Rodrigo Santoro discussed the role of Joel Kelly in Hulu’s Reprisal which debuted today, the impact 300’s Xerxes had on his career, and finding inspiration everywhere as an actor at NYCC 2019.
Rodrigo Santoro, a memorable standout as Hector Escaton in Westworld and the one and only Xerxes in the 300 franchise is back on the scene once again! This time around, Santoro is playing Banished Brawler de facto leader Joel Kelly in Hulu’s Reprisal, which is available today for subscribers. During an interview, Santoro spoke about finding inspiration as an actor everywhere you go, mentioning how seeing a dog while doing recon for a role as a homeless man moved him.
Santoro described what it meant to him to play an Irish written character like Joel Kelly on Hulu’s Reprisal, where they didn’t change his character name to something more Latin sounding just to suit his Latin origin (Brazil). He spoke of how 300’s Xerxes definitely opened doors for him in his acting career but he didn’t want to raise his own expectations because that only leads down the road of frustration.
Watch the full interview with Rodrigo Santoro above or read the transcript below:
Nir Regev: What was it like after you portrayed the role of Xerxes in 300? Did you feel your career moved in the trajectory you were expecting?
Rodrigo Santoro: You know I try not to raise expectations in anything because I think that leads to frustration. We idealize things and then you know… I just try to do the best I can in my work and my life in general. But yes, since you mentioned Xerxes for those who saw 300 and Xerxes it was a big turning point for me. Absolutely! I got much more opportunities to work in the United States after that project but every role is a new challenge. I’m pretty happy where I am right now. You know the opportunities that I’ve been having. Especially, being a foreigner and I think we’re living in a very interesting moment right now.
I’m glad to be a part of it and to be here talking about a show where I play a character whose name is Joel Kelly. It’s not Raúl or Jamon. It’s not Latin, it’s not written Latin. I am Latin, I’m from Brazil. I’m playing a character that was written Irish. They didn’t change the name of the character. Joel Kelly is the de facto leader of the Banished Brawler. Doris’ brother who left her is Burt [Rory Cochrane] and he’s disappeared. He hasn’t been around for a while, and then Joel which was his right hand man, is in charge.
Does Reprisal have a big post-apocalyptic aesthetic? I mentioned Mad Max as a comparison to one of your co-stars earlier and he said it wasn’t really like that visually.
It’s hard to describe but it does have different references like from the 20s, from the 50s, from the 80s. We can’t place because we don’t know when it is. We don’t know where we are. It has a tone of like a fantasy to it, which allows us a tremendous amount of freedom. And also, I think at its core, this show is truly a revenge story revolving around the theme of family. Family you were born into and the family you find along the way. Family that you choose to be a part of. So, it’s really about the relationships of those characters. And then the era we’re in, we don’t know.
You have so many references Tarantino, David Lynch, people that have watched the pilot, you know journalists and people that have seen some of it… They have been describing it as David Lynch meets Tarantino. Great reference by the way, which we love! But it’s a hyper-noir kind of… The tone is just very unique. It’s something that I haven’t seen it you know out there.
When you say Tarantino do you mean cuts like Kill Bill style?
Kill Bill style, the way it’s shot, the way it’s written, especially the way it’s written! Our writer, creator Josh Corbin is in my opinion, a brilliant writer! And just the scenes that carry on, and then you don’t know where they’re going to go, and they’re just interesting to watch and very engaging. The characters are very, very engaging.
It’s an ensemble, every character’s interesting, every character has a back story and it’s going somewhere. They’re not just there. So, that’s what makes it very compelling. And I think people will quickly be engaged and they will get excited to actually binge it. And it will be available, all the episodes! So I think that will be a great experience.
I’m curious as an actor, do you like having all the episodes release at once or do you prefer the more traditional weekly episode? Do you check ratings yourself and that kind of thing?
Oh no, I don’t [check ratings]. I think that I’m getting used to the whole thing about having everything available at once. I take my own time. I have binged before, it depends how much time you have. But I think it depends. I don’t mind if they don’t come all at once but I kind of like to have them there. So, if I really get into it, I can just go through it and it’s a great journey when you just get hooked. You want to go to watch, you want to discover. You get really involved and that allows you to experience that.
Do you feel you prepare the same ritual wise as an actor? Do you have a kind of go-to method for each role you undertake?
Always different man! I don’t believe in formula, I think that every actor and even talking just for myself, every time is a bit different.
Well I like to research as much as I can. Actually because I really have fun. To me the most interesting part is actually beforehand. When you’re researching, when you’re trying to understand the universe of the character you’re gonna play, the world that you’re getting into, and watching films, seeing pictures, listening to music. All that good stuff that you do for research, to me, it’s such an interesting part of the process. But I don’t have a specific ritual that I go through every time.
One thing I do is to sort of like put myself into it… Let’s say, if you’re ever in a car, and you have the gear in neutral… I try to drive myself to the neutral place. So, I don’t have a preconceived concept or a pre-judgment of the character I’m gonna play, or the world that I’m about to step into. Let me be neutral so I don’t judge much. I research, I study.
Do you actively go to meet people related to the roles you’re portraying for inspiration?
Oh yeah, I try to do everything! It varies sometimes. You know, inspiration is an interesting thing. It could come from the least expected thing. One time, I was walking down the street, I was researching for a part that was a homeless man that I played. I just saw this dog on the street and it just moved me so much. It was a dog on the street. It just was very meaningful for me! Now, is this a method? Does that happen every time? No. It did happen that time.
