We all do good things and we all do bad things,” smiles Naomi Watts. “And this character struggles with both worlds, good and bad. I thought that was a great opportunity – men get to play those roles mainly.”
On one level, Gypsy, the new Netflix drama in which Watts plays therapist Jean Holloway, is a charged, exciting psychodrama, in which the doctor finds herself drawn in dangerously close to the lives of her patients. On the other, it’s one more notable step forward in an industry that has just turned another key “medical” professional, Doctor Who, from a man into a woman (Jodie Whittaker recently being announced as the person taking over the scarf from Peter Capaldi). Gypsy stars Watts and Sophie Cookson, was created by showrunner Lisa Rubin and had its first two episodes directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy and Fifty Shades of Grey, among others).
“Is there a different energy, working with women?” repeats Watts when asked about this series’ all-female key collaborators. “Yes and no. I think with women we probably expect a lot from each other. And we get close very quickly. The experiences I’ve had with women have all been pretty great. I love that a woman is telling a woman’s story – it just makes a lot of sense. We are witnessing a change, and it’s not just taking place in our industry.”
As for the parallels that have been drawn between Gypsy and the movie role that truly saw her break out, playing both Betty and Diane in David Lynch’s awesome mindbender Mulholland Dr. in 1999, Watts sees the reference points but doesn’t buy into them wholesale. “I suppose the comparison to be made for me is the living of a double life, that lining up with the Betty and Diane duality of which one is real and which one isn’t,” she says. “But otherwise they are two different things. One is grounded in truth, the other in a heightened reality, a surreal world.”
Watts chuckles when we remind her the last time she committed to a long-term TV series was back in 1997, on the nonsense sci-fi Sleepwalkers. “And that lasted all of a minute!” she laughs. “But that was a different time in my career. That was just a job. Now, with the film industry bottoming out, a lot of the best stories are going to TV...”
Gypsy is on Netflix now.