Interview by Nancy Rotenier & Lindsay Hahn
Nancy Rotenier: Do you now have a celebrity lifestyle?
EMILY BERGL: People loan me pretty dresses and I stand on a red carpet and get my picture taken. But I try not to live a rarified celebrity lifestyle, because then how can I be portraying real people in my work?
NR: Describe a day on the set of Desperate Housewives.
EMILY BERGL: Sometimes I’m getting up at 3:45 a.m. to go to Desperate Housewives, and the guy goes to the Coffee Bean and gets my latte—just like in the movies! My hair and makeup take an hour and a half. Sometimes 2 people work on me at one time—they are serious about getting glamorous over there. But there’s never a typical. I might be spilling a live goldfish onto the street or pulling a gun on Terri Hatcher or visiting my mom in jail.
NR: Describe your character’s look.
EMILY BERGL: There are mostly vintage clothes from ’30s, ’40s, ’60s, and ’70s, and I can walk right into most of them. They are so flattering. I feel the clothes of that time were designed to flatter a real woman’s body, and a lot of the clothes now are designed for someone my size but 4 inches taller.
NR: Do you ever dress like your character, Beth?
EMILY BERGL: A little bit—I have a vintage flavor, and her style is whimsical and feminine. I shop for her, I’ve borrowed out of her closet. I go to this amazing place in Los Angeles, and there’s also one in New York, called Shareen Vintage. It’s like the best-kept secret in vintage clothes and vintage designers.
NR: Who are your favorite designers?
EMILY BERGL: I really like Phillip Lim. I love Zac Posen. I actually loved his line Z Spoke. If I’m going to events, I love Lloyd Klein, because it’s so feminine. I love Nanette Lapore.
NR: What is your go-to look?
EMILY BERGL: A dress, an interesting pair of tights, nice high heels, and a cute coat. I’m actually not that into shoes, I’m more into coats.
NR: Any favorites?
EMILY BERGL: I have a vintage green woven coat with fur trim sleeves. I don’t buy fur, but I think it’s fine to buy vintage fur. Then I have a plaid coat from Chris and Jamie, it’s a Brooklyn line but I bought it in Chicago. A plaid coat is any girl’s friend. My Phillip Lim raincoat is one of my favorite coats because it’s bright canary yellow and it makes everybody happy.
NR: Have you made any fashion purchases recently?
EMILY BERGL: Two pairs of vintage black gloves. One pair is long with lace appliqué, and I wore them to the premiere of Due Date with a Rebecca Minkoff dress and these crazy Z Spoke by Zac Posen boots that are 6 inches high.
Buy Rebecca Minkoff Claudia Dress, $310, at bloomingdales.com
NR: Favorite shoes?
EMILY BERGL: Brian Atwood. I wear those everywhere. Basically, I’m a big believer in nude shoes. I love Theory shoes. They stopped making them for a year, but they are making them again. And I like Marc by Marc Jacobs.
Buy Brian Atwood Maniac Patent Platform Pumps, $580, at saksfifthavenue.com
NR: At the Gotham Magazine Gala, you stuffed newspaper into your Brian Atwoods to make them fit?
EMILY BERGL: I have to take them to my shoe guy—you know, everyone in New York has a shoe guy—to do something about it. But I’m still rocking the newspaper, or rather, I just switched to paper towels, they’re more comfortable.
NR: Other DIY beauty or fashion tricks?
EMILY BERGL: I’m a walking fashion emergency. I went to an audition the other day and as I got out of the cab, my entire dress split up the back. So, what else could I do? I went to Duane Reade, got the safety pins, and had someone pin me up the back. Sticky tape to hem something, if you don’t have time to go to the tailor. And Top Stick is a girl’s best friend.
Buy Vapon Topstick Tape, $4.90, at amazon.com
NR: What don’t you leave home without?
EMILY BERGL: Rosebud Lip Balm and my knife—I have a spring-assisted knife. It’s the second fastest legal automatic knife in the United States. It’s good for opening things, it could be used for protection.
Buy Rosebud Perfume Co. Smith’s Rosebud Salve, $6, at sephora.com
NR: What is always in your purse?
EMILY BERGL: I carry this Marc by Marc Jacobs purse that’s tiny, so it’s got my wallet, my knife, my lip gloss, my Palm, my phone. I have a little good luck charm that I bought at this temple on top of a mountain outside of Tokyo. And I have a map of Central Park.
NR: Are you a natural blonde?
EMILY BERGL: I was born a blonde. I became a redhead in college and was one for 10 years. Now, in my 30s, I have the confidence to be a blonde without worrying about people taking me seriously.
NR: Have any backstage beauty tips?
EMILY BERGL: In the theater, I learned if you’re wearing a dress with some cleavage, put blush between your boobs. And on Desperate Housewives, they all wear those sticky NuBras, it adds a little cleavage, and you can wear it with or without a bra.
Buy NuBra Silicone Bra, $62, at amazon.com
NR: Fallen in love with any beauty products from Desperate Housewives?
EMILY BERGL: I have and I’m pissed, because they’re all really expensive! La Mer—of course I’m hooked now, but what am I going to do when I’m no longer on Desperate Housewives? It’s so much money!
Also, Yves Saint Laurent mascara and Shiseido volumizer for hair. The hairdresser taught me that big hair is my friend.
Buy La Mer Crème de la Mer, $230 (2 oz.), at saksfifthavenue.com
Buy Yves Saint Laurent Volume Effet Faux Cils Luxurious Mascara, $30, at sephora.com
NR: Were you surprised to be cast on Desperate Housewives?
