Interview de Laura Allen à propos de la série Laura Allen par le site BuzzFocus
March 1 saw the debut of NBC’s most impressive drama pilots in recent years. Jason Issacs stars and produces Awake, as Michael Britten, a detective who suffered a tragic car accident with his wife, Hanna (Laura Allen, Terriers) and son, Rex (Dylan Minnette, Let Me In). When Michael wakes from the accident he mourns losing his son with his inflexible psychologist Dr. John Lee (B.D. Wong) and Hannah, but when he goes to sleep, Michael wakes in another reality where Hannah died and he must cope with son and another psychologist Dr. Judith Evans (Cherry Jones) who is more open-minded to his experiences. Both worlds seem so real and Michael cannot determine which one if any is real.
That’s not the only strange occurrence; clues in one reality help him solve different cases in the other. Each psychologist assures him that his or her reality is the real one and the other is a dream. It all makes for a mind-bending spin on the procedural and one of the must-see shows of the spring season. BuzzFocus caught up with Laura Allen and Dylan Minnette on a conference call with other journalists. They provide the emotional element of the show as Michael grieves congruently with a wife ready to move on and a son who can’t confide in his father.
The difference in grieving
“I think if I could speak for Hannah,” Allen said. “Michael and I are really not adapting to the situation obviously at the same rate. And the question that I’m constantly asking in portraying Hannah is he on board with me? Are we grieving together? Are we moving forward together and can we connect over this loss of Rex?”
“And in the grieving process there’s so many times things that Hannah learns about herself, learns about Rex when he was alive that almost keeps him alive for her. So in that sense, I think she and Michael–because Michael experiences him very much alive–can connect over that. But she evolves in a different way because she’s sort of bittersweet and has the memory of Rex where he’s very actively involved in Rex’s life. So we’re becoming very more divergent and still yet trying to move forward together so it’s very interesting.”
“For Rex, it’s a little different,” Minnette responded. “Michael is his dad and he’s always telling him, you know, what to do and he’s adamant about things. So I don’t think he really thinks about his dad missing his mom as much as he does. But Rex really keeps it to himself because he doesn’t want his dad to see what he really feels about it.”
“You’ll see because Michael’s doing his best to feel close to Rex, and you’ll see things throughout the season where Rex gets closer to him or just farther away. And it’s a cool little ride that you can follow with each character and the entire cast. I think it’s really cool.”
“And yet I feel like it’s the kind of show that you can catch an episode and you don’t need to have seen the pilot,” Allen added. “You don’t need to have seen the second one. You can skip to four or eight and it’s a self-contained story in itself. I mean once you get past the premise, which is very understandable. I think now that people are actually watching it on television they do get it. So each episode has its own crime solving and the therapy I think is really narrative in helping describe what he’s going through. And then he’s got us on both sides too.”
Breaking the Formula
Audiences can keep both worlds straight by seeing what color rubber band Michael wears (Red = Hannah is alive. Green = Rex is alive). Scripts are even labeled with a G or an R for what world they correspond to and we find out that Minnette can’t help but read both scripts because he is a fan, while Allen tries to stay contained and separated from the other reality. In the second episode, we learn that not only are we experiencing these different worlds through Michael’s eyes, but other characters too, further clouding the assurance of what is real and what isn’t.
“When I first read those scenes – any scene without Michael Britten, I thought, ‘Does this validate the red world?’ ‘Does this mean that it is existing outside of his dreams and all that?’ Kyle Killen, our writer, creator and producer says that it’s what he calls a ‘disappearing narrative theory,’ which I think he can talk far more than I can. But that we’re all part of – how do I say this? We dream more than we can remember about dreaming and know that there are pieces we only remember the parts, that we’re involved in or he’s only remembering parts that he’s involved. But that we do exist in part of a larger world if that makes sense. Dylan?
“I felt the same way,” Minnette responded. “After we did the pilot and before we got the next script, I thought to myself, ‘Well every single one of my scenes is going to be with Jason. So there’s no other way that they can do that. And then I got the next script I just says like I was proven wrong. I don’t know what’s going on here. But actually we found out about the theory and I’ve learned more. You will see some more of that this season. Kyle’s brilliant so there’s always a reason behind something, you know.”
The show does spark the imagination unlike any other show and in addition to the cases Michael tries to solve, each psychologist act as adversaries to each other, as well as his partners on the force who question where he is getting his hunches from. What kind of alternative psychologist tests will Michael undergo? Hypnotherapy for example? Will the interactions between characters reveal something new?
BuzzFocus: Our first question is for Laura. I found it ironic that in Terriers, Katie had this child that you were trying to hide, and in the pilot of Awake, we see you prompting Michael whether or not it’s time to move on and maybe try for another child – is that something that we’re going to continue to explore?
Laura Allen: The desire for a child is something Hannah has not let go of, and yet, Michael says, you know, “Let’s hold off for a minute. Let’s make sure that we are dealing with all of our issues first.”
And so the pursuit of law school in Oregon and moving forward is really Hannah’s focus but losing a child I think – she’s somewhat young enough still to do it now, you know, and… [Pauses] I don’t know. Losing a child–biology probably kicks in to want to not replace it to continue on with her mothering instinct. So it’s very much alive in her, I’d say.
BF: Dylan, we saw this little acknowledgment that Michael still sees Rex in his dreams, and Hannah tells him to tell Rex that she loves him. Are we going to see that in reverse where kind of he acknowledges that his mother’s on the other side of his father’s dreams?
