Jeffrey Tambor's Transformation | EW.com

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Jeffrey Tambor's Transformation

After creating some of TV's most memorable supporting characters (including ''Arrested Development'''s double-trouble twins George and Oscar Bluth), the 70-year-old digs his heels (literally) into the role of his career: a transgender head of household who transitions from Mort to Maura on Amazon's groundbreaking, critically lauded series ''Transparent;'' Tambor chatted with EW about the makings of ''Moppa.''

Congrats on the show! I burned through it in a single afternoon.
You’re all done? Wow. Someone tweeted that they were on their second time around. When I was a kid, we got up, we walked a number of paces to a television, turned it on, and changed channels. There was one television in the living room, and we all sat around on Sundays and watched Ed Sullivan.

Have you watched it yet?
I’m on it now. I don’t binge. I’m still a two-see and three-see.

When you first read the script, did it strike you as more of a comedy or a drama?
I read funny. You know, in dance, there’s the plié, and there’s a great plié in [creator Jill Soloway]’s work. It’s all grounded. I didn’t laugh out loud, but I knew it was humorous in a Chekhovian sense. The thing that got me was that it was true.

When it came to Maura, did you have a lot of input into what the character would look like?
I had a lot to say in terms of just bringing my body in, and they had to put whatever they had to put on it. But the look is mostly [from] conversations with Jill and our esteemed costumer, Marie Schley. I remember Marie turning to me in my first fitting, saying, ”What do you like?” And I said, ”I have no idea!” It was an interesting ride. Not unlike the ride Maura would have, because she has to learn, and she’s very new into her transition.

Did you draw inspiration from anyone in particular in terms of the look or gait?
Certainly not on the walk and talk — that’s me and that’s my arthritic left knee. One of my favorite pleasures of this, besides the whole revolution going on within this TV show, is Maura’s also ”of age.” This isn’t Sandra Dee. This is Maura Pfefferman, who’s 70 years old and making a break for her authentic freedom, and that’s courageous. And I think she becomes a true parent because of that — a much better parent than Mort. The interesting question being asked is ”If I do change and must change, will you still be there? Will you still love me?” That’s what the show is about, and those who get to the end realize this is about a modern family where everybody’s in transition.

Did you pull a Daniel Day-Lewis and stay in character as Maura on set?
My wig person, Marie Larkin, said, ”When you get into Maura, you change, almost metabolically.” I do change, not in the sort of diva/Method way, but Maura is a new, transformative character for me, so yes, I kept her very close. I was learning Maura, and Maura was learning me. I was very comfortable being Maura. It wasn’t easy, but I really liked it. I remember one day walking on the set with my daughter, and I walked over in shorts and a sweatshirt, and people were treating me different, hardly recognizing me. And I thought, That’s a little strange, but then I thought, Oh, good, Maura is real to these people.

Did you and the team discuss Maura’s look evolving?
We did, and we knew the gray-haired ponytail would sort of evolve to another level. I was very, very comfortable with that look. I liked it.

You do notice Maura’s attire becoming more thoughtful over the season’s episodes.
She’s learning! Maura doesn’t even know how to make [herself] up at the beginning, and it’s very true. That’s what’s so real about it.

Have you gotten any feedback from the trans community?
Yesterday I got a message because I appeared on MSNBC, and right after I got something from someone who had just come out in her 50s, and she thanked me, and it was a really heartfelt note. I responded, and she kept my email, saying she’d keep it forever. I haven’t heard anything derogatory and probably won’t. I have to say, we are not the answer, but we are part of the answer, definitely. And part of moving the conversation forward.

Anything you can tell us about a second season?
Of course we’re hopeful. I want to do so many seasons. We’re waiting, and I’m sure there’s a process to it, but I’m very hopeful.