EMILY BERGL: Part of me is always surprised when I get the job, because I know how hard it is. This felt like it was the right fit though, the character. I wasn’t familiar with the show.
NR: What do you watch on TV?
EMILY BERGL: I’m sorry to say I don’t watch TV. I’m a total hypocrite.
NR: Has being on a hit show changed your life?
EMILY BERGL: I’ve been on shows before, I’ve been recognized before, but this has brought it to a new level. I went to a Top Shop. I had to take a lot of pictures until finally I said, “I have to go.”
NR: How do you feel about fame?
EMILY BERGL: The 5% of people who can’t distinguish me from my character is off-putting. The other day, I was walking up my stairway, and this woman turned to me and said, “You’re on Desperate Housewives. You’re a horrible person.” I also do cop show called Southland, and people on the street will tell me, “You’re such a bitch.” It’s really weird to hear.
NR: Is your routine the same in New York and Los Angeles?
EMILY BERGL: Desperate Housewives would be my longest day, 15 or 16 hours, and sometimes I do it again the next day. Some days I don’t work, so I can come back to New York. On my days off, I do cabaret shows, so I’m trying to book gigs and work on my songs or take voice lessons.
NR: What are your favorite L.A. discoveries?
EMILY BERGL: The Korean food in L.A. is spectacular. The hike to the Hollywood sign—the best kept secret in L.A. The Angeles National Forest, Sequoia National Forest, Joshua Tree National Park.
NR: What’s a great night out in New York?
EMILY BERGL: I love going to the theater, maybe grabbing a quick bite in the Village beforehand.
NR: Your go-to restaurants?
EMILY BERGL: I love Petit Abeille, a mussels place. And I love Little Branch for drinks afterward. If I’m in midtown, I like Bar Centrale for a drink after work. And then, I love coming back to my apartment and hanging out. People smoke on the fire escape, we have ice wine that I smuggle from Canada, listen to some records.
NR: Favorite music?
EMILY BERGL: My record collection is pretty eclectic, but lately I’ve been really into records from my childhood, the Less than Zero soundtrack and this ’80s hot tracks album.
NR: Do you travel a lot?
EMILY BERGL: The past few years, I’ve made traveling a priority. I traveled with Habitat for Humanity to Thailand, and when I was there I also went to Laos, Cambodia, Singapore. Then I traveled with them to Borneo, and I went to Indonesia, Java, and Bali. I also went to Japan. I’m going to Costa Rica for the New Year.
NR: Favorite vacation destination?
EMILY BERGL: I went to this island called Gili, which is off of an island called Lombok, which is off of Bali. You can’t even have a motor scooter there. To go around the island, you walk, ride a bike, or take a horse cart.
NR: Do you go down and dirty or luxe?
EMILY BERGL: I think it’s good to have both on a vacation. You start roughing it and then appreciate the luxury at the end. One time, I went to Maui and hiked this dormant volcano. We started at the top, at 10,000 feet, and hiked the entire thing—it was like going to 6 different planets. Then, I went to the Four Seasons!
NR: What are you reading right now?
EMILY BERGL: I just started The Brothers Karamazov. I read a lot of classics because there are so many out there that I haven’t read. I’m into British and African-American lit. I was an English major in college, and I specialized in 19th-century British novels.
NR: What’s your favorite all-time book?
EMILY BERGL: I might have to say Atonement. It’s one of the great books that I’ve read in my lifetime.
NR: As far as the whole Hollywood scene, do you have a crush?
EMILY BERGL: I’ve always crushes on British actor Allen Rickman and Joshua Jackson—he’ll always have the biggest place in my heart in Hollywood crushes.
NR: Anything we didn’t cover?
EMILY BERGL: I’m a fan of your site.
Desperate Housewife Emily Bergl Reveals . . . ___________________________
3 Things No One Knows About Me
I have a phobia of ketchup
I have a Jimmy Carter memorabilia collection
I have a problem talking and singing to myself walking down the street
If I Weren’t an Actress . . .
I might be an English professor
3 Things I Can’t Live Without
My books, New York City, my family
In a Former Life, I Was . . .
One Person I Wish I Could Meet
I met Jimmy Carter, but I’d like to meet Abraham Lincoln
My Guilty Pleasure
When I’m on Jet Blue, I love watching Millionaire Matchmaker
Emily Bergl Plays PageDaily This or That
High-Heels or Flats? High-heels. LBD or Jeans? LBD. Red Lipstick or Chapstick? Red lipstick. Blow-Out or Wash ‘N Wear? Both. Fitness Buff or Couch Potato? 50, 50. Paint the Town Red or Saturday Night In? Paint the town red, but stay home Saturday. Going out Saturday night is for amateurs.
My Holiday List
Emily Bergl: What I Want, What I’m Giving, Where I’m Donating
What I Want I need more sweaters, I like Uniqlo, because I’m hoping to be in New York. I would really like an iPad. They are handy on set, but some people who have iPads are really anti-social. I don’t want to be hunched over my iPad all day. I’m going to give myself these really cool artificial flowers for my mantle.
What I’m Giving I’ll give my dad a book on architecture. I’m going to get my nephew the movie Tron, and I’m hoping that over Christmas he’ll want to see the sequel because I want to. And I’ll give my mom Clarins beauty flash cream.
Where I’m Donating Habitat for Humanity. I went to their annual Builder Awards recently. It was exciting, because I sat next Todd Oldham and Susan Sarandon.