Mary K. DeVault spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about portraying host Ms. Lorelei on The Purge’s pro-NFFA, pro-Purge children’s program, Ms. Lorelei’s Corner.
The first minutes of The Purge’s “Hail Mary” are a beautifully set piece of New Founding Father propaganda, 1984 Orwellian-styled dystopia, classical agitprop. Ms. Lorelei’s Corner was one the show’s landmark cold openers, instantly palming your attention and holding it there. Impressionable youngsters being led by the glitz and glamour of their charming host to the party-in-power’s agenda leanings. The razzle-dazzle of their teacher shepherding not only the audience in attendance but an entire nation’s youthful viewers watching on television.
Actress Mary K. DeVault played Ms. Lorelei, spinning into her grand entrance donning a richly colorful Disney-like Princess dress with long gloves. Trustworthy at first sight, capturing the audience’s heart, subduing their mind blissfully from thinking too critically of the lead message. A soothing visual to Purge viewers at home, recalling their own childhood programs, with layers of complexity waiting to be explored.
During an exclusive interview with The Natural Aristocrat, Mary K. DeVault discussed crafting The Purge’s Ms. Lorelei on-screen, her background in children’s theatre, and the deeper question of Nature vs Nurture when it comes to the series’ characters. DeVault loved every moment of working on the series, calling it a top production all around and relishing the opportunity to work with Ms. Lorelei’s Corner audience members like Zoe [Emily Criss Rives].
Interview with Mary K. DeVault on Ms. Lorelei’s Corner:
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: I recently asked one of your Purge co-stars Amye Gousset (Lena Dash) about the whole Nature Vs. Nurture aspect of The Purge. Viewers see Ms. Lorelei’s Corner, a kids-oriented Pro-Purge show, juxtaposed with a young Ben Gardner smashing up a doll on the “Hail Mary” opener. Do you feel Ms. Lorelei’s Corner is what influences Ben to become violent, that he was born with those tendencies, or it’s a mix?
Mary K. DeVault: I did have some interesting theories on that! I just thought the character was so well written. There’s things like The Warrior Gene, which is based around studies that it could be biological. How some people could have this in them already but it needs culture and society to really bring it out. Not everybody becomes a killer or an aggressive person. I feel the writers really did their research when they put these kind of things in there. It creates something for you to think about.
I find this character very interesting in that way because it gives you a lot to play with. I mean because you have to think as an actor, does this Ms. Lorelei actually go out on Purge night. You have to make your choice for yourself. I think the better choice is that, ‘yes she does and she enjoys it’ because she’s expressing her Purge enthusiasm to these children.
I’ve always wondered for these kind of scenes, do the youngsters realize and understand what they’re saying, material wise?
As a character, the children really look up to Ms. Lorelei and believe everything she says because she’s their role model. In real life? I don’t think so. In one scene I was supposed to be really close to Zoe’s [Emily Criss Rives] face and I know it’s kind of frightening even as an adult to have someone really close in your face. (laughs) I was like, ‘I gotta go chew some gum!’
I tried to talk to her beforehand just so she sees me as a person, and not this scary person up in her face and be upset. I also think that they understand that they’re acting because all the kids were just amazing. They were so fun, after we’d say cut, they’d be kids again.
It is interesting… I understand what you mean. Would it scare them or would they believe what I was saying as a person and not understand that it’s acting? I think they’re all in the business themselves and know what’s going on or have been told what’s going on.
What was it like for you in general? Is it surreal to work with young actors?
Amazing! Everybody was on the same page, I felt that the way they wanted to see the character was the way I understood the character. It was fun! I really felt that the direction and the costumes… Even the way they filmed it, coming out of the apple box and spinning around really helped create the atmosphere. I was really with it.
Did you draw on any children’s hosts that you watched yourself as a kid to kind of craft Ms. Lorelei?
(laughs) That’s funny, no but I actually did a lot of children’s theatre when I was starting out. I probably drew more on that as Ms. Lorelei because it came very easily to me to play this character… And I do believe it came from doing children’s theatre! Because you’re trying to give that same kind of grand experience and relate to the children.
Who did your costume for Ms. Lorelei’s Corner? I thought the design fit perfectly.
Wardrobe’s amazing on that show! The casting was pretty quick so I had to get to wardrobe immediately and try some things on because we were shooting the next day. I thought there were some great clothes but the first ones I saw just didn’t feel right… I was like ehhh. Then there was one dress I’d seen before the audition! (laughs) It kind of called out to me, and it was not the dress you see.
They had to alter it a great deal with all the decorations and the ruffles underneath. They altered it in a matter of hours, it was amazing! They wanted more of a 70s outfit in the script I think, because it was a flashback when he was a child and a different era.
I liked that they gave Ms. Lorelei those gloves, it really added to the character.
(laughs) Yeah! I do a silly web series, Ginny on the Rocks, and in some of it I wear gloves so I thought it would be cool if Ms. Lorelei had gloves!
Oh, so you personally made that request?
Yeah, I don’t know why, I just thought it would be cool if she had gloves! (laughs) You just have this gorgeous kind of outfit, and if you’re in a children’s show, you’re going to accessorize it. Just to make it fun for the children to watch, and make it a little Princessy and Mickey Mousey, so they can say “Ooooo, that looks cool!”
