Hi everyone! Here’s an amazing interview to the actress Amy Brenneman, who plays Laurie in The Leftovers, for the site Awardsdaily.com
This is the part of the interview where she talks about the show. You can read the whole interview HERE.
ADTV: Jumping forward to your tremendous work on The Leftovers. This show seems to be one of those series with critical acclaim but not broad viewership. It’s fans though are devotees of the material. Why do you think people form such a deep connection to this series?
AB: Well, there’s nothing else like it. I think about The Leftovers in a lot of different ways, and some of it is through my religion major lens. I’m very interested in spiritual systems both individual and collective. I think that Damon [Lindelof] is writing an elegy. It’s really about grief, and in the first season everybody was sort of stunned by grief, literally paralyzed. The second season, everybody gets very industrious. That’s why I love the second season. It’s the opposite of the 4-quadrant entertainment – “It appeals to everybody! Happy! Sad! Young! Old!” [The Leftovers] appeals to one pretty specific swath in the human spirit, but it’s the truth. A dear friend of mine had just lost her father very suddenly. The show came on a month or so later. She always watches everything I do… I was like, “Oh no, you are not allowed to watch it.” Anybody that’s tender, anybody that’s put off by the depth of it… I never try to convince people to watch it. I think it’s like going to church. For people that get it and need it, there’s literally nowhere else to go on television.
ADTV: As you’ve mentioned, you graduated from Harvard after majoring in comparative religion. Do you consider yourself a religious person, and how does that background help you navigate The Leftovers and, more specifically, the Guilty Remnant?
AB: Yeah, I definitely have a spiritual practice that’s sort of eclectic as most Americans are. I am a theist. I do think about God a lot. It’s really funny too… I’m pretty unstudied formally in terms of acting – I never went to acting school – but I realize that the way what I studied in college and the way that I naturally think, the way that fits in, is that I literally look at a character and, I didn’t realize this until after the fact, but I’ll think, “OK. What is Heaven to this person. What is Hell? What are they striving for? Where is their soul at peace?”
The Guilty Remnant is interesting because all of us, especially in the first season, were like “What do they believe? What are the tenants of their belief?” But it’s really like the Occupy movement. It’s less about what they coalesce around and more what they’re collectively rejecting. I think for Laurie… And again I think this is Tom Perrotta’s absolute parallel to post-9/11… The people were saying, “Go back to normal!” You try to do that, but then you realize the foundations have entirely changed… I think she was about to crack up. I think she was not doing well by her family. She’s a shrink, so she realized she had to remove herself for a while. She realized it’s sort of extreme, but it’s what she had to do. I think Laurie’s journey in that first season is sort of like MLK versus Malcolm X. I think she really saw what she was doing was… confrontational but in a gentle way if you will. Just by their presence, they make people realize things, and people get upset and people do all sorts of things. But [the Guilty Remnant] doesn’t strike back, and I think that, as Patti [Ann Dowd] took over as the season progressed – the ending of the first season when she’s realizing that it’s not what she signed up for… The whole second season is basically revenge.
ADTV: Yeah, that’s very interesting. In “Off Ramp,” you have a few (what I like to call) “Breaking Bad” moments – breaking and entering, running over the two Guilty Remnant members, choking the publisher. Was it challenging for you as an actress to play those scenes so that they felt real and truthful given how out of character they were for her?
AB: They didn’t feel that out of left field for her. The stealing of the computer certainly didn’t. She has a goal. She’s fierce. She’s going to get that goddamn computer, and then the hitting of the guys in the car… I did sort of have to talk to Damon about that, talk through it. Honestly, in Laurie’s mind, she gives them a chance. It’s a game of chicken, right? It’s like pressing the button on the atomic bomb. She gave them a chance. You can judge Laurie’s thinking, but, if she’s trying to wake these people up for them to realize they’re being duped just like she was – that they’re in this cult and being used like cannon fodder, she gave them ample opportunity. She slows that car down. There is a definite face-off, and then it’s just a matter of power. She’s desperate to show them that she’s more powerful than this system they are involved in.
ADTV: There’s also something somewhat obnoxious about the Guilty Remnant standing there just staring and smoking.
AB: Yeah. Well, it’s like she’s not intimidated by them. She comes from them. She gets the whole thing. I think that probably what the audience might have been thinking in season one is that this creepy cult has taken this woman’s family… I think that was the big passing in the night moment between me and Meg [Liv Tyler] because she’s a novice and she’s delicate and [Laurie’s] showing her the ropes, but then she’s the one who becomes the jihadist. Maybe because Laurie has kids or because she’s not very good cult material in the end… Meg just lapped it up.
