Lucky lady, Julia Roberts challenged by TV series debut

By Lucy Allen

Julia Roberts stars in her first leading role for television in ‘Homecoming’. The new Amazon series is from the creator of ‘Mr Robot’, Sam Esmail, and also stars Bobby Cannavale.

‘Homecoming’ is a half-hour psychological thriller that follows Heidi Bergman played by Roberts, a caseworker helping soldiers returning from war to reintegrate into civilian society.

Roberts was at the recent Summer 2018 Television Critics Association press tour to talk about the new 10-episode series.

At the event, she also spoke about working with Dermot Mulroney for a third time, her relationship with television and whether she and her husband have plans to work together again…

So Julia this role seems like a bit of a departure for you. Can you talk about what film role might have best equipped you to play a social worker who transitions soldiers back to civilian life?

JULIA ROBERTS: Nothing springs to mind [laughter]. Well, honestly, Sam Esmail, is what attracted me. And I just think that what Eli and Micah [Bloomberg] have written is such a great sort of old-fashioned yarn set in this really modern conundrum of a morality play. And to put that in Sam’s incredibly stylish, capable hands, seemed a very safe place to be.

What is Sam like as a director of actors?

JULIA ROBERTS: Just a treasure, he’s just a total treasure. I loved every minute we spent together creatively, and socially. He just knows exactly the thing to say at all the right times. I mean no pressure but, yeah, I just felt that we had a great symbiotic relationship.

Was this the right part at the right time? You seem very excited?

JULIA ROBERTS: It is exciting. You know, I’ve always believed that the parts that I’ve been able and lucky enough to do always came at the right moment with the right people and that collective has worked out.

And I think that this one, I think part of my enthusiasm is that we just finished. It’s all so fresh in your mind, you can remember it because usually we’re doing this a year down the line so…

Does doing a television show enable you to have a more structured life away from work?

JULIA ROBERTS: Not really. I mean kind of. When we worked at the studio it was predictable driving to and from work but then we were on location sometimes and it was so far away.

So a bit like film in that respect?

JULIA ROBERTS: Yeah, I didn’t really see much difference.

What was the part of this that was unexplored territory, be it the time you had to luxuriate in this character with the amount of episodes or the way the role pushed you? Were there new things for you that you found in this?

JULIA ROBERTS: I like that you said ‘luxuriate’. That is not what anything felt like, ‘luxuriating’. But it was a great mental challenge every day. I kind of loved that. It became really the fuel a lot of times. How many pages are we going to get to do tomorrow?

And is there going to be one shot with all of them or do we get a couple of shots to make? And it became exciting. And I think as a crew and as a cast, we all really enjoyed how challenging Sam made all the aspects for us.

It’s not just about having ourselves prepared. It’s about can you be prepared and walk up and down 10 flights of stairs? And keep it going and be on the phone or do this or do that or prepare a 10-course meal while you’re juggling with your feet. And so it was exciting for the crew to figure out ways to accomplish his dreams, as well as for all of us I think.

You and Dermot Mulroney have worked together before, so what was it like working together again on this project?

JULIA ROBERTS: This is our third time working together. We weren’t boyfriend and girlfriend the first time. We were best friends. And then he was my sister’s boyfriend in ‘August: Osage County’.

Fiancé.

JULIA ROBERTS: Fiancé, excuse me. And finally, my boyfriend. It only took 30 years. [laughter] Sam takes all the credit. He was like, ‘Oh, I have a good idea about a pair. How about Julia and Dermot? I bet that would be a good match.’

With so many big-screen stars coming to the small screen, were you looking to do tv after ‘The Normal Heart’? Was it really the script that made you fall in love or was it a larger goal to kind of explore the small screen?

JULIA ROBERTS: I guess I didn’t really think of it as small screen-big screen. I don’t know. My television is very big. [laughter] And I think with Sam, we were so excited to collaborate on this and what we could do with it and just what you can do with more time to shoot and more time to unravel things for people. It seemed like a great opportunity.

How long was the shoot?

JULIA ROBERTS: We started in February and finished in June.

So what were some of the challenges that necessitated seven or eight Takes?

JULIA ROBERTS: Likely me tripping at some point or another in my heels.

I always had a lot of props. You could take my entire career and put it all together and I didn’t touch as many props as I did in this program on a daily basis.

How does Sam compare to other directors you’ve worked with?

JULIA ROBERTS: I’m fortunate that I’ve worked with a few directors that are as sort of genius-minded as Sam is. But I don’t think anybody can top him for his just daily enthusiasm.

He’s just always smiling and just loves it so much and that is really contagious where we all end up feeling that way.

And even though we say we work four-hour days and everything else, there were some long days, long scenes, we had a lot of complicated things to do, Stephan [James] and I, together and we were always happy.

Is this a character that you’d like to live in a little longer?

JULIA ROBERTS: Well, we just finished in June so I’m happy to take the summer off of Heidi.

You talked before about working with dermot previously, do you have a favourite memory of working together?

JULIA ROBERTS: Gosh, I mean ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ was super fun and that’s really when we became best pals. So that has a place in the heart for sure.

You talked about your big TV at home, what is your relationship to television and how much does it play a role in your life?

JULIA ROBERTS: I wish it played a bigger role in my life. I have three young children so I’m very careful about turning the TV on and by the time we do turn the TV on I’m usually ready to go to sleep.

Are you planning to work with your husband again any time soon?

JULIA ROBERTS: Well we love working together. We’ve collaborated I think seven times.

Any upcoming projects together?

JULIA ROBERTS: Erm, nothing really but I mean I love it personally, I don’t know how it is for him [laughs], you’d have to ask him but I love it.

Finally, can you talk about whether you will be back for the second Season?

JULIA ROBERTS: I think we’re going to peel one onion at a time.

–The Interview People