So, I just try to be open, not judge, not try to put things in a box. I think you just have to be open to receiving and feeding yourself with as much as you can. And then you forget about everything and just do it!
Thank you Rodrigo!
Catch Rodrigo Santoro as Joel Kelly in Hulu’s original, exclusive series Reprisal starting today!
Katie McGuinness spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about Snowpiercer’s Tailie heroine, Josie Wellstead, and the show’s allegorical, Orwellian representation of class divide.
Josie Wellstead’s resilience in the face of certain demise is at the heart of Snowpiercer’s revolution. Her sacrifice acting as a powder keg to Layton moving forward with an uprising against a rigged system. One that had lost its humanity long ago, entrenching its population with zero social mobility or basic rights. Stripping away and commodifying even the fundamental human right to day light, the sun, exclusively to those with means.
Snowpiercer star Katie McGuinness discussed the experience of bringing Josie Wellstead to life on-screen, the final tussle between Josie & Melanie Cavill, and the resonating theme of class division on the series with The Natural Aristocrat®.
This interview contains spoilers for TNT’s Snowpiercer.
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: How surprised were you when you received the script for your final scene on Snowpiercer? I mean, I’m sure there could be flashbacks with Josie but still. What was it like having that last showdown fight with Melanie Cavill?
Katie McGuinness: I was excited! I’m really glad that those two characters have that kind of face-off. It’s a really satisfying end to the series. It’s good to go out with a bang, right?
There’s a line Layton says in Episode 8, “We need to make the train work for all of us!” Do you feel what’s made Snowpiercer so topical and universally relatable for any time period is its Orwellian allegory to class division?
Yeah, when I first saw the film, I was really struck about it being an allegory for class division. It’s sort of what humans naturally create for themselves anyway, wherever they are. There’s always some kind of system we try to live by and put into place. Of course, it also brings up that feeling of “Look what can happen!” under a microscope.
It’s a distilled version of what lots of people can relate to feeling… But it also shows the capability of humans to survive and adapt. To find pockets of light and love and joy even in the most extreme of circumstances. And for me personally as well, I think it’s that nothing is clearcut or straightforward. You can see that with Melanie.
From Josie’s point of view, Melanie’s dangerous and threatens her people. But at the same time, from Melanie’s side of it, you can see the difficult decisions she has to make. Decisions, she doesn’t necessarily like making. So, I like that that it deals with the gray areas of humanity. No one is good or bad, no one is right or wrong, or perfect. Everyone holds all of that, and we’re all trying to sort of muddle along.Jonathan Walker as Big John and Katie McGuinness as Josie Wellstead on TNT’s Snowpiercer TV Series – Season 1 Episode 3 “Access Is Power” – Photo Credit: Justina Mintz
If Josie & Layton had been offered the same kind of deal as Pike, with Miles’ wellbeing and even seeing him being further incentive… Is there any chance she would have accepted it and lived with the decision? Family over all, so-to-speak. Or is there no circumstance in which Josie betrays the Tail and the revolution?
I think with anything bigger in scale like a revolution, it always starts from a personal place. Josie’s able to really galvanize behind the idea of a revolution and change. Yes of course, partly because of her own fears, her own need to be useful, and to hang onto the people & the family that she’s made. She’s already lost everything else in the world and sacrificed so much. But Josie has such a strong, fiery sense of justice as well and doing right by people. She can’t bear the abuse of that.
So, there’s just no question in my mind, that if Josie had been put in the same position as Pike, she would have never have done it. She would definitely never believe that Layton would either. That’s the thing that really links them. It’s why they’re these great warrior leaders together. They both have that strong, ingrained, primal sense of justice.
When Tailies get a taste of real food as opposed to their fly-filled protein bars, it looks like instant euphoria on their faces. Especially Pike eating the chocolate cake. What did you personally imagine eating when you were first passed a meal in that ‘diner’ by a former Tailie?
Yeah, I didn’t imagine eating something like delicious or anything! I think it’s more kind of the weirdness of it. There’s a really strange sensation in your mouth like if you’ve ever been ailing and you’re just on liquids or something. It just feels odd. Like that x 1000! (laughs) Kind of like all your taste buds sort of exploded.
It was more like a feeling of, “I’m not sure I can keep this down” rather than “Oh my God! This is so delicious!” I think that probably comes a bit afterwards, once your body realizes it’s alright to eat solid, normal stuff again.
Do you generally utilize emotional recall or consider yourself a method actor in any way?
I mean, not specifically. I do. Of course, it’s helpful to put yourself in a situation where you remember feeling a certain way or some situation that you can relate to the scene… But also I try and use different ways of working because it can be tempting to find something that works and get stuck in it. And I’m interested in sort of stretching my muscles as much as I can in that way. So, I don’t think about it that much when I’m actually filming.
I feel like for me, I want to give myself the freedom because surprising things can happen. You can think that something is upsetting & sad and that you might you might feel upset by it… But actually in the moment, you could end up laughing because humans are idiosyncratic. You don’t always react to things that way you think you might.
I do pull in emotional recall sometimes and I try to do other stuff. I really like working physically, I quite often listen to music or distract myself with something else, completely not having to do with the scene before I go into it. There’s a lot of different ways in I think, and the interesting thing is to keep trying stuff out.
It’s interesting you mentioned music because my mind immediately went to the scene where Old Ivan requests to listen to Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2”… Then proceeds to hang himself. Josie’s facial expression right after really stands out. How do you reflect on that brutal scene?
