began targeting women, her whole world shifts. What we think she’s a part of and controlling seems to be out of her control. It turns her whole world upside down.
Q: What did you personally take away from the show?
A: It was exciting and gratifying to be on a show that is tackling these subjects at this time. I’d been looking forward to the reaction of the show and the conversations that the show stimulates. When we wrapped, I couldn’t wait for it to be on air. I thought, “Do we have to wait until June?!” I wanted it to just grab our society by the throat and really make them think and talk and want to see more.
Read an interview with Rowena King, who plays Cheryl Crane-Murphy.
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