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.”
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.”