Yeah, it was… It was brutal and just at the beginning as well. I was helped by the surroundings of course because the Tail’s carriage is quite small. We were shooting in the summer, it was really hot, and it’s easy to feel kind of crushed and oppressed in that environment. So, that kind of all added to it.Snowpiercer Series Premiere – “First, the Weather Changed” – Pictured (from left to right) Mark Margolis as Old Ivan, Daveed Diggs as Andre Layton, and Katie McGuinness as Josie Wellstead – Ep 101 – BTS Photography – 8/20/18 – Photo Credit: Justina Mintz
The building sense of that was around me… But at the same time also, I think that anyone who’s experienced loss in their life and especially if you’ve experienced anyone committing suicide then… That’s a really brutal thing to happen. I’ve had experience of that in my life with people I’ve known who’ve taken their life. So, it kind of wasn’t too far a stretch to embrace the despair of it.Snowpiercer Series Premiere – Katie McGuinness as Josie Wellstead – Ep 101 – “First, the Weather Changed” – BTS Photography – 8/20/18 – Photo Credit: Justina Mintz
There’s a moment where Josie walks down a corridor, disguised as Third Class, and Miles is walking from the opposite side with his teacher. Josie’s pretty much frozen in silence, desperately wanting to say something but not allowing herself to. I was wondering what you drew on as inspiration to express the subtitles of that scene?
I think it’s partly that feeling when you’re on a mission to get something done, and you’re thinking about the practicalities of something. In that scene, I had to get to Astrid, I had to give her the information, I had to get back quickly. There’s a time pressure on it all.
You’re thinking in terms of those small steps of what practically do I need to do. I was focused in that way, so it felt like a massive splash of cold water. You know, when you catch someone out of the corner of your eye who you think already died. Suddenly you’re like, “Oh my God is that them?” And the world flips around for a second.
It’s one of those moments where I felt as Josie, I’d been really focused on the mission & the plan, and seeing Miles was like this stark reminder of what it was really all about. A bit of a free fall moment of, “Oh my God!” and remembering the loss of it.Katie McGuinness as Josie Wellstead on TNT’s Snowpiercer TV Series – Season 1 Episode 7 “The Universe Is Indifferent” – BTS Photography (11/14/18) – Photo Credit: Jesse Giddings
Why do you feel Josie was so quick to trust Zarah Ferami after recovering Layton from the Drawers? You almost get the impression Josie knew something had reignited between Layton & Zarah but it doesn’t impact her decision. Is it just pure desperation?
I think there’s some hope in it. Of course, she’s backed into a corner and has to make a decision. But she also knows how much Zarah & Layton meant to each other. Perhaps, at that point, she suspects that they still do… Josie felt Zarah would stay true to her roots and where she came from. She just has to take the risk and believe that it will all be okay.
Maybe, knowing how much Zarah & Layton meant to each other, Josie sort of doesn’t want to give him up. But deep down, she knows that’s the only person that can help him.Snowpiercer – Season 1 Episode 6 – “Trouble Comes Sideways” – Pictured from left to right: Karin Konoval as Dr. Pelton, Daveed Diggs as Andre Layton, and Katie McGuinness as Josie Wellstead –
Ep 106 – 11/2/18 – Photo Credit: Justina Mintz
The Wilford Industries logo represents a post-modern Corporatocracy, a dictatorship-like autocrat, oppression and yet a lone symbol of survival all in one. After all, no one lives without the ‘eternal engine.’ What do you think Josie feels when seeing that symbolic ‘W’ everywhere? Is it a bittersweet relationship?
I think it’s really complicated. With anything like that, any system set up by humans often has really good intentions when they start. If you think about The Beach or Lord of the Flies or that documentary, Wild Wild Country. Which is about Osho, a guru that came from India to America. It started off with amazing intentions and it turned into this huge beast of a thing that you wouldn’t expect it to. So, I think It’s difficult because you’re reliant on Wilford’s train and you know there’s good in it… And also, you have no choice! (laughs) But at the same time it’s destructive as well.
I think that Wilford logo holds both those things at the same time. That’s why it implodes on itself because there’s such restriction in it. But you can’t fight too hard against it. It’s a bit of a mess. Josie does see it as dangerous, restrictive, unjust, and cruel, for sure. She’s lived in the back where she’s seen the worst of the worst, of the worst. It’s particularly difficult to be seeing that stuff but also knowing that you’re reliant on the system as well. I think that’s kind of where the tension lies.
Episode 3, “Access is Power”, has an intro that delves into the commodification of everything on Snowpiercer. How do you feel about the concept of sunlight itself becoming a commodity that only First Class passengers get to experience?
I feel like it’s not too many steps removed from stuff that’s going now. I know it’s an extreme example of it but the idea that a company today can own a tomato seed and only certain people can grow those crops, it’s just… Everything seems to be kind of going that way in the western world. It’s frightening! Of course, it is ridiculous to think that only certain people get to see the sun… But is it really miles away from what’s going on? (laughs)Snowpiercer Series Premiere – Katie McGuinness as Josie Wellstead and Daveed Diggs as Andre Layton – Ep 101 – “First, the Weather Changed” – BTS Photography – 8/20/18 – Photo Credit: Justina Mintz
Do you think Snowpiercer fans might get a scene down the line where we learn more about Josie’s past and how she came to be Miles’ Tailie mother?
I don’t know but I would love that! That would be nice… (laughs) They did touch on their past really briefly in the first episode when it’s revealed that Miles’ mother died while getting on the train. And so, Josie & Layton took Miles on to become his surrogate parents.
Follow Katie McGuinness on Social Media:
Did You Know?
