Jennifer Holland, who plays Becky Phillips on Sun Records, never thought she’d be part of the original series. Interestingly, she also never thought she’d land a role where she’d play such a deeply-written character. Holland is clearly made for the role and she knocked it out of the park this season portraying the strong housewife who “took care of the crazy, creative, insane person that was Sam Phillips.”
CMT.com: What drew you to this project?
Holland: This was so different than anything I’ve done before, you know. Mostly what you are allowed to do, when you are a young attractive woman in Hollywood, is very contemporary exploitation of your looks and all that. There’s a lot of work out there for young actresses that isn’t deeply written. So when I got this, I was like, “No one’s going to let me play this character. There’s no way.”
So I put it on tape and sent it off to casting. Then when I got a call back for it, I was then able to read the script and was so excited that someone was going to let me play this character. It was really exciting.
How did you prepare for the role?
At first it was pretty difficult to find anything on Becky. To find anything on a lot of the women of this time is not easy. I read Sam Phillips’ biography, and there’s some really good information in there. If you search online, you can find some information online about her time as a radio DJ.
Becky actually got her start in radio in her teens. That’s how she and Sam met. He came into her radio station that she was working at. Later that night, Becky went back to her parents and said, “I think that’s the man I’m going to marry.”
She was working in radio as a teenager, which is incredible, and then went on to be a devoted wife and mother. And she took care of this crazy, creative, insane person that was Sam Phillips. And then, Sam went on to start WHER, which was the first all-women’s radio station in the country. Their entire staff was female. They had all female radio DJs and Becky was one of them. She was very integral in starting that with Sam. The amount these women accomplished in the 1950s is so progressive at that time and still progressive now. They really broke down barriers.
Favorite Sun Records scene to film?
There’s this one scene [ep. 107] that was the bane of my existence: Becky goes to Sun Studios to see Sam, and she’s incredibly pregnant. She’s about to pop. When she walks into the studio, her water breaks.
Now, in order to make this, they really wanted my water to break. So they rigged this thing where they filled up these balloons with water that they tied to my pregnancy belly underneath my clothes. They gave me a pin and said, “When you walk into the scene, you need to pop the balloon. And it needs to look like you are grabbing your stomach, not like you’re popping a balloon.”
With Roland Joffe as director, he always wants these beautiful sweeping shots where the camera would pan over. If you watch the show, all the shots have movement. So he wanted to get this shot of Sam and Elvis talking and then it sweeps over to me where my water breaks. This all had to happen in one fluid movement. We must have filmed it about 15 to 20 times. Like, I would put the pin in, but no water would come out. Then, the balloon would pop five seconds too late. And since we had to film it so many times, people had to dry my clothes with hairdryers — and I only had a few changes of the same outfits. It was a labor of love, that’s for sure. There was a ton of people in this scene, and they were all so gracious. I would get so frustrated, but they were all very patient.
During the screening of the show, Chad Michael Murray and his wife actually turned around to smile at me during the scene because we all knew how much went into it. It was pretty funny.
Now for some rapid fire questions. What are your favorite Sun Records artists’ songs?
“That’s Alright Mama” by Elvis Presley
“Blue Suede Shoes” by Carl Perkins
“I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash
“Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” by Jerry Lee Lewis
What surprised you most about Memphis?
The sunsets — they’re incredible. The sunsets over the river in Memphis are these big huge red suns upon the horizons. In California, you don’t get as much interesting clouds in the sky. The sky is so different in the middle of America. I can’t even count how many sunsets I watched. It’s just beautiful. I always wondered if maybe that had something to do with why Sam called his studio Sun Records.
Favorite Southern food?
I love the cornbread. A good cornbread makes me so happy.
Your Insta is WAY too cute. Tell us more about your Puggle that’s in your photos.
Her name’s Lola. She’s a rescue and about 6 and a half and a crazy, alien dog. She has so much personality. She is something else. If you came over to my house, she’d tell you that she’s so happy to see you, she’s never met anyone like you before, she just wants to welcome you into the home and make sure you have everything you need and give you lots of kisses. She’s just the best.
Watch the season finale of Sun Records Thursday (April 13) at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Follow the conversation on social media with #SunRecords and on Facebook.