Fans of Showtime’s new and critically acclaimed drama Masters of Sex — which stars Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as pioneering human sexuality researchers Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson — quickly fell in love with the show’s subtle seductiveness and deft direction and acting.
And as Season 2 nears its 10 p.m. Sunday premiere, Masters of Sex has added another delicious wrinkle, welcoming The Game star Jay Ellis as the no-nonsense Dr. Cyril Franklin, who must reluctantly share his office with Dr. Masters.
To say the role is a departure for Ellis, who is typically cast as an athletic ladies’ man, is a massive understatement.
“Usually, I go in and play the sports guy or the funny guy or a lover, the leading guy who has to take his shirt off or something ridiculous,” Ellis said, “so it’s nice to get to do some other stuff and stretch and expand.”
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Especially when you were a “huge fan” of the show even before you were cast.
“I watched every single episode last year while I was on production of The Game,” says Ellis. “When you’re in these things, it’s just going and going and going. But my Sundays, for that one hour at 9 p.m., that was my little break, to watch Masters of Sex — and Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan are phenomenal.”
The character of Dr. Franklin adds a touch of racial tension, although like everything else in the series, it’s handled with rare nuance.
“I don’t think Cyril has an issue with a white doctor coming into his hospital,” says Ellis. “I think he takes issue with a white doctor coming into his hospital and completely taking over. His successful practice has now been pushed to the side for a bigger name. It’s a much more personal thing for him than a civil-rights thing.”
Ellis was also pleased with how the show nailed the 1950s décor and wardrobe.
“To get to play a period piece is always an amazing thing,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun to wear clothes that, to me, felt way too small, but actually probably fit my body perfect [laughs]. It was really cool.”
Ellis has been plenty busy — he starts production on The Game again in September; is featured in the upcoming rom-com November Rule executive-produced by Queen Latifah; and is producing the film Lemonade, starring Tom Sadoski, Hannah Simone and Marisa Tomei, which will start shooting later this summer. But he still jumped at the chance to be a part of Masters of Sex.
“I auditioned for it, and they said they’d love for me to play Dr. Franklin, and would I be interested,” he said. “And I didn’t really even need to read over the material, because I would have said yes no matter what.”