Snowpiercer star Tom Lipinski spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about Kevin’s turbulent relationship with Mr. Wilford and a victim in Miss Audrey enabling & coercing him to accept their abuser as justified.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT [NIR REGEV]: How do you reflect on the bathtub switch blade scene with Mr. Wilford? Both as an actor and as a person. It’s the first scene I’ve seen on TV that required a pre-credits hotline number because of its brutal, ruthless nature.
TOM LIPINSKI: Right… You know, it’s hard, I’m of two minds about it. Obviously in that, how to represent a certain type of violence or in this case, self-harm on camera, needs to be done with care, right? Because, artistic representation of life, can’t shy away from the challenges that we face.
This type of dynamic exists in the world. You hope to treat it with respect. You hope to maybe in the best of circumstances, shed some light on it, or have somebody see something in their own lives reflect and connect with it. But it’s difficult.
I mean, I have a mother out there that I told not to watch. In my career, there’s been plenty of shows that I’ve told her to shy away from as a result of the amount of violence that her son was involved in.
From an actor’s point of view, it’s a welcomed challenge to go into that head space. A really incredibly dangerous head space that the character Kevin is in at that time. And that relationship that he has with his boss…
I’m sensitive to the idea of violence and self harm on camera. I know it’s sort of a hot button issue. And yet at the same time to be able to explore what those themes are from an emotional standpoint for yourself… I think, as an actor, it has value.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Kevin returning to Mr. Wilford to kneel and lick his shoe after his life-changing trauma made for one twisted scene. What was it like recording that moment? Not too many takes on the shoe licking part I hope for your sake.
TOM LIPINSKI: (laughs) I thought that was like the coolest scene! I’m aware that this is a show, at least in the United States that’s on TNT. So I was curious about how freaky they were willing to go!
Rebecca [Rodriguez, Director] said we’re gonna do this: “Let’s lick his foot!” I was just like, “Pardon my language, but f*** yeah! Let’s get weird!”
I haven’t seen somebody licking somebody’s shoe on broadcast television before. But yeah, it did not taste good. We definitely had to do it more than once and it’s not like you can disinfect every take.
I don’t know how many takes we did. I’m wanting to say, more than one, less than five. (laughs)
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Lena Hall told me the scene where Miss Audrey is ‘fixing’ Kevin was a full six hours of filming. What was it like staying zoned in and crying on-camera for so many takes? It must have taken a lot out of you.
TOM LIPINSKI: Yeah, it certainly was an awfully long time to be in that zone. I had been more or less prepared for that to be the reality of how that day was going to go down. It was definitely a challenge. I had to try to zone out in-between setups and lighting changes & just stayed strapped to that chair for the entire time.
I didn’t spend a lot of time getting up, getting loose, and going over to craft and get coffee (laughs). I just put in my headphones and stayed in the zone. By the end of the day I was completely wiped.
Rebecca Rodriguez, the director of that episode was incredibly sweet to me. It gave me a lot of room and it ended up hopefully what she wanted.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Were you told ahead of time that the character of Kevin would be coming back in a future script? Or did you go into Snowpiercer’s bathtub scene thinking that was Kevin’s curtain call?
TOM LIPINSKI: Yeah, that was the extent of my contract with the show as I knew it at the time. I just actually auditioned for a two episode arc and had come up for episodes 201 & 202. There was the big finale scene in which Kevin gets killed in the bathtub. That was such an operatic scene and it was going to be with Sean Bean.
So I thought, you know, that would be worth it just to do these two episodes because it was such a fun little moment! In only like a couple of weeks later, I heard back, “Oh, so you’re not dead. They want you to come back.”
Which was certainly a surprise and a welcome one because I had so much fun and the cast on the show had no idea that I was going to be coming back.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: There’s so many layers to the idea of a victim ‘rehabilitating’ another victim to accept the pain inflicted on them as justified. Right down to the wrist scar as a symbol of loyalty rather than shame. How do you feel about this power dynamic between Miss Audrey and Kevin?
TOM LIPINSKI: Miss Audrey certainly has a power dynamic over Kevin, even though she’s of the same wavelength, she’s experienced the same things. But it is like a victim coercing another victim in that way.
She comes in and trying to coerce or to break Kevin. To bring him back into the fold. It’s very apparent that Kevin is the one who is in crisis and Miss Audrey is the one who is seemingly in control.
But that moment of her seeing that I have this scar on my wrist, it’s an identifier for Miss Audrey. In a strange way, that’s a moment that she picks up on and uses as a way to connect the two of us. That’s where you see that these two people are really in distress and they’re just dealing with it in very different ways.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Miss Audrey comments that ‘he must really like you’ after seeing Kevin’s wrist scar. Is she implying Kevin had an intimate relationship with Mr. Wilford? Lena Hall told me that to Miss Audrey it was like realizing she needed to add Kevin into her ‘marriage’ with Mr. Wilford. Many fans in the Snowpiercer TV Series Fan group have asked about this.
TOM LIPINSKI: To me, it sounds less like just a jealous lover, but sort of Miss Audrey being jealous at the light Kevin is receiving. Everybody is jockeying for Mr. Wilford’s intention. For someone to steal his attention is paramount to cheating.
