How Joy Nash Got Her Big Break on AMC's Provocative Drama 'Dietland' (Exclusive)

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Are you in for Dietland?

Created by uber-producer Marti Noxon (Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce, UnREAL) and based on the best-selling 2015 novel by Sarai Walker, Dietland unveils one woman’s journey to self-awakening while exploring a multitude of issues faced by women today -- including patriarchy, misogyny, rape culture and unrealistic beauty standards. Julianna Margulies plays the fearless Kitty Montgomery, the narcissistic boss of fashion magazine writer Plum Kettle (Joy Nash).

Nash, who had bit parts in the Twin Peaks update, Casual and The Mindy Project, took it upon herself to make sure she would get a shot at a role -- any role -- in the series. That meant some impressive online sleuthing on her part to get inside the audition room. Mission accomplished.

"I knew that I wanted to audition for it, so I found out where the casting office was and I went there. The address turned out to be a UPS mail-drop box, so my plan was foiled, but I did some more Googling a second address of where it actually was. I went there, I knocked on the door and the casting assistant I had met at a party four years before and she was like, 'Joy! You might be good for this.' And I said, 'That's what I thought. Here's my headshot!'" Nash told ET, chuckling at the memory. "I still thought there was no way I would get an audition."

After three days of intense preparation, even though she didn't have an official audition lined up yet, Nash got the call from her agent on an early Monday morning that she was in. She'd have a little over three hours to get herself to the casting office -- oh, and to have 16 pages of dialogue memorized. Luckily for Nash, she was ready. "I was like, 'You're lucky I've been ready for three days!'" she recalled telling her agent. "That was it. I went in, had my audition and that's what started it all."

Ahead of Monday's two-hour series premiere, ET jumped on the phone with Nash discuss the subversive new drama, how she connected with her character of Plum and the allure of Margulies' show-stopping red wig.

ET: Your audition story for Dietland is pretty cool. It was your pro-activeness that got you this job...

Joy Nash: That was my mode for so long. You just sit around and you see other people like you on TV and you think, "I could've played that part," and I never auditioned for it. I really wanted to get there.

How did you connect with your character of Plum, especially at the beginning of the story? Was it particularly challenging?

It felt pretty easy. I feel like Plum, overall, is sensible. The things that she does make sense, even though they're not necessarily the choices that I would make, they're choices that millions of people make. At the beginning of the series, she's just trying to get by until her life starts and everything she does is in support of that. When she has her eyes open and she realizes what she's doing isn't sensible -- like, it's insane -- we act like it's normal, that's when things start moving for her.

The themes that the show explores are incredibly timely now, with topics like body-shaming and hypersexuality. How satisfying has that been for you to dig into subjects that the typical TV drama doesn't always examine?

Definitely. Those are issues that have been close to my heart for a long, long time, and it was really refreshing and exciting to be working with a team of writers and producers who were all on the same page.

We often don't see someone who isn't a size 0 as the lead of a major television show.

Absolutely. It's literally a dream role. I get to do everything. There's no holds barred. I was thinking, if we get a second season, what the hell can happen to Plum? Do I have an underwater dream sequence? Do I ride a horse? Because I've done everything else. For me, personally, I've never dared to dream this big. I'm a character actor and I expected to be playing crazy neighbors my whole life, and I was thrilled at the prospect. All I wanted was to work and then to be handed the lead and in almost every scene, doing huge, difficult, crazy, fun, insane things -- it's a literal dream. And I never ever thought that it would happen.

Julianna Margulies plays Kitty Montgomery, the deliciously narcissistic editor in chief of New York fashion magazine, Daisy Chain.

AMC

We have to take a second to give Julianna Margulies and her fierce red wig a moment because it's been the talk all over the internet...

Yes, it has! (Laughs.)

Julianna's character, Kitty Montgomery, is someone who is so opposite from what we've seen her play in her career. How would you describe Kitty and Plum's relationship?

Yeah, yeah, oh my god. (Laughs.) [Julianna] is a dream. She's so talented and generous and funny. It's just a joy to be on set with her. And her character is so deliciously wrong. I spent some time as a personal assistant and it felt like that a lot. Your boss writes the check and they are as crazy as they want to be, and you just have to do what you can to get your job done.

What has been the most insane thing that you've had to do to film this show?

There are so many moments. Physical stuff. Without giving too much away, there is stuff you don't get to see a person my size do on television and we just do them unapologetically. Some [romantic situations], some of the things I wear... 

How close are you in real life to who Plum is?

I definitely share some aspects, although she's very different. The Plum towards the end of the season I identify with a lot more than the one at the beginning. But I love her intelligence and the fact that she knows who she is and what people think of her and expect of her, and she works within and around that. On the other side of the coin, that can get in her way sometimes. She thinks she's too smart; she thinks she's already got it figured out, but she doesn't necessarily.

Did you ever think you would reach this point in your career, where you're the star of a television series?

(Laughs.) No, never, ever. I pinch myself all the time. Maybe a couple of years, I was fantasizing, What would I want from my life? And I thought, I'd like to be on set everyday. And even then, I thought, What a joke! I'm a character actor, how would that ever happen? And here I am. It's crazy. I just hope we get to do it again and again.

Dietland launches with a special two-hour premiere on Monday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.

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