While watching her act, it's easy to forget that Richardson is British. Her American accent is light and credible, without any forced harshness. Richardson said that she views Julia's relationship with Olivia, who works as a doctor of Chinese medicine, as a healing one. "Her relationship with Olivia is very different from anything she's ever experienced," Richardson explained.
"Julia's relationship with Christian and Sean is very categorized, very male-dominated," she said. The competition between Dr. Christian Troy and Dr. Sean MacNamara for Julia's love and attention is a major aspect of the show. "Julia, so far, for her part, has let herself be dominated by these men for basically all her life."
Richardson continued: "Obviously there's lots of talk of her sexuality. Is she bisexual? Is she gay?" Richardson offered a tentative answer. "She — from what I can read in the scripts — she doesn't know. Her main thing is, 'I don't want to be put in a box. Why do we all have to categorize it?'"
Regarding the emotionally fraught scene in which Julia and Olivia are kidnapped, Richardson said: "Portia is just excellent to act with, or beside or whatever. She's a real actor's actor or actress's actress. She's just really giving. She's very present in a scene whether she's on-camera or off-camera. So if you're going to do a scene like that, she's a very good person to do it with."
Further discussion with the show's representatives about the Olivia and Julia story line indicated there will be many twists and turns in the plot that have deeper ramifications for the characters than what has been suggested online.
Despite the tensions over Julia's sexuality, she begins the season on a happier note than she has in the past. In fact, all of the characters have been given a chance at starting over. After four years set in Miami, Nip/Tuck has switched its location to Los Angeles. In the premiere episode, McNamara/Troy has relocated to Beverly Hills.
Maffia said she sees the new location as a natural choice. "If they had to go someplace else to establish themselves as doctors of plastic surgery, why not Hollywood?" Maffia said. "It's like, if I'm hungry, let's go to the banquet."
FX has ordered a longer season for Nip/Tuck this year, with 22 episodes scheduled to air. As Maffia said of the upcoming year, "It's going to be interesting to explore and see what really reveals itself."
While I was on set, I toured the new, expanded set designs, including the posh L.A. offices and sparkling O.R. of McNamara/Troy. My favorite piece of set décor, however, was a prop left over from an earlier season: a sign that reads "Gender Reassignment Unit." It was hanging on the wall just outside Ryan Murphy's office, an enduring reminder of the show's decidedly queer sensibilities.
Season 5 of Nip/Tuck begins on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 10:00 p.m. ET on FX.