How do you usually prepare for a role? Do you have any kind of rituals that you’ve kept from the beginning?
I do, it’s like if you’re reading a novel and you see the character in your mind. I try to put myself in the character’s mind and after years of doing it, it really comes faster. You know immediately if you connect to a character. In this case, I definitely did! Sometimes you get it, and sometimes you don’t, they go a different way… But you kind of know from all the past characters you’ve played and all the work you’ve done on other characters in theater, television, movies and and everything else for that final product. It all comes up and adds to that.
I just immediately clicked with this character and I knew exactly in my mind who she was. I also watched two Purge episodes and I don’t normally watch horror! (laughs) I watched Season 2 of The Purge after my episode aired, so I knew what was going on more. I thought the writing, production, and everything about the show was extremely high quality.
The idea itself is just such a good concept for a horror! If you don’t watch a lot of horror, you’re kind of like, ‘I don’t know if I could watch this!’ But it’s like Ben, after your first purging it just keeps getting easier! (laughs) I really enjoyed Season 2 and I watched two episodes from Season 1 before I went into the audition.
I thought I’d have more time to watch but things really move quick and the next day you’re in there. I needed to know the tone of the show because the opening scenes are very different from the actual show itself somehow but yet they’re the same. They’re a little bit more heightened, almost a separate entity but they go right into it.
I felt it was one of the best openers of the season.
Thank you! I did too. (laughs) I mean, I really also enjoyed that first audition, that was kind of creepy.
Did you know you were auditioning for The Purge?
The first episode in the opening scene was this woman auditioning to be the voice of the part. I can’t remember her exact lines but it was pretty cool. I thought it was really well written. It just blows my mind that people can come up with consistently good writing, week after week. They really put a lot of thought into how they’re going to present the series.
I was amazed at the production quality, the directing and writing, everything about it. Sometimes as an actor, you just see a character and you’re like I know this is my character! I just wish it would be on a recurring basis.
For sure then, you’d like to reprise Ms. Lorelei on The Purge in a future season?
Oh, I’d like to return to the show or any show I’ve done! You get attached to your characters and you don’t want to let them go. You’ve worked with them for a couple of weeks or from the audition to the time you’re shooting. Well, everything happens so fast, you don’t get that much time. You think about that character and after you shoot it, it’s like a play, a theatre piece, it’s a little difficult to let it go. You want it to return.
Especially, with Ms. Lorelei there’s so many layers to that character. There’s so much more you could do there.
Yeah, there could be other characters that watched Ms. Lorelei’s Corner… I don’t know what they have planned for next season, I think there will be a Season 3. Which will be interesting to see!
How did it feel for you to deliver that line when Zoe asks, “Can they kill people?”, and you respond “Yessssss… They can!” Complete with a massive smile and a giggle.
I had to really make a decision in my mind, ‘Does this woman go out and Purge?’ And I thought, ‘Yeah, I think she does and I think she enjoys it.’ That wouldn’t be me! (laughs) So, I had to find that spot for the character where this is okay, and I’ve been told it’s good for you. You have to as a character really believe that!
It was interesting and complex, particularly, since I used to do comedy a lot more. You sometimes play people who have views that are creepy and you have to connect. I’m not saying to go method and go out and do it (laughs) but really put yourself in that person’s shoes and their beliefs.
They believe what they believe because of everything around them, truly thinking it’s okay. I think Ms. Lorelei thinks she’s doing a good thing, I don’t think she believes she’s doing anything wrong. She’s letting these kids know there’s this whole other world out there, that they can enter into once they’re able. Which builds the suspense creepily!
You mentioned your web series Ginny on the Rocks earlier, can you elaborate more for fans who haven’t seen it yet?
It’s a single camera sitcom but three-four minute episodes starring my character Ginny Penelope Talbotowski. I just wrote the latest set of episodes! It started off originally with my sister taking a directing class, a GoPro camera, and wanting to do a creative project together.
I saw you recently played the character of Melinda in film The Black String. What was that experience like?
Yeah, The Black String is a movie starring Frankie Muniz and I’m in towards the end of the film, I play this scary psychic! It was a really cool part, enjoyed it a lot. The film went the festival route and it was just picked up Amazon.
Curious, do you watch your own work often? Do you ever watch your own takes?
I don’t always. When I first started, I did watch. I was like “Oh my God!” When you first see yourself on-screen, you’re like, ‘Oh wow, that’s weird.’ But then when you keep doing it, you’re seeing yourself as the character, you’re not seeing you anymore. I wonder sometimes how they’ll put a scene together, editing wise. But I don’t evaluate my performance because I always kind of like it! (laughs)
Follow Mary K. DeVault on Social Media
Be sure to subscribe to Mary K. DeVault’s YouTube Channel and Web Series ‘Ginny on the Rocks’, follow her adventures on Instagram and IMDB to see more of her television and film work.
Relive The Purge Season 2 Episode 9 “Hail Mary” in its entirety by purchasing the episode on Amazon!
More coverage of USA Network’s The Purge is available on The Natural Aristocrat’s The Purge category section!