– Katie McGuinness was nominated alongside her co-stars in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for a 2016 BTVA Video Game Voice Acting Award – ‘Best Vocal Ensemble in a Video Game’. Katie voiced the role of Keira.Katie McGuinness Headshot – Photo Credit: Katie McGuinness
Be sure to Read/Watch:
Relive Josie Wellstead’s journey by purchasing Snowpiercer Season 1 on Amazon! Remember to watch Snowpiercer’s Season 1 Finale on TNT or via fuboTV live this Sunday, July 12th with a double-header (two episodes) starting at 9 pm EST.
Check out more Snowpiercer coverage on The Natural Aristocrat® over in the Snowpiercer articles section!
Hannah Emily Anderson spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about The Purge’s elegant Jenna Betancourt, Jigsaw, upcoming film The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw, and the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the acting industry.
The Purge’s ember haired First Lady, Hannah Emily Anderson, portrayed the courtly yet troubled Jenna Betancourt on the inaugural season of the TV series adaption. A naive optimist at heart, well meaning, and distracted by a volcanic love triangle. Jenna turned a blind eye to the true cost of doing business for too long… Until it came literally knocking on her front door.Hannah Emily Anderson as Jenna Betancourt, Lee Tergesen as Joe Owens, and Colin Woodell as Rick Betancourt – GIF via USA Network
Few TV scenes have aged as well and stayed as culturally relevant, as Joe’s “guilty by association” verdict of Jenna during her husband’s mock trial in Season 1’s Finale. The Natural Aristocrat reflected on one of horror’s most criminally underrated scenes with Hannah Emily Anderson, jolting back into the fierce, edge of your seat intensity.
A visually stunning set piece that demands your full, undivided attention. One that sparks immediate panic and fear in any language, even if there wasn’t a single line of dialogue. Survival mode. A universal diorama even for those with no prior interest in the genre. Leaving you wondering, ‘What would I do in the same situation?’
This interview contains spoilers for The Purge TV Series and Saw film franchise.THE PURGE — “Release the Beast” Episode 104 — Pictured: Hannah Anderson as Jenna — (Photo by: Patti Perret/USA Network)
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: Have you been worried as an actress about the professional implications of the Coronavirus? Do you feel there’s pressure to work in a less than optimal health environment due to Acting being an ultra competitive industry? As in, “If I don’t do it, someone else will take my job.”
Hannah Emily Anderson: Yes, definitely! There’s just no precedent for this. Our industry is a giant machine that waits for no one, and I’m a little worried we’re all jumping back in before we’re really ready. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had another shutdown, though I’d like to be optimistic. It definitely makes me think twice about what i’m auditioning for. It has to be worth the risk.
On the other side of the coin, however, isolation has been a chance for me to sit back and take stalk of what’s really important in my life. So actually, though I’ve missed it, it’s been a blessing in disguise to put acting on the back burner for a bit.
The scene in The Purge’s first season in which Joe Owens gives Jenna Betancourt a pistol and a choice: Shoot her husband Rick dead or both of them (and her unborn child) perish, while simultaneously holding a gun to Jenna’s head, is one of the most underrated pieces of horror cinematography. What was it like shooting that moment?
AGREED! I remember needing a couple runs at it to really get the momentum and intensity going, so at the start there was a bit of panic that I wouldn’t be able to find it. But once we hit on it, it was SO satisfying and exhilarating. Colin Woodell and Lee Tergesen were right there with me. We made it as real as we could for ourselves, and everything else faded away. We were in our precious little acting bubble. Those are the best moments.THE PURGE — “A Nation Reborn” Episode 110 — Pictured: (l-r) Hannah Anderson as Jenna, Lee Tergesen as Joe — (Photo by: Alfonso Bresciani/USA Network)
Joe originally judges Jenna to be ‘guilty by association’, despite knowing nothing of her husband’s business dealings with him. The concept of ‘guilt by association’ has perhaps, never been more culturally relevant than now. Was it actually forward thinking by The Purge all along?
I think one of the coolest elements of The Purge is that it’s always been politically relevant. A big part of this show to me was the commentary on class, race, and power. If you’re white, if you have money- or even if you don’t- if you’re on the “right” side politically, you have power. The Purge night is an opportunity for those in power to abuse it, get rid of those they deem beneath them, to further their own political agenda, and to pat each other on the back for getting away with it. The satisfaction of the show for me is the retaliation.
I remember being asked back then if we could see The Purge becoming a real thing. We all said-under the current “leaders”-absolutely. I think the scariest thing is that The Purge already exists in a way, but it’s not just one night, it’s every day, and it’s more subtle. It starts with discrimination and ends with police killing innocent BIPOC. And it’s taken a lot of us a long time to see what’s really happening.THE PURGE — “Rise Up” Episode 105 — Pictured: (l-r) Hannah Anderson as Jenna, Colin Woodell as Rick — (Photo by: Patti Perret/USA Network)
Do you partake in emotional recall or method acting often when crafting a character?
I usually start a project from a more intellectual, analytical place and then I’ll pull from my own memories and feeling. It doesn’t have to be a real memory either. Often, scenarios I’ve imagined can be far more powerful.
In a 2017 Jigsaw film interview, while complimenting the franchise as meticulously detailed & smart, you made a lighthearted joke. “Whoever came up with this premise is messed up!” Do you feel there’s some truth to art imitating life in this respect? Does that thought ever impact your own creative process in portraying a character?
I think it’s eerily true that art imitates life. The characters on The Purge are consumed by fear and death. With Jenna, she has NO idea what’s going to happen at the beginning of her story: there’s an innocence there. Halfway through filming, my mom died (after a two year battle with cancer) and I felt like the lines between me and Jenna became very blurred at that point.
