EXCLUSIVE: How Olivia Wilde Channeled the Raw Energy of Giving Birth Into 'Vinyl'

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Four weeks after giving birth to her first child with fiancé
Jason Sudeikis in late-April 2014, Olivia Wilde was back to work, filming the
pilot for what would become the HBO period drama, Vinyl, her first major TV series since becoming a star for playing Dr.
Remy "Thirteen" Hadley on FOX’s House.
The decision to join Vinyl was made
after a careful determination she wouldn’t be undervalued or trapped on the

While that short of a turnaround time might make other new
moms hesitate, it was exactly what the actress needed to embody Devon Finestra,
a former actress from Andy Warhol’s Factory scene who was now a mother and wife
to a drug-addled record executive played by Bobby Cannavale.

“Emotionally I think you're quite raw after you've giving
birth,” Wilde tells ET about this “enormous amount of energy” she needed to
expend. “Actually, the creative outlet is a kind of a wonderful way to express
it and I felt lucky because I wondered about so many women who give birth and
then are tensed up in their houses, breastfeeding, feeling like cattle. They have
no outlet for all this incredible inspiration that comes out of the experience
of giving birth.”

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“I was like, ‘Wow, I get to pour this into something.’ So, I
actually felt really available,” Wilde continues, explaining that she’s
thankful it wasn’t some horrible B-movie, which may have in turn been a
miserable experience unlike the one she enjoyed on the set of Vinyl, working alongside Cannavale and
being directed by Martin Scorsese, who helmed the two-hour premiere. “It was
like, ‘OK, this is a safe place I can use all this creative energy that I

Though, she’s quick to admit there were physical challenges
that come with being a mother of a newborn that she had to work through. “Aside
from the physical discomfort of having to go pump every 40 minutes” -- [Laughs] -- “ it was somehow kind of
useful,” Wilde says.

What ended up onscreen was a deeply emotional woman,
exhausted with trying to keep her husband, Richie, sober and rear two children
alone in the suburbs. After Richie falls off the wagon, Devon takes refuge in
the city, renewing her confidence and creative energy. From the onset of the
series, it was easy to view Devon as another Betty Draper-type tied down to a
despondent husband, but Wilde says she never thought of her character as just
“the wife.” “[Creator] Terence Winter never expected me to fall into that role
and I think he knew that from the beginning, because it just wouldn’t have been
something they would have cast me for,” Wilde says. “She wasn’t designed to be
that and I built her to be someone who had a marriage as a part of her life.”

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Helping push Wilde’s potential was Scorsese, who taught her
to be bold and to be unafraid. “There’s no choice that you make that he doesn’t
notice. He was really encouraging us to build people who are real and to really
be thoughtful of where they’ve been and where they’re going,” she says,
pointing to one particular scene in the pilot, where Devon finds Richie drunk
and, initially as written, wasn’t completely coming together onscreen.
Encouraged to play with it, Wilde transformed the scene into a larger moment
for Devon, where she spits whiskey into Richie’s face. “I could have been
really terrible, but Marty created this very safe environment to try things
like that.”

The safety of the world Scorsese created transcended
throughout the season, leading up to Wilde’s nude scene in episode six. A
moment that might feel gratuitous on a show like HBO’s Game of Thrones, which
has seen its female stars call for an equal amount of full-frontal nudity from
their male counterparts
, Wilde says was all about vulnerability as Devon
launches herself into a world of artists she’s been so thirsty for since
getting married. “I hadn’t necessarily seen it coming for her,” Wilde admits,
but credits the writers for pushing interesting ideas. “Of course, this was
season one and there was no shortage of new ideas, but I was thrilled by it.”

The scene itself was shot by Reed Morano, whom Wilde says
did “a really beautiful job,” while the rest of the episode’s creative team was
supported by a female director, a female assistant director, a female writer
and female producer. “I was in a coven of smart women,” she says.

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The only real discomfort may have been the merkin, a
pubic-hair wig which Wilde wore during the scene. “Typically you’re given as
much control as you possibly can [in that situation, but ] I certainly wanted
to be historically accurate,” Wilde says of the very-present bush that was seen
onscreen. “It was definitely cracking me up to no end. I mean, I just had never
worn one before and I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever seen.”

In February, just two months before Wilde announced she was
pregnant with her second child, HBO renewed Vinyl
for a second season. While under contract with the series, the actress says her
commitment to the show never deterred her from expanding her family. “If I've
learned anything in this business is that you never know when you're going to
start shooting anything and you can't put your life on hold,” she says, adding
that since her character was not written to serve a male fantasy that “it would be fine no matter when we
decided to shoot because Devon isn’t defined by her body.”

“Unlike actors, actresses have to consider that balance,”
Wilde says of the conversation that’s come up more and more as female stars are
not letting their show dictate those decisions. “I feel that what I’ve learned
from much wiser people who have gone before me is to just not let the business
stop you from living your life.”

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