Jessica Biel's star role in The Sinner just landed her her first-ever Emmy nomination for outstanding lead actress in a limited series or movie
Pop the champagne — and the orange juice!
“I’m going to go on a hot date with my son,” the actress tells PEOPLE. “We are going to cheers his orange juice in his sippy cup and my champagne in my champagne glass. And then I’m going to bed early! I’m like, Netflix and chilling. That’s my celebration.”
Biel, 36, shares 3-year-old Silas Randall with husband Justin Timberlake, 37. When she found out about her nomination, she had just gotten off a plane with her son, who “was about to have a meltdown because his iPad was losing all battery.”
“And then I got the phone call and I was like, ‘Nothing can go wrong. If the iPad dies and you freak out, it’s okay. It’s all fine!’ ” she says with a laugh.
Biel says she called Timberlake “right away,” and his reaction to the exciting news was “so sweet.”
“Justin loves the show,” she says. “You know, it’s an intense show. I think he was very moved by the story and by the importance of telling a story about trauma like this. He was always one of my biggest supporters early on trying to get this thing made. So he’s been there from the beginning, obviously.”
“He said he’s really proud [of my nomination],” she adds. “He said he was confident that it was going to happen all along. So Silas and I are going to cheers tonight … he’s cheersing in place of Daddy tonight, which is super sweet.”
The first season of the anthology series, executive-produced by the actress, follows Biel’s Cora as she works with Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) to figure out why she murdered a man in cold blood while enjoying a day at the beach with her family. For season 2 of the “whydunnit,” Biel is staying behind the camera, and Pullman will be sharing the screen with Fargo and The Leftovers star Carrie Coon.
The series marked Biel’s first major return to the small screen since 7th Heaven; she landed the role of Mary Camden in the family drama at 14 years old.
“Working in television now is such a different thing than it was back then,” she says. “There’s so much opportunity and there are so many people that want to take risks and give women the kind of opportunities that we’ve been dying for and dreaming about our whole career.”
“[The Sinner] was one of those things,” she continues. “It felt freeing. It was an incredibly creatively open and free experience. It was nothing but a joy to film that show. Sometimes it’s sad that it’s over for me and my character at this moment, but it’s important that we stick to the integrity of the show. We’re lucky enough to move on and have a second season, so we really have to think thoughtfully about what that means and it doesn’t necessarily just mean throwing me back in because it worked the first time.”
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Of how she learned to balance the intensity of the project with her life outside of it, Biel says she believes in “not taking my work home with me.”
“It just doesn’t work for me,” she says. “It doesn’t work for my family, because when I get home I’ve got a 3-year-old who’s looking at me like, ‘Hey, you’ve been gone all day. Let’s go!’ And I’m like, ‘You’re right. Let’s go!’ But this particular role and this particular show, for whatever reason, I could slip back in very easily and I could slip out.”
“I just had this natural empathy for this character and understanding,” she says. “Maybe it’s a woman thing — imagining what it would be like if I was possibly losing my son and losing my life because of a terrible action that I committed. Something about that just resonated so clearly with me and I just went to those places. It just happened. It was a fluid, natural, authentic thing. You’re in the middle of a scene, you blink, the scene’s over and you go, ‘Wait, what happened?’ The day is done, the big scene’s over, you think you did something interesting but it’s almost like you blacked out. And I think that kind work is so cathartic and is so scary but challenging and amazing. For me, that’s the kind of stuff I’m looking to do. I want to be in that space where I just kind of trance out and dissolve into somebody else and then snap out of it, almost like you were under some sort of hypnosis. That’s kind of the way it felt.”
Now, with a nomination under her belt, Biel says she feels like she’s “floating on air.”
“It’s absolutely thrilling,” she says. “I’m just so thankful to be thought of and included in this amazing group of women and great community of people. It’s just wonderful.”
The Sinner season 2 premieres Aug. 1 at 10 p.m. ET on USA Network.