All of Jenna’s feelings became MY feelings and vice versa. Death was suddenly so real for me and I was then consumed by it. I remember looking at footage from the first episode while we were still filming and thinking-I’m not that person anymore. It was so surreal.
Jenna’s earlier breakup with Lila Stanton similarly forced her into making a choice. Despite being a relatively indecisive character on the series… There’s no hesitation when Jenna stabs Lila or pulls the trigger on Rick in the Season 1 Finale. What do you attribute to this dynamic when push comes to shove?
At the end of the day, it’s about survival. Survive at all costs. Protect her unborn child at all costs. In those fight or flight situations, something more powerful and immediate takes over.THE PURGE — “The Forgotten” Episode 106 — Pictured: (l-r) Hannah Anderson as Jenna, Colin Woodell as Rick — (Photo by: Patti Perret/USA Network)
Jenna comments, “I think the moment we decided to take money from the devil, whatever the reason. We opened the door to this.” Do you feel the best of intentions inevitably become stained due to being preyed upon by those with means? As in, the Dreamer vs the Investor.
It depends on the people involved. It depends on the investor. Relating this to the film industry: I think creatives-aka the dreamers-come up against this idea a lot. It’s a strange world where art and business collide. We’re different breeds entirely. Actors, writers, are floating around with our hearts on our sleeves looking for big business to care what we have to say and help give us a voice.
I think sometimes the best idea or the best person for a job can get lost in the mix. Whoever has the money has the control and usually gets the final say and that can be really unfortunate. BUT, when I look at people like Bill and Melinda Gates, for example, I’m filled with hope and optimism. They’re the dreamers AND the investors. They use their power for good, they make s**t happen.
Does Karma always have a way of finding a return address?
I sure f**king hope so!THE PURGE — “Rise Up” Episode 105 — Pictured: (l-r) Hannah Anderson as Jenna, Colin Woodell as Rick — (Photo by: Patti Perret/USA Network)
Were you expecting to be in The Purge’s second season or potentially make a return in a now-cancelled Season 3?
I had originally signed on for five seasons but knew there was no guarantee and that it might become an anthology series. I was hopeful, but at the end of season one I really didn’t see where our story lines could go. It felt like the end. Plus, I couldn’t imagine doing it without my Colin Woodell and Lili Simmons!
Would you be open to a cameo as Eleanor Bonneville in the upcoming Saw sequel, Spiral?
To work with Chris Rock? Hell yeah. Sign me up.
What can you tell us about the character of Bridget Dwyer in your upcoming film, The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw?
She’s a solemn and devout Irish mother and wife who’s overtaken by grief and descends into madness. So… basically a romantic comedy.
Will The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw still be released on its original release date, October 6, 2020? Considering film & television production has understandably slowed to a crawl all over Hollywood.
Unfortunately I’m not sure on this one! I know it’s premiering at a couple festivals but I’m not sure I can talk about that yet 🙂
Follow Hannah Emily Anderson on Social Media:Hannah Emily Anderson Headshot – Photo Credit: AnneMarie-Baribeau
– Get the latest updates about Hannah Emily Anderson’s latest film, The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw on Twitter! The film is set for a world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival, (* a virtual film festival this year) running from August 20, 2020 through September 2, 2020.
– Relive Jenna Betancourt’s journey with The Purge Season 1 Blu-ray on Amazon!
Read & watch more exclusive interviews with The Purge’s cast:
Check out in-depth coverage of The Purge TV Series in The Purge articles section!
Lisa Emery spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about Ozark’s acting treasure, Darlene Snell, Season 4’s upcoming curtain call, and how the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted production.
Lisa Emery’s Darlene Snell is in a word, mesmerizing. A whirlwind of Southern charm and tradition painted on a canvas with short fused dynamite taped to the back. Phenomenal acting just begins to describe Emery’s artistry & precise attention to detail on the Netflix series. Ozark’s best kept secret. A character so unapologetically true to life you could easily imagine her as your unfiltered, next-door neighbor.
Destined for war, Darlene appears to be regrouping against the locusts that have descended upon her home, husband, and livelihood going into Season 4. A heroin kingpin turning unlikely heroine of the locals? Or a mother lioness following her maternal instinct to protect her cub?
This interview contains spoilers for Netflix’s Ozark.Darlene Snell [Lisa Emery] and Jacob Snell [Peter Mullan] – Art Credit: Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat, based on Photo taken by Jackson Davis/Netflix
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: What I love about Darlene Snell is there’s no telling what she’ll do from one moment to the next. She’s one of the last characters on TV that still makes you sit up straight. What does it mean to you to embody unpredictability in a sea of sameness on television?
Lisa Emery: Well, it’s sort of nothing but fun! Every time I get a script, I’m surprised, which is great. It’s not like, ‘Oh, there she goes again!’ I think it’s unpredictable what a great mother she is in her own way. How desperately she wanted a family, how she can pull in the ‘rednecks’, with Wyatt & now Ruthie into her corner.
Darlene is clearly at the forefront of the local community uniting against outsiders looking to exploit it. How do you feel about Darlene as a kind of revolutionary of the town’s proletariat vs the Chicago bourgeoise in the Byrdes?
Yeah, that’s a great word, I’d love to think of her as revolutionary. But I think she’s not, Darlene just has very strong convictions about what’s fair & what’s not and especially family. Like she says, “Why don’t we do this on our own?” I mean Jacob and I had been doing it for years and felt great about selling our product in bibles. (laughs) I think when you drag all these different people from Chicago but also from Mexico and suddenly you’re like, ‘Wait this is my business! Why is everybody in my business?!’
