Michaela Watkins on the Challenge of Finally Landing a Long-Term Role in ‘Casual’

“I felt like I really want to chew the meat. I just really want to get to know somebody in a consistent way.” – Michaela Watkins on Her Role in ‘Casual’

Actress/comedian Michaela Watkins was briefly a cast member of Saturday Night Live in the 2008-2009 season, which in some ways encapsulates her career — a veteran performer who has had a series of short-term roles. Aside from a regular role on the short-lived Trophy Wife, most of her credits are for one episode or short-term arcs on various television series until she was cast as the lead in the Hulu series Casual, playing a divorced single mother named Valerie who engages with a series of casual sex partners. In a conversation with Moviefone, Watkins explains why the series has been so important to her in terms of allowing her to finally work with material on a long-term basis.

She explains:

When Casual came about and I auditioned for it, and I found out I got it, I was so thrilled, because it was exactly what I wanted to do next. It was like the exact thing I wanted. I love all the work I do, the opportunities, and those are all wonderful, and I get to do some really fun roles. But that’s it. They’re fun roles that sort of pop in, give some information, and then the story continues, and then they leave. I felt like I really want to chew the meat. I just really want to get to know somebody in a consistent way.

I love coming in and changing character, costume, and face, and age, and all those things. That’s fun. I’ve come from improv and sketch comedy as well, and theater. But I really never — other than Trophy Wife, which was a very short-lived show, SNL was a sketch show — I never got to really sustain one character, who’s got a depth of field like Valerie does. This is a dream come true for me.

It’s also considered a comedy, but I guess we can call it a dramedy. It’s a challenge because I know I have to pull back on the jokes. I know a funny reading of whatever it is, but that’s not the character. That’s not the tone of the show. That’s not the intention. And the challenge more is, don’t be funny on this line. This is who they are. This is how they live. Not everything I say I do as a joke.

More so than Valerie, certainly. I’m a sillier person than she is. Valerie has a sense of humor, it’s just not what she leads with. To really commit to that character, I have to commit to that, too. Sometimes I’m like, “I know what the funny version is, but I can’t do it. I can’t do it.” I know what it is, but I can’t do it.