Emma Caulfield might be first recognizable to genre fans after having played the charming vengeance demon Anya on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but that’s not how she ended up playing a pivotal supporting role in Disney+’s WandaVision. Instead, the actress just so happened to have starred in the 2009 sci-fi indie film TiMER, written and directed by Jac Schaeffer.
Schaeffer, who, as head writer of WandaVision, has since gone on to bring the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s wildest new entry to life, brought Caulfield in to play the key role of Dottie, a Westview resident who seems to be playing multiple layers of one woman. Below, Caulfield talks about the process of being brought into the MCU for this show, how she approached Dottie’s unnerving scene in Episode 2, “Don’t Touch that Dial,” and whether or not the changing of time periods changes the nature of Dottie’s character.
[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for WandaVision, Season 1, Episode 3, “Now In Color.”]
Collider: So to start off, I’m guessing your involvement with WandaVision comes from knowing Jac Schaeffer, but I’d love for you to tell the story of how you joined the show in your own words.
EMMA CAULFIELD: Well, she asked me to play and I said yes. I was lucky enough to get TiMER 10 years ago. I really wanted that movie. And I just loved it and I love her and we just stayed close since then. And we wanted to work together since then many, many times and it just never worked out. And this did. And she’s like, “Well, you got my vote. I just need Kevin Feige to sign off on you and then you’re good to go.”
So I did a little song and dance, not literally but metaphorically somewhat. And [Feige] gave me his stamp and that was it. And then I was off to Atlanta. And I was just so happy because I love her so much. So, having it be a Marvel project was just incredibly awesome gravy on top of already sick mashed potatoes. It’s like just the most amazing meal.
How did Jac explain it to you, when she first approached you about it?
CAULFIELD: She couldn’t tell me anything. Well, once I was hired then I was given information, but when she first brought it to me it was, “Your name’s Dottie and you’re just kind of mean.” And that’s all, “Just go be pretty and mean. Go do that funny thing you do. Just go do that thing. Be awesome,” or something like that. She’s like, “Go put on the Emma show and come to Atlanta.”
And I’m like, “That’s it?” She’s like, “I really can’t tell you anything, but wear something kind of mid-century. I can tell you that. Just look a little mid-century, 20th century.” I was like, “Okay.”
That was part of the dog and pony show for Kevin Feige?
CAULFIELD: Yeah, I couldn’t know anything because if I… Yeah, I couldn’t know anything. So once I got to Atlanta and I got a script I was like, “Oh wow! This is so cool. This is so interesting. Wow!” Now I’m even more excited to be part of this, as if I wasn’t already super excited. I was just like, “This is going to be so fun, people are going to love it.”
So we’ve seen now three episodes, so we can talk a little bit at least about what the show is actually about, which I imagine is a huge relief for you.
CAULFIELD: It is. I know a lot of people want to know, “Well, what else?” I’m like, “I can’t talk about what else, but I can talk about what’s happened.” And you’ve already seen it so then it’s more like, “Can I help explain something to you?” I don’t fully understand it myself. I’m kidding. I do. But it’s a wild ride for sure. It would make sense if people are confused right now. That’s a totally normal reaction to have.
Well, let’s talk about one scene in particular, when you have the moment where you’re hearing the voice on the radio and Dottie seems scared. I’m not going to ask you to explain what that is because you won’t tell me, but I will ask you to say when you were going into that moment where Dottie is scared — how were you approaching that? What was your thought process?
CAULFIELD: What was my thought process of that? Well, as an actor I knew why, but an actor having knowledge and your character having knowledge, those are two different things. So for that particular moment, there’s a shift in reality there. It’s like waking up from, or being drunk or something. Like waking up in your bed and you have no idea how you got there. You’re just like, “What the fuck? What’s going on?”
It’s probably maybe not the best example, but I’m trying to give another example — like, when I traveled a lot and I woke up in my hotel room and I was like, “Wait a minute, where am I? What hotel am I… Oh, that’s right. Okay. Right. You’re in Toronto right now. Cool.” But at that moment, especially when you wake up in the middle of the night and it’s dark and you just don’t have your bearings for a second, it can be like, “What’s happening?” So though it’s not like that, that’s kind of way it was. She doesn’t understand what’s happening — and then doesn’t remember not understanding.
But she didn’t know what was happening. So, it was a challenging scene to do. I’ll say that. It was a technically difficult scene to do. There were a lot of moving parts to that scene and there were a lot of different emotions and levels running through that scene. It was just a lot riding on that scene, so that needed to be perfect and I was never happy with it. I never was quite happy with what I did. What I saw, the final product was much better than what I saw in my head. But it’s a very cool shot too. The whole thing is just very interesting.
Absolutely. One question that really fascinates me about the whole show is the fact that you are playing this character across multiple eras. What went into the discussion around, you know, you’re playing Dottie, but now Dottie’s in the 1970s and she’s asking “do I look fat in this?” What was key to you about playing that character across multiple eras?
CAULFIELD: Well, who Dottie needed to be for the show… I don’t know how to answer this question. There are certain truisms about Dottie that weren’t going to shift no matter what time period she was in. So as far as little pieces that they unfold, like for that particular scene, it seems very throwaway. It’s a quick, fairly unimportant moment, but it actually isn’t because when she presents herself and she’s outside of the house, she’s completely in charge and put together and has no doubt. She doesn’t second guess anything. There’s no needing of approval or asking someone’s opinion, but she does behind closed doors. And so it’s a simple throwaway, but I think it’s telling.
New episodes of WandaVision stream Fridays on Disney+.
It will be interesting to see how this plan changes the distribution landscape.
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