Jacob wanted to go along with that. Darlene never did. That was beginning of the end for us! She sort of just caved but never liked it. Darlene never liked dealing with Marty, the idea of a riverboat… She thought it was all ludicrous. I’d say she’s very old fashioned and traditional instead of revolutionary.Lisa Emery as Darlene Snell and Peter Mullan as Jacob Snell on Ozark Season 2 Episode 9 “The Badger” – Screenshot Photo via Netflix
What is it about that word ‘redneck’ that makes Darlene Snell react the way she does? Shooting Del dead with a shotgun, punching Wendy Byrde.
I think it’s just a trigger word for her. Although I hate that expression! My ‘husband’ spelled it out in the beginning of the series. Jacob had a speech about the difference between hillbillies and rednecks. How rednecks are people who fill their yards full of old washing machines, tires, and discarded trucks. A hillbilly would never do such a thing, it’s about a respect for the land.
I think ‘redneck’ is very derogatory and ‘hillbilly’ is kind of charming in my own life. I mean, I come from hillbillies but I do not come from rednecks! I know the difference in my heart but that’s the easiest way to explain it.
Did you hold back at all when you punched Wendy [Laura Linney] in the face? Because it looked pretty real!
That was really hard to do, thanks for saying that! Because it just wasn’t. The way you’re directed to wind up and deliver the punch feels not right at all. First of all, I’m not punching her, it would have been much easier to punch her although not really. But you know, to punch something! So, that took a lot of work because it just felt fake no matter what I did. It was all about the pre-punch, drawing back, and how you round it.
I was punching like a girl and I know Darlene is better than that! (laughs) Like doing a four-year old slap sort of. Did that hurt?Laura Linney as Wendy Byrde, Lisa Emery as Darlene Snell, and Charlie Tahan as Wyatt Langmore on Ozark Season 3 Episode 3 “Kevin Cronin Was Here” – Screenshot Photo via Netflix
Have other actors ever given you permission to just hit them? I know that happens on sets sometimes.
Yeah, I’ve had to do slaps before where people said, ‘Don’t worry about it, just do it!’ It’s really hard to slap someone across the face without cringing. It’s helpful when somebody says that, so you feel a little bit more secure about it, and suddenly it’s over. It’s done because you just finally did it. It’s hard to do, it’s hard for me.Lisa Emery as Darlene Snell, Laura Linney as Wendy Byrde, and Jason Bateman as Marty Byrde in Ozark Season 3 Episode 5 – “It Came From Michoacán” – Screenshot Photo via Netflix
In Season 1, Jacob has a great line when first hearing of Marty. “Financial planner. Comes from Chicago. Appears in Lake Ozark. Sounds like something from a newspaper headline.” Do you feel the Snells would have still resented the Byrdes if they originated locally?
They would see them completely differently! It’s about people coming in and ripping our land out from under us. All due to that law… They have the same thing in upstate New York, where the land around your house is protected but only up to a certain point.
Speaking of Jacob, the on-screen chemistry between him and Darlene was undeniable. A perfect match. How do you reflect on losing your better half? Is it strange not having Peter Mullan in scenes to play off of anymore?
It’s just as sad as it could be… Talk about unpredictable! I never dreamt I would be killing him. I mean, it just was not in the cards, as far as I was concerned. But yeah, you know, I miss him. I just watched a movie that I’ve never seen before with him in it the other night…Lisa Emery as Darlene Snell and Peter Mullan as Jacob Snell on Ozark Season 2 Episode 9 “The Badger”- Screenshot Photo via Netflix
How do you feel about Ozark dually being announced as renewed for an expanded, super-charged Season 4 but also it being the final season? Is it bittersweet?
I feel I knew it right after we finished shooting Season 3, maybe a few months after that. Yeah, it’s sad but at the same time, I can’t wait to get back there! I mean I know they were working on the script last fall because I ran into Chris Mundy the showrunner/main writer on the street with Laura (Linney) and we were talking about it. COVID just threw a monkey wrench into the whole thing.
I’m just thrilled that it’s going to happen! I’m so grateful because it was such a terrible place for it to stop for a lot of reasons. Especially, because I’m finally starting to get everything I want out of life as Darlene. I’m building a family, I’m rebuilding my business… God, I have a baby! (laughs)
I keep thinking how I can get that cop’s baby, the new FBI agent! If I see her walking around with that thing, I’m going to be like, ‘Hmmmmm.’ (laughs)OZARK: Lisa Emery as Darlene Snell in Episode 301 of OZARK Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2020
In what ways do you feel the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has most impacted your acting opportunties? I know you perform in a lot of theatre productions.
Well, there is no theatre in New York right now, and there hasn’t been since early March. My son was in a play that just opened and then closed way prematurely. Yeah, it’s effected me drastically, I mean there’s no work. But I’m in the same boat as most other people, I can’t work remotely. (laughs) Nor do I want to.
I was in the middle of shooting a movie, Master, when the whole thing was shut down. I shot one scene and then that was it. They shut it down.
Yeah, I’m not sure what they’ll be doing in the future. I guess they’ll be testing everyone involved on sets.
I guess they will but I don’t know how you maintain any kind of distance on a movie set and certainly on the set of Ozark. Very strange. But I guess if everyone’s tested and you’re tested everyday… You either feel safe or you don’t feel safe.
It’s testing a lot of people in terms of Ozark, a big bunch of crew people, a lot of actors, a lot of hair and makeup, the list goes on and on. I don’t know how they plan to do it, and I don’t know how pleased I am about going to Atlanta. Atlanta is a little bit of a mess right now.
