interview by Jaimie Kourt
You grew up in New York. Which area? Do you find it an entirely foreign land from your childhood years? What do you like and dislike about the changes?
I grew up in Brooklyn. It has changed a lot since I was a kid. I loved growing up in Park Slope. It was beautiful and filled with interesting people. I felt like I knew my neighbors. Growing up in NY is great when you’re a kid with no financial worries or responsibilities. Now that I live there part-time as an adult, I can start to see how hard it can be as well. It can wear you down but as a reward for your perseverance, it offers you history and culture and art. I’ll take the trade off.
You went to university in Los Angeles, and it is now your home. What aspects went into your choosing what part of the city to make your home? What do you love most about your home and the space you have created?
As a New Yorker I’m used to a walking city so even in LA I wanted the Staples nearby. Although, unlike most New Yorkers, out here I can have a yard for the dog to run around.
How did your decision to obtain an acting degree in college come about? And what influenced you to attend USC School of Drama?
I always wanted to act. I can’t remember a time that I didn’t. I asked my mother once, “if when you went to college you had to take all the core classes again” and she said “yes,” so I said I wasn’t going. Ha! We talked it through and our compromise was that I could go to a conservatory acting program. Some of the best years of my life were studying at USC. I really feel like I discovered what was possible in acting during my time there. They were so welcoming and made it clear that they wanted us to find our own personal artistic process instead on insisting we do it their way. That’s rare for an acting school.
Do you think pursuing that degree in Los Angeles affected the course and type of work you now find yourself involved in? Were you aiming your career towards work in television and film from the beginning? You’ve been so successful in navigating the professional “business side” of acting. Did USC offer courses and/or direction in how to do so?
I was aiming for a career in theater. That was what I had done for years. But sometime during my time at USC, the business changed. It used to be you honed your chops on the stage and then they’d let you act on-camera. That flipped. Now, a young actor has a better shot at starting in television and working her way onto the stage later. Even though I wish I had done more theater in the last few years, there hasn’t been a better time to work in premium television. I feel like I fell into the right medium for the beginning of my career. And I can’t say the “success” of the business side feels that way. I have to pound the pavement just as hard today as I did ten years ago. Maybe even harder. This business is not easy which is why you have to love it to stick with it.
What is the best aspect of your job? What do you most enjoy? What is the hardest aspect of your work?
I’m one of the lucky people who really loves every aspect of my work. I had an epiphany last year. On a shoot day there was a scheduling hiccup which meant I sat around for 12 hours with nothing to do. It’s actually not that uncommon but they do try to avoid it. And I searched my soul for any anger or irritation and I honestly couldn’t find any. I was just so thrilled to be there. I am the best version of myself when I’m at work and I don’t even have to try. I feel confident in a way I can’t feel anywhere else. I used to be worried that made me weird. You’re not supposed to want to spend more time at the office, or so goes the old adage. But I do. And I don’t want to feel guilty about that anymore. It’s a blessing. Artistically, it’s always hard but the challenge is what makes it interesting. Working with other great actors is my favorite. When someone is free enough to move with you and really hear you and respond, instead of reciting lines by rote. So I think my least favorite is working with someone who doesn’t care or is too cool for school. There’s no fun in interacting with someone like that. Luckily they are rare.
“I’m one of the lucky people who really loves every aspect of my work. I had an epiphany last year. On a shoot day there was a scheduling hiccup which meant I sat around for 12 hours with nothing to do. It’s actually not that uncommon but they do try to avoid it. And I searched my soul for any anger or irritation and I honestly couldn’t find any. I was just so thrilled to be there.”
Could you speak a little about your experience on TRUE BLOOD, your first job as a series regular? (The shooting on location, the material, Alan Ball, the cast…)
“True Blood” was a very special experience. It’s where I cut my teeth, so to speak, in the business. They threw everything at us that they possibly could. I feel prepared for anything now. I’ve worked with blood, prosthetics, animals, wire stunts, babies, special effects, firearms, I got buried alive, worked in extreme cold, extreme heat… I could go on. Now I’m not scared of anything because I’ve probably done it before in some capacity.
