In WandaVision’s second episode, “Don’t Touch That Dial,” the series begins to show you more of what Westview is like, as Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and her neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) head to a meeting with other neighborhood ladies to help organize an upcoming talent show.
Though Wanda’s excited by the idea of performing, her hopes of putting on a spectacle are soured somewhat when she meets Dottie Jones (Emma Caulfield), a woman introduced as WandaVision’s idea of a mid-20th century, suburban queen bee type who delights in tormenting her fellow housewives. It’s during a one-on-one conversation with Dottie that Wanda witnesses one of WandaVision’s first major glitches in reality that introduces color into the otherwise black and white world, suggesting that there may be more to Dottie than her sitcom facade is letting on.
When we recently spoke with Caulfield (whose other credits include Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Beverly Hills, 90210) about WandaVision, she explained how, even though she wasn’t really given all that much information to work with about the character, her faith in series creator Jac Schaeffer’s storytelling skills was all it took to convince her to sign on. As she got to know Dottie more, though, Caulfield came to realize that while her character’s certainly keeping secrets, she’s a kind of personality type we’re all more than used to dealing with.
Charles Pulliam-Moore, io9: When you were first coming onto WandaVision, what is it about Dottie that lit you up? Because, I imagine, there was only so much you were clued into from the jump.
Emma Caulfield: Yeah, Jac Schaeffer is just a phenomenal writer. I was so blessed to work with her on Timer, and she and I had been wanting to work together again for years since that film, but just hadn’t found the right project. More than anything, I was just really excited to speak her words again. I just always want to do a good job for myself, but I really wanted to do a good job for her with this. And for, you know, our captain, Kevin Feige.
io9: What is it about Jac’s storytelling, then, that made you immediately have faith in WandaVision?
Caulfield: She makes me proud to work right now. I don’t know what that intangible, magical thing she has is, but she’s effing hilarious, and so smart, and so fast. Working on Timer was one of the highlights of my professional career. I desperately wanted that movie, and there was some other actor who usually beat me out. Actually, she always did. She was my kryptonite. So when I got Timer, I was like “yes!” because I’d beaten my kryptonite and it’s really, really rare to get something that you want so badly.
io9: Of course.
Caulfield: You know, you get a lot of bad scripts, and you end up doing projects you don’t want to do because you’ve got a mortgage, or you’ve set up a certain way of living and you have to keep going. With WandaVision, it felt like a chance to something that I love, and somebody that made me excited.
io9: Even though everyone living within “the show” has been changing from episode to episode, there have been common threads in the kinds of characters that they are. We’re introduced to Dottie as this queen bee character, but as the series goes along, what kind of archetype does she embody?
Caulfield: I’m trying to find a way to answer that without giving anything away, but keeping this conversation interesting. Regardless of what the show is doing in each episode, I always wanted her to have something relatable or vulnerable about her that’s not obvious to the audience, but would be clear to me internally.
io9: What was that here?
Caulfield: With Dottie, I’m asking “why [is she] threatened by this person? Why [is she] so bothered? And why [doesn’t she] trust them?” Dottie’s smarter than her general meanness would let you realize, and this general need of hers to hurt people around her really keeps her from shining and it overshadows everything else that she has.
There’s this one brief moment in episode three where she’s like, “Hey, do these earrings make me look fat?” Funny line. Love it. Jac wrote it. It’s seemingly throwaway, but it’s not at all. No one’s around really in that moment, and Dottie’s asking herself, “How do I look? I look good, right?” When I was shooting that scene with Dottie’s husband, I remember right before we started rolling, I leaned in and whispered, “By the way, I never loved you,” and then someone yells “action,” and my scene partner has this brief moment of confusion. But that was just for me. In that moment, Dottie’s just as trapped in the confines of what Wanda’s world in Westview as anybody else. She’s playing a role, but she still needs approval on some level, and she resents it.
io9: Because of the roles you’ve played, you’ve got connections to some of the largest fandoms out there in the larger pop cultural landscape. Big picture, what sort of larger shifts you’ve seen in the tone and temperature of fandoms?
Caulfield: When I started, there were no social media presences at all, and you could really just do your work without repercussion, really. The only people you really had to worry about were at the network and whether they were going to keep you. You didn’t really have the fan interaction or support as much, and feedback was so much more delayed. You might actually pick up a magazine and read something weeks later as opposed to this immediate feedback loop of love, cancelling, and shipping.
Caulfield: [laughing] I find myself, I think, very fortunate to have done a lot of work without the burden of having to make sure I don’t slip up. In a way, it’s like constantly being with a lot of Dotties, you know, because there’s always that concern of having to get things right because if you don’t, the Dotties might come down on me forever like “get rid of her.” Having this built-in Marvel fanbase is incredible, but again, I really hope I do a good job, because I really don’t need fans trying to get me killed.
WandaVision is now steaming on Disney+.
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