georgia king

One of the rare creative high points in what has become yet another disappointing television season for NBC has been Ryan Murphy’s charmingly deranged dramedy The New Normal, which, with its stories on love, civil rights, fairness within the evolving social fabric, and the ties that bind us together — hardly paint-by-numbers, laugh-a-minute sitcom fodder — has offered up a fresh new twist on typical prime-time family fare. Among the sterling standouts of Normal‘s instantly winning ensemble has been the lovely lass Georgia King, who was already a star in the United Kingdom long before she took these shores by storm in the role of Goldie, a naive young Midwestern woman who winds up carrying as a surrogate a baby for a pair of California men — one of whom is portrayed by Broadway veteran Andrew Rannells, with whom I spoke earlier this year — desperate for a child of their own. Normal ends its first season this very evening on NBC with a special hourlong finale episode which will presumably showcase the conclusion of the pregnancy in question; I spoke with King a few months back about her entree into American television, keeping a straight face in a cast of utter cut-ups, and how in blazes she manages to hide that Scottish accent so impeccably.

BRANDON’S BUZZ: Having watched every episode of your show, I didn’t have the foggiest clue until I started reading up on you, in preparation of speaking with you, that you aren’t even an American actress! You’ve done an utterly marvelous job of masking and losing altogether your Scottish brogue!

GEORGIA KING: [Laughs] I forget myself that I’m doing another accent [for the show], to be honest, and the shock on peoples’ faces during Emmy weekend [last year] was enough to sort of jog my memory. I don’t stay in character [on set] either, so I’m there going — [assumes full Scottish accent] — “Hellooo, cup of tea!” And then it’s, “Action!” and we go straight for it.

I don’t know what it is. My mum is an opera singer, and I’m thinking maybe — I don’t know if that makes you, musically, quite good with hearing accents, or if I inherited some genetic [talent] from her. But I’ve certainly worked on it, and I certainly listen. I’ve spent a lot of time chatting with people from the Midwest just to double-check, and I definitely want to make sure I do a good job. But I’m focusing so much on the character’s pain and struggle and excitement and joy, all these different things that Goldie goes through, and I focus on that so hard that I tend to forget that the accent, to a lot of people, is shocking.

You know what: I live in Texas, so I certainly know a little bit about trying to hide accents and slipping back into the old linguistic rhythms and cadences from time to time.

Right, definitely!

You have amassed quite a list of credits for the BBC and for British films and such; how ever did you find yourself wooed over here to take a lead role in an American sitcom?

Well, I have been really loving doing comedy for a few years now; my best comic role was in Wild Child a few years ago, and that was the first time I took off a bonnet and stopped doing period dramas! And it was great! So fun! And I really did want to come to America — that was the dream, to do a comedy show over here. The quality of TV that is made in this country is really outstanding —

— especially over the past few years, it really has exploded.

Oh, it’s just — it’s incredible. I get box sets of everything because I can’t stand to wait and watch things [week to week], so I go through and binge on certain programs. You know, Alan Ball — Six Feet Under and True Blood. . . just extraordinary! Right now, I’m going through the drug of Breaking Bad — [laughs] I’m not taking meth in real life; I mean, I’m watching Breaking Bad and loving that. There’s just so much great [television] being made that I really wanted to come out and. . . you know, have a go, as so many people do. Hordes of British people come out here, and Australians, and then we pretend to be American, or at least I certainly did when I met Ryan [Murphy, creator of The New Normal]. And this really, honestly, was the top, top script I read, by far: my dream role. So it’s kind of ridiculous [laughs sharply]. It’s ridiculous! It’s so cheesy how much I smile; I’m just so happy to be here and to be a part of something that I think is so important.

It’s so funny, because for years and years, television was looked down upon in this country, even though over the years, there have been great shows — you think of All in the Family, you think of M*A*S*H — but it was always sort of scoffed at as a serious medium. And now, over the past few years, it seems as though even the most serious actors are flocking to television, and the quality of the output is just through the roof.

Yeah, and even in our show, we have such a wonderful, great variety of actors. I mean, Ellen Barkin is a film actress; Andrew Rannells is a Broadway star; Bebe Wood is eleven, but she still has a number of credits under her belt; I’ve been doing a lot of British period dramas and comedy shows and films over in the U.K. But the television over here is just something else! I had the pleasure of walking around the American Horror Story sets the other day, and. . . the quality is just insane! It’s amazing.

So, for those who haven’t checked out Normal yet, give me the basic conceit of the series.

Brian and David are a gay couple who are in a committed, loving relationship, and they have reached a point in their lives where they would like to start a family. So they look to get a surrogate, as so many couples choose to do. And my character, Goldie, is a lovely girl from Ohio who has a bigoted grandmother, a cheating husband, and a beautiful daughter. And at the beginning of the show, she’s at a snapping point where she really does feel that she needs to do better for her daughter. She’s trying her best, but she decides to shake it up and try something different. So she gets in the car with her daughter and they just drive. They’re trying to get to Hawaii, and they make it to L.A. For Goldie, it’s really about making a better life for her daughter, and getting so much bravery and courage from her daughter — it’s a wonderful relationship they have — and they meet Brian and David, and Goldie’s good at being a mum, so she wants to help someone else. It’s such a selfless thing to be a surrogate, and it’s a perfect thing for Goldie to do, because she’s so generous. It ends up as this odd mishmash of people who become a family.

You’ve certainly cast your lot with a producing team that seems to have the Midas touch in Ryan Murphy and his group; whether it’s Glee or Nip/Tuck or American Horror Story, it seems as though everything he touches on television turns to gold, both in terms of ratings and cultural penetration.

He’s just so ahead — it’s just extraordinary! We’re filming our show at Paramount [Studios] and Glee and American Horror are also filming there, and so you have all these different little golf cubbies going ‘round; it’s kind of like Ryan Murphy Wonderland! And every show is so different, yet, as you say, so on the money — he seems almost ahead of the times, yet so on the ball. He’s an amazing, amazing man.

Tell me how on earth any of you keep a straight face when you’re working on set. I mean, Andrew seems like a laugh riot; Ellen Barkin is game for anything; NeNe doesn’t have much acting experience, but talk about someone with a natural presence; and that little girl who plays your daughter steals every scene she’s in. It’s wonderful that you guys get even a minute of usable film in the can!

[Laughs] Yeah, I was filming with Michael Hitchcock the other day and I was juuuuuust trying to keep it cool. It was like, “I know everyone wants to go home, the crew is very tired, they’ve been working very hard, six-day weeks.” It’s really wonderful and fun, especially with the improvisation — there’s very little needed, we don’t improvise that much, but Michael is always given free rein on his stuff because he’s a genius. And then Ellen — I mean, to be fair, Ellen is usually having a rant at me, and I’m usually very upset [in scenes with her], so I find it easier to stay in character and not laugh at her stuff —

But she is a riot!

She is sooo fun. We are playing very real characters that go through a lot of pain, and we’re trying to keep them as genuine and real and grounded as possible, so for all the laughs, there are also moments of sadness and struggle. It’s such a wonderful experience for an actor to be able to play such a variety of emotions [in the same piece]. It’s just been amazing. Amazing!

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