This year’s field of Golden Globe nominees for best actress in a miniseries consists of four Oscar-winning performers — who between them now have a combined 42 Golden Globe nominations — and one actress who had yet to receive any recognition from a major awards group: Jessica Biel.
Biel was justly included amongst the stars of Big Little Lies and Feud: Bette and Joan in the category for her turn as a traumatized woman in The Sinner, USA’s critically acclaimed mystery-thriller costarring Bill Pullman. The series marked Biel’s most substantial dramatic acting role, as well as her biggest behind-the-scenes endeavor to date: As an executive producer, she’s also sharing in the show’s nomination for best miniseries, the second time ever a USA production has been included in the category. Safe to say, this is a high point in her career.
Biel, who has been acting for more than two decades, could hardly contain her shock or elation when speaking about the news of her and her show’s nominations with EW. In our post-announcement interview, the actress also discussed where she was when she learned she’d been nominated, what it’s like to be recognized beside the likes of Jessica Lange and Nicole Kidman, and how she might be involved in a potential second season of The Sinner. Read on below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, first things first: Congratulations, this is pretty great news. What’s the feeling right now?
JESSICA BIEL: Thank you! A little in shock, to be honest with you! You never think, “Oh yeah, my show’s going to get nominated. That’s going to be fun.” There were so many amazing things and so many great, incredible actors — like, there’s no way! So you kind of go into it with this “Who knows?” attitude, trying not to get so excited in case it doesn’t come through.
How did you hear the news?
It’s so funny, this morning, I had this one day. I’m away from my kid actually — my kid is staying with my mom — and I was like, “I’m going to sleep in!” I turned my phone off. I kind of forgot! And then someone started calling my home line, and I was like, “What! Who is doing this to me? This is so cruel and unusual.” And I grabbed the phone going, “Hello?!” And it was my assistant, Nicole. She goes, “Hey, it’s going to be one of those days.” I was like, “Oh my God! All right.” It was this really funny turn — I was mad, she was waking me up, what’s going on? It was my one day to sleep in, and then I got this incredible news. It’s just a shock. It’s still like, “Oh, wow, hold on.” It’s really cool. Something that I and my partner Michelle Purple are so proud of and we worked so hard on. It’s just awesome. You’re a part of so many things over the years in your career that you go, “Eh, maybe that wasn’t my most favorite project.” But this one particularly is very close to my heart and just something that I’m really proud of. I’m thrilled. I don’t know what else to say. I’m proud of it.
Where does this precise moment rank for you in your career, as a working actor?
It’s one of those things where you always hope you would be lucky enough to be a part of a nominated committee of women or of great projects. But you just never know and the competition is fierce. I never really thought this would happen. This, for me, is a huge high moment. In this business, the moments can come and go really quickly, so you’ve got to seize these good ones. I’m just grateful. I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to work with a partner in USA that wanted to bring this hardcore material, and that I had an opportunity to even do something and give a performance like this. I just haven’t had that in my career. It’s just incredible. It’s a huge moment — one of the top moments for me.
You have fewer producing credits, so with The Sinner getting nominated for best limited series, you have a pretty good track record so far.
That’s a great point, actually! You can look at it both ways. At least it’s not a big list of embarrassments, right? [Laughs]
You’re among several shows which attracted a lot of buzz this year for centering on strong, complicated women, who are played by several Oscar-winning actresses. What’s it like being recognized alongside them?
It’s shocking. That word is going to come up for me a lot today because these are the women that I’ve admired and grew up watching and grew up learning from, and thought, “Oh, maybe one day, maybe I’d meet them.” And then I did. And I’m moving around in the same business as these incredible, talented women. It feels like the biggest honor to be in the same category — just in the same category, I’m winning. I already won! It’s the way it feels to me. Whatever happens from here, fine. Just my name underneath all these women’s names, next to their names, it’s a thing of dreams. I called my mom this morning and we were screaming together on the phone. She’s been with me my whole career since my first job on Seventh Heaven, when we pulled our car over on Sunset Boulevard and screamed at each other, when I got that role. It’s just these moments where you’re like, “Wow, it’s been quite a journey.” I don’t know if I 100 percent feel like I deserve it necessarily [laughs], but to be there is really special.
Coming off of such a successful first year, is there anything you can tease about a potential season 2 of The Sinner or your involvement?
It’s a really good question. We are really hoping to hear soon if we get to come back or not. Initially, the show was genuinely conceived as a limited series so it was a surprise to us as well that, with the amazing viewership and the incredible journey that this show has taken, it was even a possibility to come back. Even getting over that has been interesting. But now that it is a possibility, we are really diving deeply with our creative team, our writers’ room. We’re hoping to set it up and see if we can come up with some amazing and interesting stories. If we get to come back, we’re starting fresh again. I will definitely be involved in some way! I hope somebody writes me into the show, if we can figure it out. We will figure it out if it’s possible, but we want to be authentic to the show. We want to do what’s right for the show as opposed to what’s right for me.
The 75th annual Golden Globes, hosted by Seth Meyers, air Jan. 7 on NBC.