Melora Hardin has done it all. She’s been involved with more movies and television shows that you can probably recall, but she’s one of the most consistent actresses working today. This year, Hardin earned her first Emmy® nomination for playing the confident Tammy on Amazon’s beloved Transparent. In the show’s second episode, Tammy crashes a party while the scars of her recently dissolved marriage to Sarah Pfefferman (Amy Landecker) haven’t even healed yet. In the hands of a less experienced actress, the appearance in the episode probably wouldn’t have had the emotional heft that Hardin brings to the brief moment.
When I spoke to Hardin about her work on the second season, she talked about the filming process of Transparent with such openness and heart that you could tell the nomination was a welcome addition to an already extraordinary experience.
Congratulations on your first ever Emmy nomination! How does it feel to be nominated with Transparent?
Oh, my God! It’s unbelievably exciting as you can imagine. I was totally shocked and just thrilled.
People say that Transparent is an important show. Is that something that everyone is conscious of while filming the episodes?
I think that we are very aware and very conscious of it because (show creator) Jill Solloway’s intention was to change the world. That’s what she always said when she was going around and pitching to all the major networks. I think that’s been held reverently on set in the making of the show. We start every season with Joan Scheckel who is one of Jill’s mentors. We basically start every season with Joan Scheckel and just doing physical exercises and connecting and talking about the arc of the season—the overarching theme of the season. The idea of doing something important is held absolutely in every moment of making the show. On top of that, the joy of playing such a rich character like Tammy, as an actor, I have the wonderful benefit of feeling that we are doing good in the world as a person.
I’ve always thought that Tammy is very charismatic and very confident
Your episode submission was very, very intense and really sad. Was that whole pool scene difficult to shoot because it was such an intense moment?
You know, it’s funny. There is nothing difficult about working on the set of Transparent. It’s so joyful because it’s rich and everything is really held in such love. As actors, what do we want? We want opportunities to stretch and to go places that we don’t go in our everyday lives, and I had that opportunity. It was really quite glorious to be honest (laughs). It feels really good to hook into the truth of a character and allow her to come through me that is, in a way, cathartic.
The show deals a lot with identity—gender and personal. Would you say that Tammy is, at least outwardly, one of the most assured characters on the show?
Oh, yeah, definitely. That was one of the things that I always liked about her. Everybody else was waffling around trying to figure out who they are, but she knows who she is. I’m not saying that she’s not a mess. She’s an addict in season two and has to get herself back together. She’s very clear in her sexuality and who she is. She’s been a lesbian since she was five—knew that since she was born. I don’t think that’s what drove her drink. It was more of other insecurities of being out in the world.
You have such an amazing chemistry with Amy Landecker (who should have been nominated for Supporting Actress). Can you tell me a little bit about working with her?
I’d love to tell you about that! Everyone always asks, “How do you create the chemistry with her?” Creating chemistry with any actor is the same. (Laughs) It takes two people that dive in 150 percent. That’s all it takes. The thing that I can say that I love the most—and there’s a lot I love about her—but the most is that she jumps in with the surprise and risk with both feet. I think we were both very fearless in that together and we kind of held each other safely in that space. We did a lot of very risky stuff together. That’s the thing that creates that chemistry. We both have a lot of fun with each other with our characters and we enjoy each other. We come to it with 100 percent commitment from where the character is coming from. It’s a benefit that she’s a lot of fun.
Has to make it a lot easier. (Laughs)
One of the best moments of the show (and my personal favorite) has to be that long shot that starts the first episode of the second season. I thought that was going to be the entire episode!
(Laughs) It is like an 8 minute shot!
What was your personal favorite thing to film the entire second season?
That moment was really fun, because it was fully improvised. Setting that kind of stage was kind of fun because we got to behave as our character. That was an amazing moment. Also during the wedding when she starts to almost hallucinate and the whole thing becomes kind of a hallucinatory drug experience. We did some really crazy stuff—I can’t actually remember how much of it remembered in the episode. It was also about 105 degrees where we were filming, so everyone was just dripping with sweat and boiling hot and so uncomfortable and it was so great for the scene.
I can just tell through the phone how much you love being on set. I can hear you smiling. You clearly have an affection for this show.
I do have an affection for the whole experience, you know? The characters and what we’re doing in the world and opening up people’s minds and hearts through laughter and love is so incredible. To be honest, it’s so wonderful to be doing stuff that has meaning beyond your own self. To be able to be on a show that’s doing good things in a time right now with a political atmosphere that’s so fear-based. To be on something that’s saying, “No, let’s open up our hearts and embrace how culturally rich and socially diverse we are as a culture–as a country.” It just turns me on as a person. That’s what I want to be saying in the world. I just think that’s a beautiful, beautiful aspect to be in America. To be on a show that’s stretching and challenging people to think differently and feel differently and to embrace the people who have been other-ized to me is really profound.
The trailer for the third season just dropped recently. Can you give us any details about Tammy without spoiling anything?
Well, I can tell you that I’m not in Season 3. (Laughs) There you go! I might be in Season 4, but I’m not in Season 3.
I don’t like that news at all!
I don’t like it either, but that’s the way it is. (Laughs)
I had no idea that you had done some musical theater.
I found a video of you as Fantine in Les Miserables, and you’re so great! I was wondering if you’d be down to go into left field with your next project and do a full-fledged musical or TV musical?
Are you kidding? That’d be a dream come true.
Baz Luhrmann has that new Netflix show, The Get Down. We have to work you into something like that.
Exactly. Let’s push that.
I played Roxie on Broadway in Chicago for three months when I was on hiatus from The Office. I am one of those people that there’s nothing more gratifying to than being completely used up. In other words, using everything that I have and bringing it to the table. I have been dancing since I was five. I’ve been singing all my life. I’ve been acting professionally since I was size, so to be able to act, sing and dance all at once eight times a week was heaven on a stick. So you basically don’t even need to pay me, and I’ll show up. (Laughs) When you write your musical, call me back.
I definitely will!