In the mean time, I’m the masked woman! (laughs)Lisa Emery as Darlene Snell, Michael Tourek as Ash, Jason Bateman as Marty Byrde, and Peter Mullan as Jacob Snell in Ozark Season 1 Episode 6 “Book of Ruth” – Photo Credit: Jackson Davis/Netflix
Do you think masks will be tied in narratively into shows at some point? Is that a potential future tradeoff for productions to resume?
I think you can’t do that to an actor’s face, unless it’s part of the plot. But it’s really all you’ve got as in actor, especially in movies, your facial expressions. I mean, it’ll be interesting to see someone eventually make a COVID-19 movie.
Would you consider yourself a method actor at all? Do you utilize emotional recall often?
I’ll tell you the truth, I’m more of an ‘in the moment’ kind of person. I feel as though to be looking at Peter Mullan and working on a scene and obligating myself to feel a certain thing, then pull up a memory of something… I find it distracting, I rather look at him and get it all from him. Just go with what’s going on in the moment.Lisa Emery as Darlene Snell and Peter Mullan as Jacob Snell on Ozark Season 2 Episode 9 “The Badger” – Screenshot Photo via Netflix
I’m not anti-method or anything, I think you can pick and choose from all kinds of different methods. I feel if you have to enter a scene feeling a certain way, really furious, or sad, or distraught… You can take that time before you enter to apply sense memory and that kind of thing. But in the middle of a scene, I just think it makes you go away. I can’t think two things at the same time.
There is a powerful Marty Byrde commentary in “Kaleidoscope” (Season 1, Episode 8) where he goes off about the whole premise of the phrase, “Things happen for a reason.” Breaking it down, piece by piece. Do you feel Darlene Snell would agree or disagree with Marty’s assessment of the phrase?
I think people who live in the country, close to animals, and life & death on a farm are not going to take that road. Things happen. I think what Marty says that Darlene would really align herself with was, ‘You choose everything. You choose your actions, you make a choice, and then you have to deal with it.’ I think she’s more of that school of thought.
Going back to the theme of war on Ozark, there is a moment where Darlene compares herself to the Viet Cong in a conversation with Wendy. She comments, “I don’t have to win, I just have to not lose. This is my land.” Do you feel then Darlene does not actually have to win in Season 4?
I believe if she says it, she believes it! If Darlene’s nothing else, she’s really honest with herself. I thought that was a really interesting line too. That was her war. Certainly Jacob’s. Nobody won that war… I feel that’s where she’s coming from.Lisa Emery as Darlene Snell, Laura Linney as Wendy Byrde in Ozark Season 2 Episode 10 “The Gold Coast” – Screenshot Photo via Netflix
The surprise shotgun murder of Del in Season 1’s Finale was one of the best cliffhangers I’ve seen on any TV Series in years. What was it like to shoot that scene?
God, it was delicious. It was just absolutely delicious! (laughs) Darlene took great joy in killing him, I mean, he brought the worst kind of insulting. Coming in, turning down his nose at absolutely everything. Being so much holier or rather bigger than us. Terrible attitude he had, very disrespectful.
It was really shocking, when I saw the dummy that made of him with his jaw blown off. I’ve never had to kill anybody like that in anything, I did have to stab someone in a play once. But I don’t know, it’s not the same as a shotgun. You know what that’s hard to do too because there’s no recoil, there’s no noise. It’s all pretending like playing Cowboys and Indians. I was used to play Army when I was a kid. It’s so hard to get it just right.Darlene Snell [Lisa Emery] shoots Dell as Jacob Snell [Peter Mullan] is beside himself – Screenshot Photo via Netflix
Did someone come on set to assist the cast with how to hold the guns throughout the series?
I’ve actually shot rifles before because I grew up in the country in Pennsylvania. We used to shoot Skeet, you know clay pigeons on a friend’s farm. So, I knew that but it’s not the same as shooting somebody just a few feet away in a living room. It’s so different but I’ve handled a rifle before but certainly not a shotgun.
Yeah, there was a gun guy. There always has to be one anyway to make sure there’s nothing in the gun and check those things out. There’s also someone that has to create smoke coming out of the barrel right before I’d have to shoot it.
I noticed Darlene used the shotgun against Frank Cosgrove Jr. Why is the shotgun Darlene’s weapon of choice do you feel?
I thought that was a really odd choice, that she was gonna walk across the parking lot with a shotgun sort of like down by her leg. Why not use a good, strong pistol? I guess it’s her style. That was a little creepy to shoot. I mean, he deserved it. But it was a little uncomfortable.OZARK: LISA EMERY as DARLENE SNELL in episode 310 of OZARK. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX ©2020 – Photo Credit: Netflix
Do you ever re-watch your scenes? I know a lot of actors don’t like viewing their own work.
I don’t ever unless there’s something that I feel is wrong and I know it’s wrong. Jason Bateman directed that scene where I shot Del. And I asked to see it because I thought if I saw it I would know what was missing. Even though I couldn’t describe it. Sure enough, it was the language in your body after you shoot off a shotgun. I was just like straight as a tree while shooting it.
