Each year, Variety brings together the wide-ranging personalities behind the year’s most talked-about television – some old friends, some new – to talk shop in the run-up to awards season. In these exclusive tête-à-têtes, the actors get candid about their struggles and triumphs in the business. Tune in when “Actors on Actors” Season 6 debuts on PBS SoCal on June 13.

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I never wanted anything more in my life than I wanted to be in ‘The Color Purple,’ and have never allowed myself to want anything as much again."

Oprah Winfrey
'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks'

I was more in my activist mind. It was activism and acting combined. And I did feel like that about “Westworld.” I felt that the premise is that these robots are a metaphor for the oppressed of mankind."

Thandie Newton


Thandie Newton on Joining Dope-A– ‘Star Wars’ Franchise

Watch the full conversation here


I just think it’s more satisfying doing television now because I’ve been doing films for 25 years or something. I find that the waiting to work is just intolerable nowadays. And in television, you don’t wait very much because you have to do so much in a day. And I like that."

Ewan McGregor

The thing I love about television is that you are in people’s lives regularly. And the connection that way is intense, and it makes me feel very much a part of the world — far more connected to the world than in a film."

Nicole Kidman
'Big Little Lies'


Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor Share 'Moulin Rouge' Memories

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Sarah Jessica

The rules sort of develop as [your children] age. And before I knew it, I was impossible to hire because I just had all these demands."

Michelle Pfeiffer
'The Wizard of Lies'

Television is doing better by some of those areas that were, I think, legitimately criticized for lack of diversity and gender. And television seems to — not by force, but really naturally — come to female directors and writers more."

Sarah Jessica Parker


Michelle Pfeiffer Opens Up About Tackling ‘Daunting’ Role of Ruth Madoff in ‘Wizard of Lies’

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‘This Is Us’ absolutely shifts the perspective dial just about five degrees in one direction to where you go, ‘I can’t unfeel what I felt; I can’t unsee what I’ve seen. Now I need to approach life differently.’ You try to inspire good, and hope, and just like your show, you inspire thought."

Milo Ventimiglia
'This is us'

There were not a lot of people that I saw who looked like me in film and television, so there was not a real role model [for me]. It took John Ridley to come into my life and take me down a whole new different journey, one that I’d never been on and one that I would want to do over and over again with someone like him."

Freida Pinto


Milo Ventimiglia Says Producers Wanted Someone 'Completely Different' for His 'This Is Us' Role.

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Millie Bobby
Evan Rachel

When I read a script and I feel so passionate about it, I can’t catch my breath. The vulnerability was the most challenging and the best part of playing Eleven because she could have these two sides to her. She could be completely crazy and super protective. I related to her; I’m protective of my 5-year-old sister."

Millie Bobby Brown
'Stranger THIngs'

I didn’t really understand the craft or the power of [acting] until I started watching films like ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘The Miracle Worker.’ I saw the young girls in [them] and I identified with them in a way that I wasn’t seeing in other films about children. That was the first time I thought, ‘This is serious — I can do this.’"

Evan Rachel Wood


Evan Rachel Wood's Advice to Millie Bobby Brown Involves Licking Toilet.

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You talk about [Churchill's] vulnerabilities and sadness and insecurity: that’s exactly what I worked from. I was playing him as a very old man with a whole new set of insecurities — old age and death and loss of viability. And of course he was incredibly powerful and arrogant."

John Lithgow
'The Crown'

I loved the character, but I also felt like if
he’s just going to be a complete asshole, I didn’t really know what I could do with it beyond that."

KEvin Bacon
'I Love Dick'


Kevin Bacon and John Lithgow Reminisce About Filming 'Footloose'

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I think there’s something to be said about committing to one kind of rhythm for a certain period of time so that you can hone that craft. So if I ever stop being this restless, then maybe I’ll find a way of doing that."

Riz Ahmed
'The Night Of'

I truly believe that the people you work with truly do make you better. And I want to learn from the people that I work with so I
can become better."

Elisabeth Moss
'The Handmaid's Tale'


Riz Ahmed Ripped Danny Boyle's Shirt During 'Slumdog Millionaire' Audition.

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Sterling K.

Every time my mom talks in the house, I’m kind of like, “I don’t need any more. Please, don’t do anything else. I’m fine. I’ve got, like, 10 seasons under my belt with you."

Pamela Adlon
'Better THings'

Anytime I can play somebody who’s a fish out of water or who’s facing a huge life decision, that’s particularly appealing to me."

Sterling K. Brown
'This is Us'


Sterling K. Brown Reveals Which Crude 'Louie' Line Delighted 'Black America'

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A lot of actresses had a very difficult time metabolizing how to play this part because [Maya is] not immensely likable. She’s difficult. She’s a hurricane of a person. I got that there’s comedy in what’s difficult, and there’s great heart in what’s difficult, and that messy, harsh characters are funny and heartwarming."

Minnie Driver

You can reveal so much more humanity I think via comedy than you can often in drama. You have to be more subtle in drama is something I had to learn because I had done mostly comedy. So I felt that I had to learn to just tone it back. The camera can do so much for you as a dramatic actor. The camera can watch you think"

Christine Baranski
'The Good Fight'


Christine Baranski Reveals 'Single Hardest' Role of Her Career

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“It’s a very collaborative environment, which is, I think, what makes the show so good. Because stuff that doesn’t feel like we can do it naturally, we have to work on it. And so far, so good. We’ve all found ways to make what they want to get across and what I need to help me get it across."

Constance Zimmer

Meryl Streep said that when she was reading a script and she bumped up against something that she didn’t like or didn’t want to do or didn’t think was true to the character, that very often it was the key to the character. I think that’s such an interesting dialogue because you become so possessive of these people you play."

Lauren Graham
'Gilmore Girls'


Lauren Graham Didn’t Know Final Four Words on ‘Gilmore Girls’ Until Last Minute

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I started to feel a moral imperative to write, that there was no way to be an actress in the way I wanted to be if I didn’t teach myself to write."

Brit Marling
'The Oa'

I wrote to put an image out [in the world] that I wasn’t seeing. I talked so much about why aren’t other people creating roles that are diverse and [instead] are stereotypical. And so in writing roles for other people and directing and being behind the scenes, I accidentally cast myself"

Issa Rae


Why Brit Marling Felt a ‘Moral Imperative to Write’

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At an early age, I believed that this is what my energy was created for. I was 9 years old. I only wanted to be three things: I wanted to play football for the Dallas Cowboys. I wanted to be a lawyer. And I wanted to be an actor. And I realized that if I became an actor, I could become all of those things."

Anthony Anderson

My character has kind of become me at this point. At the beginning, she might have been the cute girl next door, but she’s completely become sarcastic, fun. And yeah, it’s become part of me. You’re trying to keep a character interesting, but it comes down to the writing. You can only do so much if you don’t have those magical words."

Kaley Couco
'The Big Bang Theory'


Anthony Anderson on How 'Black-ish' Paved the Way for More Minority Representation on TV

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I remember taking a technical class, and it was very specific about doing scene study and taking a drink at a certain time, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be ridiculous. But it just was mind-blowing because I was like, 'Oh, you can have your own instincts, and then you can also add this other stuff that’s very specific.'"

Kaitlin Olson
'The Mich'

I discovered Method acting and Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro and started getting educated in that way. And I remember learning about some of the techniques in improvising. One of the things is you don’t disagree — you say yes. We did it and we got a laugh, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is actually working.'"



Kaitlin Olson, Giovanni Ribisi Share Their Audition Horror Stories

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