Talk about irony. As Carol Rance, the network executive working above the perpetually frustrated writers Sean and Beverly Lincoln (Stephan Mangan and Tamsin Greig) while they try to navigate the choppy waters of American television, Perkins is called upon to be almost schizophrenic. Carol is part of the faux-network machine, carrying on an affair with her boss Merc Lapidus (John Pankow) while at the same time developing an odd friendship with Beverly. She might be missing a piece or two.
And then there's Perkins herself, who is about as hilarious as the show she's currently starring in, bright and charismatic and able to laugh at how dysfunctional a role she's playing, or even herself. But that's why they call it acting, isn't it?
Her path to acting started in high school, then as a musical theater major in college. "I never had another minor or another major. I never learned another skill, because I thought if I did that, I'm not going to put my all into this acting thing," she confides during a recent interview, then adds with a laugh. "But looking back now, it would have been so nice to know how to do something else!"
She relates a story that's probably familiar to many struggling actors out there today: "My last job was with Merrill Lynch as a receptionist, and I lied about so many things just to be able to get out of work for auditions," she says. "I remember making up so many stories. I had a boyfriend at the time and told them that he had cut his hand [and] I had to rush him to the hospital, he had to go in for surgery. I probably killed off my grandmother. My last day, I got a pilot, and I had to call in to work. The next week I came in with a letter of resignation and that same day they called me into the office and fired me."
Yet it's those types of stories that make Perkins so perfect for her role in Episodes: because she's been in the trenches like so many other hopefuls past and present, there's a certain sweet satisfaction in being on the other side of the table. When she's turning the screws, she knows exactly what it feels like.
"When I got the job, I was so excited, and that excitement kind of wound down and now I had to go about figuring out how to do the character," she explains. "I realized 'Oh, shit, I have to find some kind of sympathy for a character who's basically based off the type of people who've been rejecting me for seven years. These are all my enemies. This character is basically kind of my enemy.'
"I had to kind of figure out how these people do what they do, because they're slightly schizophrenic and diabolical. They're the ones who say yes and no in the same sentence. The amount of turnover in those executive jobs is insane. They're fearing for their jobs, unless you have some kind of a breakthrough." But the role also has its perks, she concedes with another laugh: "And then it's just really fun to watch other people audition and tell people how they should fire actors."
But Perkins has definitely done what she set out to do: as frustrating as Carol can often be, there's a certain sympathetic quality to her, a sense that she's almost caught in the middle as she's trying to appease Merc and maintain a friendship with Beverly. Both of those relationships are something you'll see more of in the second season of Episodes.