That’s when I realized that there nothing in my body that says I just shot off a powerful weapon. There was no recoil. I could fix that right away, so, it’s a great thing able to see something because it seems like nobody else quite knew what was wrong either. But I could tell. I could tell it wasn’t great. And then, when I got to shooting poor Junior’s prick off, then I ever did the recoil. So, I watched that too for my body language.Lisa Emery as Darlene Snell and Charlie Tahan as Wyatt Langmore – Screenshot Photo via Netflix
With the relationship with Wyatt, do you feel it sprung up because he was really the first person to truly believe in you as a mother? Is it genuinely heartfelt? It’s ran through my mind that maybe the whole thing is a manipulation tactic to get back at the Byrdes by destroying their business from within.
I think it’s genuine. I mean, his mother died, he didn’t even know his mother. You know, I felt for him. I felt like he had some goodness to him. I think Darlene liked the fact when she first really got to know who he was in Sheriff Nix’ office that he was living in rich people’s houses. These rich people come down, and he was kind of hanging out and taking baths and. I thought that would make Darlene like him immediately.Robert C. Treveiler as Sheriff Nix and Lisa Emery as Darlene Snell in Ozark Season 3 Episode 1 “Wartime” – Screenshot Photo via Netflix
You know, Darlene had that big boy, Ash. They had such a close relationship. It was never really defined. So, you kind of come up with a story that we took him in when he was a young man maybe, and he was devoted, respectful & loyal. Then Wyatt comes to work with me, and I gave him Ash’s old cabin where he used to live.
Day to day to day, you start having meals together, you find out that he loves the kid. That he’s good with Zeke. He was so protective of me when Wendy came and called me a redneck. I think it built up.Lisa Emery as Darlene Snell, Charlie Tahan as Wyatt Langmore, Laura Linney as Wendy Byrde, and Jason Bateman as Marty Byrde in Ozark Season 3 Episode 5 – “It Came From Michoacán” – Screenshot Photo via Netflix
The scene where I wash his hair is weirdly intimate right before we go to court. Then he stands up for me… I also think she’s really vulnerable at that point too. I mean I just killed my husband, what am I going to do now?! (laughs)OZARK: (L to R) LISA EMERY as DARLENE SNELL and CHARLIE TAHAN as WYATT LANGMORE in episode 305 of OZARK. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX ©2020
When Marty suggests flooding the Snell’s land, Darlene balks at the idea because “Symbolism matters, Mr. Byrde!” I feel that’s a governing principle of Darlene. Is that why deaths are usually veiled in traditional offers of lemonade and coffee? Respectful pleasantries and sendoffs before a surprise injected overdose so-to-speak.
Well, with the lemonade one, we made it look like he (Bobby Dean) might have died from an overdose and then threw him in the water. So, his body was pretty bloated, I think shooting him in the head with a gun would have really been too much trouble. Although, God knows we had a great burial ground going on! (laughs) I think death by drugs was probably kind of appropriate too.
Darlene is really so contradictory. I mean, she put all that fentanyl in the batch of opium and didn’t care because she was just killing ‘worthless junkies.’ That was her excuse for doing it, the real reason was just to make the cartel look bad. But I think she really believed that they’re just junkies, they’re choosing to do it. Yet, I’m producing it for them. You know, it’s f***ed up!Lisa Emery as Darlene Snell and Peter Mullan as Jacob Snell on Ozark Season 2 Episode 9 “The Badger” – Screenshot Photo via Netflix
That lemonade scene catches you completely off guard by the way, it’s amazing!
I like it too! (laughs) It was the very first thing I had to shoot. I got on to set, my first day of shooting, and that’s what I got to do. I’ve never done anything like that! But that guy was such an a**hole anyway, I mean just that scene with Ruthie at the strip club… Either Darlene didn’t have much knowledge of that behavior or never liked him. He wasn’t loyal, we knew he was betraying us anyway. Ehhh, he deserved it!Julia Garner as Ruth Langmore, Charlie Tahan as Wyatt Langmore, and Lisa Emery as Darlene Snell in Ozark Season 3 Episode 8 “BFF” – Screenshot Photo via Netflix
What do you attribute to Darlene’s ability of turning even the most nihilistic, cynical of minds like Ruth’s to join her voluntarily? Even when she got Jacob originally, she barged in on his date and won him over with ease.
Yeah, Darlene saw what she wanted! I think Darlene’s great that way, and that she watches Ruth. I know how dug in to Marty she (Ruth) is… But the turning point was when Frank Cosgrove Jr. beat Ruth up like that and Marty had promised to protect her under all circumstances but did nothing. No retribution. Not a thing. No repercussions for Junior. Like Darlene told Wyatt, Marty is a poison, he doesn’t take care of his employees. Marty Byrde is not good.
That’s what makes Darlene so great! That she can go talk to Ruthie about what she did for her, and bring her along in her truck to go talk to Frank Cosgrove Sr. Tell him, ‘She had nothing to do with it. It’s all on me. This is what I have to offer you.’ So, I’m also pulling in all his resources as well, and I’m offering a lot.Lisa Emery as Darlene Snell in Ozark Season 1 Episode 4 “Tonight We Improvise” – Screenshot Photo via Netflix
I feel Darlene’s motherhood is central to her character because of what she once said to Jacob. “What’s the point of all this, if we have no one to leave it all too?” Do you feel that’s the primary drive for everything Darlene is doing, to protect Zeke?
Yeah, I think it’s a huge drive. I mean what’s the point? For me and Jacob to go on picking poppies and then just sort of die? To have a community, a family community to carry on… I think that’s a huge motivator. I feel it now with my son.
Thank you Lisa!
Thank you!Darlene Snell [Lisa Emery] and Jacob Snell [Peter Mullan] – Art Credit: Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat, based on Photo taken by Jackson Davis/Netflix
Be sure to watch all three seasons of Ozark on Netflix, fourth season is officially confirmed in the works!