Dylan Minnette: I’ll have to say no. I think that Michael just thinks that that’s not the right thing to tell Rex, especially when Rex is kind of standoffish of him, because Rex was really close with his mom, and he’s actually deeply affected by the loss, whether he shows it or not. He just doesn’t show it to his dad. And that would just push Rex away even more.
Really Rex shows it to his tennis coach, Tara (Michaela McManus), but Michael knows that they’re having struggles with really feeling close to one another. Rex thinks his dad is crazy. But he doesn’t know. I think it’s a risk that he could take in the future, but just not any time in the beginning, no.
LA: It’s a fascinating premise though, isn’t it? Because even though, if you think about just anybody who might actually be grieving the loss of a wife or a mother, and you experience your son and he’s growing up and you ask yourself, “Oh, man, what would his mother say if she knew,” you know?
And he has the benefit that he gets to go to sleep and wake up and kind of indirectly ask her or, you know, and find out about the fabric softener. And then borrow from that world and go back to Rex and then wake up and make it right. You know, so it’s kind of ideal in that way.
DM: Right. So there’s like certain things in there that he uses from you where you’re still kind of taking care of me a little bit, because he’s just getting tips from you.
LA: Yes, exactly.
DM: I know.
LA: And he tries to be that bridge. He tries to, you know, I think that’s the best he can do.
BF: What do you guys feel – take away as far as both of you carrying some of the emotional part of the show? So much of it is about the two cases that he works on, but your two characters are the emotional pulse of the show aren’t they?
LA: Mm hmm. Oh, it’s my favorite. I feel so privileged to get to tell this story. It’s that’s the kind of television I like to watch – the emotional part. So it’s a big responsibility and yet–I feel connected to mothers and people who’ve suffered any kind of loss in this role. It’s an honor, I feel. Although there are days I wish I could be the police precinct just shuffling paperwork.
LA: But you don’t.
DM: I literally have the exact same answer, so if I were to answer, I’d just be wasting time. So I’d say the same thing.
LA: You know, and what is also so interesting too about grief is that there are really light moments and beautiful like life-affirming moments in acknowledging suffering and sharing it with other people. I mean I’ve experienced that this season playing Hannah, and so, yes, like I said, it’s just – it’s an honor as an artist to get to tell that story.
BF: Do we ever get to see either of your characters meeting the respected psychologists Dr. Judith Evans (Cherry Jones) for Rex and Dr. John Lee (B.D. Wong) for Hannah?
LA: [Caught off guard] Oh.
DM: Meet the psychologists?
LA: Do you? Yes, do you meet BD or Cherry? No, obviously.
DM: I don’t want to give it away by saying yes or no, but…
LA: We might have to pass on that question.
DM: I don’t know. I guess I’ll just have to pass.
BF: Fair enough. As fans of the show since you are both kind of watching it as it airs, what are your takes on the individual psychologists and their different methods in terms of as it respects to your characters and how Michael will be able to get through this?
DM: I feel like with Dr. Lee in Hannah’s world, he is very adamant and he knows that Hannah’s alive and that there’s no chance of living in another world and Rex being alive. And Dr. Evans, who’s in the reality that I’m alive in, also feels the same way. Like deep down she obviously knows that this reality is real and that Hannah’s not alive but she’s more open to the idea of what Michael is experiencing (on the other side). That’s my take on them.
LA: I feel like even though their approaches are so different they are equally convincing and I love seeing brief moments where they affect him and they persuade him and he goes into his world a bit more panicky at thinking he really has lost Rex or he really has lost Hannah. And so whether it’s Dr. Lee being logical and forceful or if it’s Dr. Evans who’s being nurturing and encouraging, I think they’re both threatening too.
DM: Yes and honestly one of my favorite themes in the pilot was when Dr. Lee made a good point about why reality is real and Dr. Evans had him read a page from the Constitution, why would you do that? He’s so scared to go to bed and wake up thinking up you’re going to be gone. And then he wakes up without the rubber band and he freaks out. That was one of – every time I watch that I just like get the chills because I think that’s so cool how much a little thing one of them says will affect him.
LA: Yes and Dr. Lee – in the original script Dr. Lee had a retort to that also. He said, “Look there is so much that your mind can contain that you don’t even realize that you might have the whole Constitution memorized but you don’t know it, it’s all in your subconscious. So how do you know that you don’t have it word for word verbatim?” I love that.
DM: Right if they can just throw things back at each other that makes one seem real the other – it’s just like this giant game that they play.
BF: My final question is between the two of you just as pure actors and friends on the set, are either of you kind of rooting for one or the other as far as being the one that’s alive?
DM: I’m not. I just kind of go – because I think the purpose of the show it’s not for Michael to find out who’s alive, who’s dead, it’s Michael like struggling and trying his best to keep both of them alive because he is so scared to lose one that I think throughout the show the viewers and as the actors ourselves are just going along for the ride with Michael and that’s the purpose of the show is to go along for the ride and hope that both are alive. And I think I’m not…
I like the two alternate realities and I know that in the end we’ll have the end result and I know we’ll get there and I’m just going to kind of – I just kind of like not knowing, it’s going along and I’m not rooting for one or the other really. I don’t know about you Laura but I’m not.
LA: Yes no, I think it’s like the anti rooting, you know, it’s like we are on Michael’s journey and if anything we’re rooting against the therapists who are disproving one reality over the other. I mean, I think he’s just trying to keep it together and be good at his job and have a fulfilling meaningful relationship with both his wife and his son.
DM: I just realized there are so many things coming that nobody expects.
LA: I know. There’s stuff that I’m almost saying and I’m kind of like oops, don’t talk about that.
DM: Yes I know.