I always try to remember the outlandish circumstances that these characters find themselves in. Locked in a f***ing train for eight years. I think a lot of the rules about intimacy or any of these things get sort of thrown out the door and almost rewritten.
It’s of course, a result of mankind being put in this hurdling train with no sunlight for such a long period of time. There’s no telling this idea of closeness or intimacy or contact or devotion or love or anything like that wouldn’t necessarily be twisted and turned upside down.
I think Kevin has an unyielding devotion to Mr. Wilford. It’s not sort of bound up in traditional categories of like, ‘Oh, is he his partner or is it someone else?’ I think it’s just subject to different rules.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Kevin exposes Big Alice’s vulnerability early on by letting up on being hungry. Why do you feel Kevin was unable to resist the dish presented for him? On the same note, why did Kevin choose to tell a white lie to Mr. Wilford about it initially?
TOM LIPINSKI: Yeah, I mean, that’s sort of Kevin’s original sin. This first moment where they are exposed to this lifeline from Snowpiercer because the people of Big Alice have suffered.
I think it’s just an inability on his part to restrain himself from a mango. A mango is such an unbelievable opportunity to Kevin that he couldn’t turn it down. Then there’s Kevin’s inability to admit that he’s failed to his boss. It’s just too large step for Kevin to admit that he would let Mr. Wilford down, I think that’s where that comes from.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: When Kevin keeps yelling that all he sees is Mr. Wilford when he closes his eyes, it reminded me a bit of Lady Macbeth. Her obsessive washing of her hands at all hours of the night.
TOM LIPINSKI: Yeah, like you mentioned that’s pretty time tested. I mean, this goes back to repetition compulsion and things like that, where we are haunted or visited by memories of trauma.
Wouldn’t it be great if we all went to bed and the only recurring thoughts that we had were great memories. ‘I remember that day that I had just a greatest day and I woke up feeling good! I met all my friends and I just can’t stop thinking about that day!’
Instead we’re visited by these traumas and in certain circumstances quite literally can’t get them out of our heads. I think that’s an interesting part of human psychology.
And that certainly sort of what I was thinking about in terms of when Miss Audrey walked into that room with Mr. Wilford. What are the circumstances of me being here? I couldn’t think about anything else other than that moment with Mr. Wilford in the bathtub.
That’s a form of his control. The sheer horror is now locked in and I can’t escape it. The only way to the other side and escape that kind of fear is the repetition of a prior image. To sort of almost completely sublimate myself into the service of something else.
For me, that’s how that type of extreme trauma works.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: A lot of actors have told me that they respond differently to certain makeup stimuli. I’m curious about your thoughts when they placed the loose bandages on your wrist for the scene with Miss Audrey.
Do you prefer to stay in the moment or rely on something that’s happened in the past to bring that kind of emotion out of you as an actor?
TOM LIPINSKI: I think it’s a moving target in my experience. You can be working with sort of an embedded response to something that you pulled from your emotional life woven into the story of a good character.
But like you were talking about earlier, when you’re doing it for six hours, it might not get you to the finish line. You might need to try to connect to something in the moment. You might find that your well is running dry and you need to figure out another way to approach the scene and keep it fresh.
I like to try different things to give to the director and adapt to what they need to capture in the moment. So I think in my experience, there’s no one way to do it. There’s no one way of working for all actors and even over the course of a day shooting things.
I don’t think there’s one particular way that I work that always works that I can count on. You have to show up with your tool kit and see what works and hopefully it’s coming across.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Do you feel it’s the human condition to always return to what you know? Even if it’s treated you wrongly in the past, there’s a comfort factor there. Is that why you feel the train falls to Mr. Wilford in the last episode? The authoritarian you know, rather than the revolution you don’t so-to-speak.
TOM LIPINSKI: I think it’s less about returning to comfort as much as it is returning to the experience that you’ve already been having.
However, I believe that people can surprise themselves and surprise others in their desire to break away and wish for change. I feel there certainly is a tendency among groups to defer to the norm.
But no matter how violent they might end up being, revolutions exist. I always think change can happen and is right around the corner.
This is Part 1 of our interview series with actor Tom Lipinski. Part 2 will be published after the Snowpiercer Season 2 finale airs on Monday over at TNT.
Looking for more Snowpiercer interviews, news, recaps and reviews?
Full Interview Series with Snowpiercer’s Lena Hall:
– Check out our interview with Katie McGuinness on Snowpiercer’s Josie Wellstead!
– Be sure to read our Snowpiercer Season 2 Episode 6 review! Discover the origins of Mr. Wilford and Melanie Cavill’s split leading to Big Alice. Wilford Industries always has a backup plan… Mr. Wilford never settles for the Tail section, always a first class passenger.
– Watch our NYCC 2019 interview with Jennifer Connelly about the importance taking on every acting challenge with a blank slate. The source material as the ultimate guide in the journey, rather than replicating success in past works. You don’t break box office records without innovation.
– All Snowpiercer recaps, news, interviews, and reviews can be found in the Snowpiercer articles section! Season 3 of the sci-fi TNT series is already confirmed.
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