Lizzy Caplan can always sit with us. Sure, she scored an Emmy nomination for playing sex research pioneer Virginia Johnson in Showtime’s Masters of Sex, which returns July 12 for a third season, but it was Caplan’s performance as snarky outcast Janis Ian in Mean Girls that earned her a special place at our lunch table.
The Advocate: You grew up in Los Angeles. What was your introduction to the LGBT community?
Lizzy Caplan: I can’t remember a time in my life without gay people. My uncle [publicist Howard Bragman] is a power gay, and I spent so much of my childhood at his house. I’d never even think twice about why his pool parties were all guys with amazing bodies in really tiny bathing suits. It wasn’t an issue. My dad is this very liberal Jewish guy, but one time he was at one of these parties, reading a book in the sun, when this guy brought out a big boombox, sat it beside my dad, and did a full flag dance right next to him. Seeing my father just sitting there, trying to read his historical biography, is one of my favorite memories ever.
Was your high school experience anything like Janis Ian’s in Mean Girls?
I went to a performing arts high school where being odd or different was appreciated. It was actually cooler to be gay than straight. If I were a lesbian, I would’ve been so much more popular. Remember the Delia’s catalog? I used to get a bunch of clothes from Delia’s because it was the bomb, and there was this one model in the catalog who was so beautiful and seemed very cool. I decided that in order to fit in with the older musical theater guys, the coolest guys in school, I would try really hard to fall in love with this girl. I’d cut out her pictures, paste them on my binders, and tell all the gay boys I had a thing for this chick.
It sounds like you were more interested in the gay boys.
I definitely had a friend-crush on this kid Benji. He was so cute and rad. Everything he did or said was hilarious. We’d drive around in his car and, when giving directions, we weren’t allowed to say, “Go straight.” We had to say, “Go gaily forward.” I thought that was lovely. One of my best friends in high school was this kid Max, who’s still one of my best friends. He is the gayest man I know. He was always ridiculously popular because he’s flamboyant and hilarious and smart and wonderful. We were roommates forever.
That must’ve been fun.
Yeah, well, he moved out after he saw me totally naked, spread-eagle on my bed. It my 23rd birthday or something and I’d passed out after a long night of drinking with friends. He came in to check on me and saw things he never wanted to see in his life.