TRUE BLOOD was an amazingly successful HBO series. Nowadays, in the universe of “Binge Watching,” HBO, and the other cable channels in general, have become the more traditional television-series models. Your current hit series, MARVEL’S DAREDEVIL can be streamed on NETFLIX. Do you find an altered manner to the way you work and look at the material, given the mode in which the audience will be viewing?
Not a ton of difference, no.
Who do you play in the series? As most of the great characters, she seems conflicted. What drives her towards being good, and entices her about, well, being not so good?
I play Karen Page. She’s sort of an amateur sleuth. She was working for a law firm with the show’s other lead characters, Matt and Foggy, but she’s always going off on her own investigations. Plus, we’ve been given some tantalizing hints to a past she has been keeping secret. We first learned there was something more to Karen in the first season finale when she did something she will have a hard time moving past. I think that action and whatever happened before we met her is a constant reminder that she lives with darkness. That she is capable of monstrous things. And so it is fear of that monster that keeps her hidden from the people she loves most and keeps her striving to atone. By helping the innocent and taking down the guilty. She fears she must always be reaching for the light or her darkness will destroy her.
Are you privy to where the writers want to take this character in future seasons? Does the television story stray much from the original material?
Not really. They might talk with me about what they are thinking once they’re in the writers room but they aren’t that far ahead either. Plus, I think writers like to surprise actors with their material. I wouldn’t want to take that away from them. The material is fairly close to the comic books for the other characters but they’ve taken a lot of liberty with Karen and I’m very grateful. I think the character we are creating for the series is intensely interesting.
choker: the Shiny Squirrel / knit top: Jil Sander, Albright Fashion Library / blouse: Isabel Marant, Albright Fashion Library LA / belt: Zana Bayne / skirt: Emanuel Ungaro, Albright Fashion Library LA
“When you’re on set, everything is fighting your human nature. Trying to remind you it isn’t real. And if it succeeds you won’t be able to act. You’ll have to fake it. So in order to be vulnerable under those circumstances I try to allow myself to feel freely at any moment. I never stifle a laugh or choke back a tear. It makes me a bit odd but it means I never have to fake it on set.”
Series television production requires a fairly grueling schedule and a lot of stamina, how do you stay fit to the task? What do you do on your days off?
Beyond general health, the most important thing for me as an actor to keep flexible is my “response-ability”. I want to be reactive and keep my impulses close to the surface. When you’re on set, everything is fighting your human nature. Trying to remind you it isn’t real. And if it succeeds you won’t be able to act. You’ll have to fake it. So in order to be vulnerable under those circumstances I try to allow myself to feel freely at any moment. I never stifle a laugh or choke back a tear. It makes me a bit odd but it means I never have to fake it on set.
Otherwise I really like games. And I think because I’m working on Karen I’m particularly drawn to mysteries. So I’ve been playing a lot of Nancy Drew computer games. They’re the best. And writing a ton of DnD adventures. I like to pepper my campaigns with mysteries to solve. Clues to piece together.
Can you summarize MARVEL’S DAREDEVIL Season 2 in a few words?
Season two of Daredevil deals with the conflicting nature of good and evil within all of us. At the core is Matt Murdock, so brilliantly played by Charlie Cox. Charlie is such a nuanced and adept actor. He’s playing a good man with a violent disruptive side. In contrast, we have the punisher who is a violent disruptive man with goodness inside. Karen, for Matt, represents someone constantly running towards the light, although he doesn’t know that really she’s running from something. Then he also has Elektra on the other side who was a good person corrupted into thinking violence is the answer and therefore runs toward the dark. These elements pull at him and he will have to decide who he wants to be.
Creative Director: Deborah Ferguson
Photographer: Frederic Auerbach
Layout Art Director: Richard Ho