Over the past two seasons, Jessica Capshaw has seen her Grey’s Anatomy character, Dr. Arizona Robbins, grow from guest star to series regular—a transition that was a relief to the veteran actress. “Last year was my first year as someone who was meant to think that they belonged there,” she laughs. “It was so great to know that you were there for a full 24 episodes, to see where you were going to start, where you were going to go to and then where you were going to end up. And since it’s episodic—and thankfully, seasons get renewed—you get to then pick up where you left off.”
As the lesbian partner to Dr. Callie Torres (played by Sara Ramirez), Capshaw finds her pediatric attending position to be both a rewarding character study as well as a fun foray into her first recurring role since The Practice. But come summer hiatus, she traded SoCal for the South Fork and headed to her East Hampton home to spend time with her family—mom Kate Capshaw and stepdad Steven Spielberg, husband Christopher Gavigan, son Luke and the rest of her extended family—to relax and to “enjoy being pregnant.”
“There’s definitely a transition phase when you come back to Los Angeles after you’ve been taking walks on Lily Pond Lane,” says the soon-to-be 34-year-old. “You’ve never seen so many hydrangeas in your life and everything is lush and green and gorgeous, and you barely ever get in your car. And then, all of a sudden, you land and you’re smack dab in the middle of the 405 freeway, and everything is gray.”
Only days after leaving the East End, Capshaw is already more than a little nostalgic about her hometown. We got her to open up about her new role and the places from the past that are near and dear to her heart.
HAMPTONS: How have things changed for you since your character made the jump to a regular role?
JESSICA CAPSHAW: Last year was really important for me because it was my first full year, and it was a cementing and a greater understanding of who this person is. I think that in a lot of ways, the character I play, Arizona Robbins, she fits in with the tone of the show, but at the same time, she turns stuff on its head and definitely has some eccentricities about her that tend toward the laughable.
How similar or different are you from your character?
I don’t think it’s a far cry from who I am as a person. I think that I’m quick to laugh, and I do like to enjoy my life. I’m not a very angsty person, although by the definition of being an actor I can certainly be dramatic about things. It’s our job as actors to imagine that we’re lots of things, but you don’t have to be something to play someone like that.
As a mom, how do you balance the schedule with your home life?
I feel really lucky. Grey’s is kind of like a relay race: There are 12 or 13 series regulars, and if you do the math, there’s only so much you can fit into an hour, so we kind of trade responsibilities of headlining things. There can be weeks where I only work two days, and then there are weeks where I work every single hour of a five-day week.
How did you spend your summer hiatus?
I got to just hang out and be pregnant. I went to Long Island for a month with my family and my extended family. We’re so the opposite of cool—or what I think people think the cool East End house is. We go for a walk in the morning into town, grab our coffees, come back and then pretty much park our butts by the pool. My son is the happiest person in the world there. I always say that it’s easy to be a great mom there because everything is at your fingertips.
I went into town and I ran into a girlfriend of mine who was three years younger than me who I actually started babysitting when I was 10. I love it there! I went to John Marshall [Elementary School] for a year; I was a Brownie in East Hampton. It’s just so comfortable and familiar.
Are there specific places that you miss?
There isn’t a day I walk into East Hampton that I don’t miss Barefoot Contessa. There just isn’t a day! I really love Theory, but I can’t even go in there because I miss it too much.
What are some of your favorite places?
There are so many stores I love in East Hampton. Scoop has the best stuff, and all the girls are so much fun and know what they’re talking about. I love Babette’s for breakfast or lunch. I love Rowdy Hall and Scoop du Jour—don’t underestimate the breakfast sandwiches, because they’re delicious. In Sag Harbor, I love The American Hotel. I love sitting out there and having a drink, and my son loves looking at all the boats. And it’s a new find for me, but I love London Jewelers. I could go in there and stare at everything for an hour. That’s the fancy side of me.
It seems the Hamptons is really special to you.
It is. I got married at our house in East Hampton; my parents got married at the same house. It has always confounded me that people think of the Hamptons as such a hoity-toity, rarified place, because there are people who create wonderful lives there and have beautiful homes who aren’t fancy, per se. There are some fabulous people, but they’re attracted to what’s there intrinsically: the land, and the reason why so many artists go there—the light.