Day 2: The Penny Johnson Jerald Interview

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"Penny is not a diva, but Sherry is"
I interviewed Penny Johnson Jerald again last month, before the Emmy nominations were announced. We spoke over the phone while she was taking a break from running her theater company. Gustave: What are you doing next season? Penny Johnson Jerald: I challenge you to call Joel Surnow and ask him that same question. Well, that's the nature of the question -- what are you being told? [laughs] I don't want to be told too much. I like to be told enough. I want to place myself as an artist, and I don't want to disappoint the fans. It's the word of mouth, I avoid. These people who are tuning in who say, "I don't watch television but…" It makes you feel so wonderful inside because you're getting feedback from the average person who owes you absolutely nothing. They don't have to comment. I could step outside of my house, walk into a place, and they're right there. They always ask for an autograph. I always say no but I say, "If you give me your address, I'll give you a picture." Because my autograph means nothing. What was it like to do the second season as opposed to the first season? I have to say that last year I didn't understand the huge impact that the character was making. As far as I was concerned, I was just going to work and doing my job. And all of a sudden there were these rave comments about this character and what I was doing with her. I graciously accepted the recognition. This year I was anxious because there'd been so much hype and I was waiting to come back and reinvent her. Do I focus on proving something or what? So I came to a place where I just figured I'd do the work and see what happens -- like I did last year. And maybe the writers will do their job. They really love her this year, though. She's a bad girl! I'm never thinking of her as a bad girl. But she is a diva. I kid around in the makeup trailer. "Penny is not a diva, but Sherry is." How do they reserve you when they don't know when they're using you exactly? You're signed on for certain episodes. You're prepared to work and you don't schedule anything during that time. It's written in four different arcs. When a section was over they'd have an idea of what they'd be doing in the next arc, so when I got word that I would be free, word got out and I was offered other jobs. The problem is, you're free but you're not really free. You can always be called into work. 24 is my first priority, so the worst scenario is that you're getting paid and you're not doing anything. [laughs] But I was able to do The Vagina Monologues and play Condoleezza and meet with some people for future projects.

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