By now, you may have heard the buzz circulating around the new must-watch, binge-worthy streaming series: Fleishman Is in Trouble. It’s based off the 2019 novel of the same name starring Jesse Eisenberg, Claire Danes, Adam Brody and Lizzy Caplan. Despite what the title suggests, it’s Caplan’s portrayal of Libby Epstein, a college pal of Eisenberg’s character Toby Fleishman, that steals the show with her superb acting and narration work throughout the series. She may not star as the titular character, but she makes her mark — and acting abilities — known. Staying out of the limelight but letting her talents shine parallels Caplan’s own life, too.
Odds are you probably don’t know much about Caplan herself — she’s not on social media and despite decades of successful roles, she’s managed to avoid the spotlight’s glare when it comes to her personal life. She was able to quietly welcome a son last year with her husband, the actor Tom Riley, but as the rave reviews for her role in Fleishman Is in Trouble keep coming, it’s clear her star is only going to continue to rise and fans inevitably will be clamoring to know more about her. Caplan might not ever want to live life in the pages of tabloids, but she’s opening up to GRAZIA USA about her marriage, her son and what comes next.
After catching up with the Emmy Award-nominated actress, it was immediately clear just how focused she is on her craft. Her dedication explains why she’s one of the few stars who hasn’t given into the pressure of being on social media. “There was definitely a period of time, probably around 2016, where it was starting to feel mandatory that if you were an actor, you had to also have this social media presence,” says Caplan, 40. “I managed to avoid it and I still am happy that I did. I do think that it makes the job more difficult. The more people know you and have opinions about you as a person, the harder it is for you to be believable as you disappear into a role.”
Caplan notes that social media platforms have their benefits, like helping to raise awareness about global social concerns such as the protests in Iran but, overall, she believes the negatives “far outweigh” the positives.
“It’s made everything worse in the world and everybody more unhappy generally,” she says. “I think it’s making us all much more inward-glancing and insular. I never liked it; I still kind of don’t like it, and now I just feel like a dinosaur. But there’s a part of me that thinks I’m going to be proven right or everybody just decides that they need to delete their social media. So, we’ll see.”
She may be on to something. When it’s pointed out that many users have abandoned Twitter after Elon Musk purchased the company in October, Caplan jokes with deadpan delivery: “Yeah, I called that one. I was talking about it in 2016. I knew that Elon Musk was going to buy Twitter and drive it into the dirt within three weeks. I knew.”
With so much career success at her back, Caplan continues to walk a fine line between safeguarding the online anonymity she holds sacred, but she’s happy to open up to GRAZIA USA about a very important development in her personal life — and who could blame her? She’s thrilled to embrace the joys of motherhood after welcoming a son, Alfie, in 2021 with her husband of five years, the English actor Tom Riley. “There are moments where you’re just watching this little person do a thing and you’re just beaming at him and you don’t even realize you’re beaming until maybe you see a picture of yourself watching him do this thing and you realize, ‘Oh my, I’m smiling so much right now.’ I was smiling without being totally aware that I’m smiling — it’s like this unrivaled pure joy,” she gushes.
The star waited until later in life to have a child with 41-year-old Riley, whom she calls “father of the century.” “We got a lot of life in before we had a kid, so we were both very ready to do this,” she says. “And it’s just so much more mind blowing and better than you could imagine before actually going through with it. That’s been our experience.”
Another thing that adds a special connection to their relationship is their shared profession. Caplan acknowledges that some actors never want to date another actor, but the actress says she doesn’t really understand that viewpoint. “I like having the common ground,” she says. “I like that my husband and I can talk about anything that’s happened on set and he will know exactly what I’m talking about. The trade-off is that you’re both in such an unpredictable line of work, and that of course has its ups and downs. But for me it’s not even a question that getting the understanding that comes with it is worth all of the other stuff.”
