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'The Sinner' was cathartic for Emmy nominee Jessica Biel

Jessica Biel attends a USA Network's "The Sinner"

Jessica Biel attends a USA Network's "The Sinner" screening and conversation at 92Y in New York. Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/Evan Agostini

 As a kid, like a lot of us, Jessica Biel practiced giving a speech in front of a mirror for that fairytale moment when she won a top award.

But unlike most of us, Biel's moment has a chance to come true — she's nominated for an Emmy Award for best lead actress in a limited series for her role in "The Sinner," the USA Network series that she stars in — and helped bring about as its executive producer. And now that the moment is closer — the Emmy Awards will be presented on Sept. 17 — she's worried that she might get a little tongue-tied.

"I've recently had a thought of like 'do I need to prepare something?'... I'm a really bad public speaker when I have to be me, I'm way more nervous about it. So I'm not quite sure what to do with that yet. I'm still trying to figure out, you know, do you have a paper just in case? But then what if you lose? Now you have this paper and it's like embarrassing," she said, laughing. "I haven't quite put together what my path is yet."

Her acting path has taken her far. She started out as a teen in the TV series "7th Heaven" and has starred in numerous TV and film roles since then. But her biggest role has been as a mom to son Silas with husband Justin Timberlake; she's been in Europe this summer with the family, accompanying Timberlake on tour.

In a recent interview, Biel talked about the satisfaction of bringing "The Sinner" to the small screen, its dark nature, and escaping with her husband and 3-year-old son.

This was your project, you're the show's executive producer, so was it extra-sweet?

 I think when you put so much heart and blood, sweat and tears, and you're there at the beginning and you know you have no idea if this thing's going to even work, and then it works and it really works.

And then not only do you have a great audience response, but your community really loves it and specifically your performance, it's awesome. The show is dark. How did you get to those places and sustain it? 

It was definitely the most challenging creative experience — emotional experience — I've had at work ever because it was relentless. ... Honestly it's hard to describe in words how you get into a place like that. But what I know for sure is that I just felt great compassion for this woman, even though she did something so horrific. I somehow connected with her and related to her — I think probably one element was because she was a mom and the idea of having a small kid and never seeing that kid again because you're in prison for the rest of your life. ... I mean I could just get emotional thinking about that. ... And honestly, I think I was exorcising a lot of my own demons. ... My own baggage and history and trauma that I've had in my past. Obviously I ... don't have an experience like this woman has had, but I have my own stuff. And I think it was an amazing place to just kind of work it and get catharsis through it and just splay out like all of my guts on the table every day in a safe environment. It's kind of an amazing part of the job that I do.

How did you compartmentalize it and go home to your son?

 I thought it was going to be really hard, and it was like my sanctuary, you know? At the end of the day, I could throw it all off on the floor and leave it at work and go home to something very simple. You know what it's like when you have a 2- or 3-year-old: food, play, water, change the diaper, take a nap (laughs). Things need to be done. There's no complicated mind games, there's no complicated emotions. ... And there was something freeing about that.

How has your summer been touring with your family?

 I really love (to travel) and I just feel grateful that we're having this experience. It's definitely not without its challenges having a small kid, moving him around a lot. But it's amazing. It's such a great education for him and for me — out of our comfort zone hearing new languages, trying foods. It's fun to do it as a family even though, you know, my husband's working a lot. That is what it is. I've probably seen the show at least 30 times. Never gets old. It doesn't. He's the best. Truly. And I mean that! I'm biased, of course. But I think also if I saw the show completely not knowing him I think it's the best show ever.

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