God put Amber Tamblyn through a lot this season. She was forced to walk in garbage, destroy a best friend’s art project and work 14-16 hours a day on the set.
But in season two, if God asks Tamblyn to handle a spider, all bets are off and the Lord’s wishes might be left unanswered.
Tamblyn, a confirmed arachnophobe, has done almost everything to ensure the success of “Joan of Arcadia,” one of the few new bona fide scripted drama hits that launched last fall. She plays a high school student who has conversations with God — represented by a different human each week, and she must do what the Almighty says, no matter how trivial or difficult the task may seem.
“It’s been a crazy ride and a lot of fun,” says an exhausted Tamblyn, following up the first season and enjoying her short summer hiatus before heading to Vancouver to shoot the bigscreen pic “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” directed by TV vet Ken Kwapis. “It’s certainly been the most intense part of my life.”
Working long days isn’t new to Tamblyn, who came to primetime following six years on daytime sudser “General Hospital.” Now, as the title character on “Joan,” she’s in almost every scene and is constantly fighting both burnout and fatigue.
“It gets hard because everyone is pulling on you,” she explains. “I remember back on ‘General Hospital,’ I’d always miss playdates with friends. And I’d ask my mom how come I can’t go to my friend’s birthday party.”
Speaking of birthdays, Tamblyn just celebrated her 21st last month, and the guest list could easily have included folks such as “Joan” showrunner Barbara Hall and CBS topper Les Moonves, who smiled every Saturday morning after receiving the Friday night Nielsen figures. Both owe a debt to Tamblyn.
When “Joan” launched in the fall, many critics thought the series had a lot going for it, but skedded against NBC’s cutesy drama “Miss Match,” starring Alicia Silverstone, many predicted the latter would win the hearts of viewers.
Several weeks after both skeins premiered, however, it was Silverstone who was searching for a new timeslot, as “Joan” held the 8 p.m. Friday ground.
“You have to pay attention to the Nielsens,” Tamblyn says. “I remember as a kid when my dad (veteran thesp Russ Tamblyn) was on ‘Twin Peaks,’ which was a big hit with college kids but not in the ratings.”
According to Tamblyn, while those ratings give her a sense of security that she’ll have a job for years to come, it’s the values of the series — in a television landscape where reality rules with backstabbing, bitchery and bribes — that she’s most proud.
“I like having people say they watch the show with their family and use it as family group sessions,” she explains.
“I’ll never forget after the whole cast watched the first episode together. Mary (Steenburgen) said it doesn’t matter what the consensus view is of our show. We’ve satisfied ourselves and did it right.”
Best part about working in TV: “The consistency of it. In this industry, only 5% of the guild works consistently.”
Hardest part about working in TV: “The consistent work as well.”
Favorite scene this season: “In the last episode when I was having hallucinations and talking to several Gods at the same time.”
Favorite TV shows: “Everything on Comedy Central, CNN and Discovery Channel. And I watched ‘Carnivale’ on HBO.”