Amber Tamblyn is having a moment.
Currently, she can be seen in ‘127 Hours,’ an acclaimed big-screen telling of the real-life drama experienced by Aron Ralston, the mountain climber who in 2003 resorted to amputating his arm after being pinned down in a crevasse. And starting this Monday night, the actress delves into fictionalized drama with an extended run on Fox’s ‘House,’ where she plays überbrilliant med student Martha M. Masters.
Tamblyn, whose past TV credits include ‘Joan of Arcadia’ and ‘The Unusuals,’ spoke with us at length about these two exciting new projects.
I’ve already seen your first two ‘House’ episodes and you have some great banter with Hugh Laurie. For an actress, is that like the ultimate tennis match?
Yeah, that was pretty fun. It’s really hard to do that back-and-forth and then the next minute you have to say some crazy medical term. It’s definitely a challenge!
What do you enjoy most about Martha M. Masters – outside of her magnificent moniker?
I love her social awkwardness, her inability to connect with the other teammates. She’s not really one of the guys; she’s the outcast. I know that’s strange to like, but it somehow comes off funny and endearing, because she is trying. She’s a cute little nerd.
In what I’ve seen thus far, she’s mostly holding her ground when at odds with House. Will she gradually come around, though, to his Machiavellian methods?
She’s going to try, and that’s going to screw her up. And then he’s going to try [to understand her], and that’s going to screw him up. It’s an interesting give-and-take.
What sort of things will we learn about Martha over the coming weeks?
One of the great things about the show is there isn’t going to be a lot of [exposition] at first. You really learn about her just through the situations she’s put through at work. That’s what creates how we know her and what we know of her.
When I saw Jesse Spencer in August, he was more than game to hint at a little “something” developing between Chase and Martha. Has that materialized in any of the scripts yet?
What?! He was lying to you!
Well, I think he likes to think that Chase woos all the ladies.
Yeah, he likes to think that Chase is a mac daddy, maybe. But not that I know of! I doubt anything [romantic] is going to materialize because as I’ve said, Martha is like the kid sister. She’s not a sex symbol to them. She’s intellectually out of their league, and that’s not attractive to them – if that makes any sense.
For about how many episodes do we have you?
I think it’s going to be around 13.
Really? That’s fantastic. I’ve been putting it out there that Martha is quite the breath of fresh air.
Oh, sweet! That makes me happy to hear. I was worried she might come off as obnoxious, but we’ve been monitoring that and making sure it’s not the case.
Turning to ‘127 Hours’: I watched a few preview clips before this interview, and though one gave me the heeby-jeebies, I’m definitely going to see the film. I mean, I think I can see it….
You can see it. [Laughs] Everybody is exaggerating how scary it is.
How does your character figure into Aron’s story?
Megan is one of two hikers that Aron (played by James Franco) meets in the beginning. [‘Brokeback Mountain’s Kate Mara plays the other.] They have a lot of fun, they videotape each other.… Our characters serve as the comedic relief – the dopamine – for the rest of the film, which is a very dark ride. It’s a way for Aron, when he’s trapped, to look back at this video and see how much fun he had. It lets the audience breathe for a moment during a very difficult time.
You had no less than Danny Boyle (‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ ’28 Days Later’) for a director. How was that?
Oh gosh, he’s so amazing. He’s very free and funny and he’s very interested in knowing what the actors want to do and try in scenes. He’s a very open director.
James Franco, meanwhile, seems to be really keeping us guessing these days as to what he’s all about. Acting, performance art, soap opera roles, examinations of ‘Three’s Company’…. What was your impression of him?
I think that people in the media and entertainment world are just not used to this, so it feels very strange. In a lot of European countries, it’s very common to have actors cross over into different art genres, but here if you do it, it’s sometimes done poorly and it’s easy to make fun of people for it. James is a very beautiful person in that sense that he’s an overall artist.
What are we to make of reports that people are fainting at ‘127 Hours’ screenings?
I think maybe a person has done that, but…. The cutting off of the arm is under three minutes of the movie. This is a thing where people hear that other people having “fainted” at the movie, so they just faint. [On Wednesday] night, a woman had an actual seizure at the screening, but she happened to have been diabetic, so it was totally unrelated. And yet all of a sudden I get a text from my publicist [about it]! That’s the kind of incorrect stuff that’s happening. It’s making people think it’s this “horror film” all about him cutting his arm off, but that’s a tiny portion of the sequence. It’s really a very triumphant and soulful film that’s even at times funny, because he makes jokes about being stuck.
What do you hope people take away from seeing the film?
It’s the ultimate message story about what happens when the metaphorical boulder in your life traps you. What happens when the thing that stops you – the thing that needed to stop you, to change the trajectory of your life – finally does? Do you choose to die from it or free yourself from it? The real Aron will tell you that he thought living an extreme sports life was living, when really he wasn’t connecting with people. Had this [crisis] not happened, he would not have stopped to think about that. The film is testament to how brilliant Danny [Boyle] is, in that you can sit and sweat your whole body off for an hour and a half when the main character never moves, he’s just trapped in this one position. And that is pretty fantastic.