As for parenting together, she “can’t imagine” doing this with anybody else — or with anybody who wouldn’t want to be as involved as Riley. “The division of labor can really fall to the woman in the majority of cases. I definitely could not have worked as much as I’ve worked this year if I didn’t have this partnership with my husband. But also, it just wouldn’t be as fun if we weren’t sharing all of it 50-50. We’re pretty good at seeing the funny in stressful situations. I do feel very, very lucky.”
Just three months after welcoming her son, Caplan got back to work filming Fleishman Is in Trouble. After production wrapped, she returned to set to shoot the new Fatal Attraction remake. Three days after that was finished, she hit the red carpet at the Fleishman premiere. “I’ve never done two projects back-to-back, so it’s just been kind of this insane whiplash. But as an actor, all I’ve ever kind of wanted is to be able to do different stuff, so I’m forever grateful that this is what this year looks like.” In addition, she also stars in the animated Netflix show Inside Job Part 2, out now.
“Different stuff ” is what Caplan’s career is all about. Ever since she started acting at 15 and landed her first role in the beloved but short-lived TV show, Freaks and Geeks, she’s had diverse roles across every genre. There are her well-known comedies, (Mean Girls, The Interview, Bachelorette), heist thrillers (Now
You See Me 2) dramas (Allied) sci-fi action (Extinction) and cerebral TV (Masters of Sex). She notes that she usually gravitates towards playing “complicated” women who are “maybe not so easily compartmentalized” and got both in the roles she played this year. “These two characters, these two shows, they just couldn’t be more different. It’s like absolute polar opposites, which was a wonderful challenge as an actor. It’s kind of a dream challenge for me.”
Caplan is happy Fleishman Is in Trouble is faithful to the book, written by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, and viewers are clearly just as delighted, including critics who are praising the show — and her performance. They may be just as thrilled when they see the remake of the 1987 hit Fatal Attraction.
Caplan shares that this new Paramount+ version, in which she plays Alex Forrest (originally portrayed by Glenn Close), delves deeper into the character’s psyche to know her as a “more three-dimensional human being.”
The ‘80s version also starred Michael Douglas as Dan Gallagher, a married man who has an affair with Alex. “The [original] movie still is great. It’s still scary, and makes you ask big questions, but there were two different endings and there was one ending that Glenn Close preferred, but they ended up going for another one,” Caplan notes. “Glenn Close was sort of fighting to protect her character Alex’s fragile mental illness that she was dealing with. None of that was really reflected in the film. Audiences saw it very much through a 1980s perspective — this amazing guy makes one mistake and now this horrible woman is trying to ruin his life.”
Caplan says she finds it hard not to ask herself what Alex Forrest went through in the original film “especially because Glenn Close is doing such subtle, careful work that if you’re looking for it, it’s all there.”
The actress adds, “It really shows how far we have come. I don’t think that we’ve arrived at any finish line in terms of everything that’s happened with #MeToo and what that set in motion. But the idea that you could never make the 1980s version of this now, shows some degree of progress. I think when they’re at their best, that’s what the reboot would do and hopefully our show does that.”
When the term “reboot” comes up, inevitably, many fans of Caplan’s remember her instantly iconic role as Janis Ian in 2004 hit, Mean Girls. Her co-star, Lindsay Lohan, recently expressed interest in a revival, to which Caplan immediately responds: “I am so on board with this return of Lindsay Lohan. I’m just pumped. She was such an incredible talent when she was working as a kid and a young adult so I’m happy to see that she’s coming back.”
Caplan doesn’t know what the story would exactly entail for a Mean Girls reboot, but if Tina Fey wrote some incredible script? “Of course I would want to be a part of it; I would be an idiot not to join,” she says, adding, “But to me it feels like Mean Girls had a really good beginning, middle and end. I don’t know what’s left of the story.”
After such a whirlwind year filled with work commitments, Caplan now looks forward to spending some down time with her most favorite project yet — taking care of her young son. “I have no hobbies; my hobby is him,” she says, joking she has “no time for anything.”
But Caplan wouldn’t trade that for the world. “Motherhood’s good stuff,” she says. “Highly recommend. 10 out of 10 would recommend.”
Read GRAZIA USA’s Winter issue featuring cover star Lizzy Caplan: