Thursday, October 1, 2015

Interview: Emmy Winner Regina King Joins the Cast of HBO's The Leftovers

Regina King, photo by Ross Ferguson
Last season, the HBO hit drama/fantasy/mystery “The Leftovers” astounded viewers and left them all in suspense, patiently waiting for season two. While season one was based on the bestselling novel by Tom Perrotta, season two is all-new material, which promises to be equally enthralling. The show takes place three years after a global event in which many people disappeared, known as the “Sudden Departure,” which caused the inexplicable disappearance of 140 million people, 2 percent of the world’s population. The story focuses primarily on the Garvey family and their acquaintances in the fictional town of Mapleton, New York.

Season two takes us to Jarden, Texas, which is the only place in the world that was not affected by the Sudden Departure. Created by Tom Perrotta and Damon Lindelof, the series stars Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman and Liv Tyler, with new cast members Regina King and Kevin Carroll. I spoke with Regina (who just won an Emmy for Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for her work on ABC’s “American Crime”) recently about the new 10-episode season, which premieres on Oct. 4, and she can’t wait for fans to see what Damon and company have in store for us.

Celebrity Extra: Were you familiar with the book and/or the show before signing on to join the cast for season two?

Regina King: I knew of the show, but I hadn’t seen it yet. When I read the script I was like, “Oh my gosh!” I was really floored. I thought the writing was just amazing. It totally locked me in, which I’m sure for the cast members from the first season, that’s what grabbed them. So I went back and watched the show, and just like everybody else, I was filled with a bunch of questions. I don’t feel like the first episode of the second season necessarily answers all of those questions, but it stands on its own and creates even more questions. There are some things from the first season that will be answered in this season. But this season kind of stands on its own because it’s the life after the book. It’s its own journey.

CE: This is a fantastic show with loyal fans and great reviews. Were you excited for the opportunity to join its ranks?

RK: I was very excited. The thing about that is it’s hard to find work, or a subject, that is entertaining and also provocative. So often it’s either/or. It’s provocative and it’s entertaining for a minute, but it doesn’t keep you in it. When you have subject matter that challenges really big sects in our society, it’s pretty awesome to be a part of. I love the way they deal with religion in this show. Religion is always a touchy subject, and you always have people who have different beliefs or don’t believe in religion. This show challenges all of that.

CE: Tell me about those first few days of work, being the new actors on an already established set.

RK: It didn’t particularly feel like, “Oh, we’re the new kids at school, and we have to make that adjustment.” Some people I don’t ever get to work with; so far our story lines have not crossed. And that’s the case a lot of times on shows. But one of the things that everyone has shared, which has remained since last season, is how much Damon helps you through your character because there’s so much secrecy with the show. We don’t know what’s coming from episode to episode. We signed on based on this amazing first script and just trusted that Damon, being so talented, was going to continue with a season as impressive as that first script we read. He’s so good at giving you help, because sometimes you get into the place of, “I don’t know what my character is doing because I don’t know where I’m going.” He’s good at guiding you through that moment without revealing too much about where your character is going.

There’s a part of it, as an actor, that’s terrifying. I talked to Justin and Carrie (Coon) about it, and they mirror that same sentiment. They felt like this last season. They tell me, “Just go talk to Damon; it will calm your nerves.” It totally did. But as terrifying as it is to not know where your character is going, in a way it’s a bit liberating because it really forces you to just be an actor and explore and be vulnerable.

L to R; Kevin Carroll, Regina King, Carrie Coon, Justin Theroux
(Photo by Van Redin/HBO)
CE: What can you tell me about season two?

RK: Oh gosh. I’m trying to figure out what I can say without getting in trouble. Jarden, Texas, is the name of the town where we live. It’s referred to as Miracle, Texas, because we are the one town that no one departed when the Sudden Departure happened. And because of that, here you have this town of a little over 9,000 people, who prior to the departure probably didn’t feel like there was anything special about them. Like towns across the world that we have never heard of, and now the entire world has heard of Jarden, Texas, because of this lack of something happening in our town. All of these people are trying to get into our town so they can be touched with what’s special, and it’s made the property value in our town shoot up sky-high. And all these weird things that have come to happen in Jarden have been heightened to the third power.

CE: Tell me about your character, Erika Murphy, and her family.

RK: We’re a respected family in the town; I’m an urgent-care doctor, so everyone in the town has seen me at some point. And my husband has his certain views about the departure, things that came to be when the departure did not happen in our town — and this is the part that I can’t give up. You can imagine there are a lot of people who were trying to capitalize on that. So, my husband has his feelings about that, and he expresses those feelings. It’s so funny trying to talk about this show because you really have to dance around.

CE: What is the mood like on the set, and how are the others to work with?

RK: You know what? It’s funny because as dark as this show is, we keep it terribly light. We’re always joking, especially Carrie (Coon) and me. We always are just silly all the time. Kevin Carroll, who plays my husband, he’s fun and a light guy. Justin (Theroux), believe it or not, smiles quite often. I am probably telling a secret, but he’s not this dark person. I see him sometimes in photos and in interviews, and he’s always real serious. But he’s a real cool cat.

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