ADTV: Absolutely, and the parallels between those two characters are fascinating, but I want to get into that in a minute. First, tell me what it was like working with Carl Franklin, who I think is one of the great directors working today.
AB: Ohh, I agree. I agree. It was great. I think we just did a smudge of stuff in the first season. He was a great director for me. He really was. Maybe because he was an actor, he put a lot of confidence in us. He was really lax… There were a couple of moments where he would say to me, “Yeah, I didn’t believe that.” And then I’d laugh because that’s my number one job as an actor – to make you believe it! [Laugh] Have another take there… He was fun. He was playful. There’s a sneaky feminist agenda in this where the women are just really allowed to fly and, in a way, as misguided as they are they have a very, very clear sense and a lot of agency in the world…. I think he’s one of those good directors where it’s not about “action scene,” “love scene,” whatever. It’s all relational. It’s basic stuff. What are you trying to get from the other person? He is a 4-quadrant guy. Male. Female. Young. Old. Black. White. He’s interested in humanity. I loved it. I really, really loved it.
ADTV: So, I want to go back to Laurie’s relationship with her son. I go back and forth on this question of whether or not she is using him in the second season. She pushes him into the Guilty Remnant. She pushes him to take the Holy Wayne mantle. What are your thoughts on her relationship with him?
AB: I think he’s her mirror. You know, it’s funny, early on in the first season… Tom and Laurie were always positioned as seekers. They always had that questing quality. They were interested in different ways of living. Different ways of thinking. The Departure really just exploded your natural tendencies, and Laurie and Tom were the ones to seek out some big new idea. Kind of what we talked about, which you never really see, Tom committing to Holy Wayne – like really going off on this path – probably emboldened Laurie to make a big choice as well. Temperamentally, they’re actually very, very similar. And, you know, you think about Orthodox families… Yes, there’s something very bullying about indoctrinating someone, including a child, but you really think you’re doing it for their own good. There are certainly a lot of religious traditions where children follow because they want to please their parents… They are coerced into the family religious practice. I think there’s a little bit of that where [Laurie’s] like, “We agree that the Guilty Remnant has to be stopped, and I happen to have this beautiful, sensual, smoking-hot, charismatic son, so let’s use that!” [Laughs] I do think it’s genuine. When Laurie realizes that it’s gone too far and she wants to pull him out… I think that actually is genuine. I don’t think she’s a sociopath. So I think it’s very complicated…
ADTV: Yeah, in that episode, he did not disclose what happened between him and Meg – the rape scene. What do you think Laurie’s reaction in that moment would have been?
AB: Well, I think that would have been the tipping point if for no other reason than to prevent this woman from having any access to him. However, even without knowing [what actually happened], that’s the moment Tom brings up Meg’s name, and my “Spidey-sense” goes up. I think [Laurie] would have absolutely changed the game, which is ultimately what happened because [Meg’s] tentacles go really far…
ADTV: Laurie’s book undoubtedly describes her break from the Guilty Remnant, but we don’t know much about that period in her life. Did you generate a backstory for this to influence your performance in “Off Ramp?”
AB: We don’t get into that, although that moment at the end of season one where I almost let my kid burn up in the fire because of their crazy/loco thing. During the first hiatus, I would have been shocked if I was still a part of the Guilty Remnant, so I think the assumption is that… Jill is my precious Achilles heel. When she shows up at the Guilty Remnant headquarters at the end of season one, it’s like Laurie is a crackhead, and her kid is seeing her in the crackhouse. You don’t see her detach from it, but I think it’s really pretty immediate – “These people are crazy and they led me astray” kind of thing.
What I love about Laurie in the second season is that she reclaims all of her knowledge and awareness as a shrink. The way I kind of lay it out for Kevin about his psychotic break and she lays out her own journey. I told Damon that it’s very rare that you have a character that does sort of an inexplicable thing, a strange thing like joining the Guilty Remnant, and then the next season I have a 4-page monologue where I explain exactly why… in very shrink-y language, in very grounded and undeniable language, I am just laying bare. It’s like in [Going Clear] and Scientology. I’m telling the truth about this secret society, and I think [Laurie’s book] was a good book and was about to be published but she just wasn’t ready for prime time.