J. Browning: One of the things that you’ve said in the past is the fact that this character that Michelle Dockery plays, Letty, she would be, if Mary from Downton Abbey were alive today. Can you expand on that a bit more?
C. Hodge: Michelle and I were actually talking about this today. If you look at those two characters, Lady Mary is a very strong, vulnerable, dark, funny, she has a lot of life that she’s lived that character. She, having been the head of that family, she takes on a lot and there are similar … it’s 2016 versus the 20s. It’s a totally different thing but it’s the strength and the vulnerability and the humor of both characters, I think, are very similar. Then, in many ways, they’re totally so different. They’re very very very different, but I think that, if those two people met each other, Lady Mary and Letty, there would be a sympathy, and I think many women will feel that about Letty.
J. Browning: Oh I agree. I love the summary of the show as a Breaking Bad in reverse, with a female character at the center. Can you speak to where you drew your inspiration in terms of those types of films?
C. Hodge: The first thing, when this project became a reality, the first thing I insisted on was that the person who directed it be a woman, and I knew who that woman was going to be, or who I wanted it to be, but I wrote it, but no matter how great the script is, no matter how great the actress is … It’s like, to understand what it means to be in the point of view of a woman, which this entire show is, is something I could never fully understand, because I’m not a woman. Really, the inspiration for how this show looks and how this show feels is from the director of the pilot, which we then carried through the rest of the episodes. Her name is Charlotte Sieling. I remember she called me one day from Copenhagen two months before we were shooting the pilot and we were talking every day about what are we going to do, how are we going to do it, what are we going to do, and she called me one day and said, “I know what we’re going to do. We’re going to do poetic noir,” and I said, “What’s poetic noir?” She said, “I don’t know. We’ll figure it out.” Then we did.
The character you play is so interesting in terms of the relationship he has with the lead character played by Michelle Dockery, Letty. Could you speak to their dynamic and bringing that to the surface?
T. Kinney: Yeah. I mean, it starts off as a sort of a push-and-pull. He’s trying to sort of prod her back into the straight and narrow for the sake of her son. She would like to get custody back of him, but she’s having a really hard time doing that because it’s just terribly boring. He not only is frustrated by that, he sympathizes with it, and so he puts in an extra effort to go after her, find her, try to sort of take care of her so she won’t get into worse trouble when she doesn’t show up for her check-ins. That being said, that’s when everything changes because, once he’s out of the office and he finds the kind of fun of this, all bets are off. He gets more lured into her palette than she into him.
J. Browning: Something that we’ve been sort of discussing is the fact that this show draws a lot of unique inspiration from noir cinema. I think it really utilizes the scenery in such a unique way for sure. Can you speak to being a part of it, and just from an acting standpoint, in where you drew your inspiration?
L. Strus: Well, I think that we definitely the vision of Charlotte Sieling and Chad Hodge and Blake Crouch and our cinematographers and it’s beautiful, I think. It’s just such a beautiful, and it’s like poetic noir. It’s this, and I really, when I watched the pilot, I’d never seen anything like it. I’ve really never seen anything like this. As far as what drew me to it, I didn’t even know that I was involved in it. It was really just being directed to just keep it honest and real and be intent on each other, and so that’s what I did. I don’t think that we’re acting within the scope of what this is. I think we’re being human, and allowing the people who know what they’re doing with that to do that around us, but my responsibility is to try to be a human being and talk to another human being. Because this is my very first series, to figure out how to do that with cameras up in my grill. Instead of being in a bubble of light on a stage in a theater.
J. Browning: What would you say the learning curve has been, or adapting to this new kind of pace because this is a hell of a show to start with? For sure.
L. Strus: Yeah. Yeah. Well, we would get together on weekends sometimes and rehearse lines. We’re all pretty much theater-based. For me, it was just, there’s no, like I will work 16 hours a day. I have no problem with that. I like it. I’m an immigrant’s kid. I’m sort of like, give me more, give me more work. I’m pleased with that. There were no complaints from any of us about that, and Dockery, she, I have a really good work ethic but I’ve never seen anything like her. I’ve never seen anything like that girl at work. Day after day after day after day, and then she’d order an ice cream truck for everybody, and I was like, “What the hell? Like, what are you? Who are you?”
J. Browning: I can’t imagine because the whole show was her perspective. It was everything riding on her.
L. Strus: Yeah. I mean day after day after day after day, and then we’d have dance breaks in the hair and makeup trailers. I didn’t concern myself, I don’t think we did, with a style. We tried to be honest and then the design of it took care of itself and we respected that within itself. Everyone took their responsibilities and we all, the crew there in Wilmington is incredible. They’re just incredible. We worked so hard, and long, and on location and in rain and heat.