FOr a series billed as a “workplace thriller,” Ben Stiller’s acclaimed new series Severance feels oddly pensive. During her solo season—so far—we watch, with wide, cheerful eyes, a cadre of staff swing through the corridors of Lomon’s labyrinth, the sinister Kafkaesque employer.
Each character has undergone a medical procedure that shares his name with the show itself, separating their working selves (“sons”) and outer life (“outsiders”) into two different, broken halves, each unknowing of the other’s actions.
Entire spaces of loops are set aside for workers in their offices, searching through matrices of unimportant data, or walking from section to section, wall after wall nondescript until everything is a brutal blur. I’ve seen her described as slow TV.
The Guardian gave the series a five-star rating, calling it “our new favorite mystery box show”. And while it doesn’t seem like it at first, Severance’s trump card is Lumon’s “wellness consultant,” Mrs. Casey. The role is small but challenging, with little context to draw from. Unlike her fellow employees, Casey has no trace of outside life. When you speak, they are often riddles, providing reassurance to distressed employees through vague affirmations. “Your outer part loves the sound of radar,” says one character, played by veteran actor John Turturro. “Your outie knows pretty rock than a normal one,” she translates to Adam Scott’s introduction.
Then there’s her voice: an unwavering, unemotional hiss that’s equal parts soothing and crawling over the skin, like a yoga instructor hates you.
“I love to shoot ASMR video,” says Dichen Lachman, who plays the Apple TV + series. “Maybe if I wrote about it, Apple would read it and say, ‘That’s a great idea! “
Hours of preparation — watching everything from meditation guides to bedtime stories online — rolled into audio. It’s almost unsettling to hear her natural Australian voice when Lachman zooms in from her London home, where she’s been living since last November with her husband. Naturally, Mrs. Casey’s elastic tension is over. It’s morning there and she’s completely relaxed as she talks about embodying an enigma.
“It is very special and unique [in her] stillness, but also that kind of infantile state,” Lachman says. [you see] Such naivety, this curiosity, because her life was too short. ”
It was revealed that Ms. Casey had only been “alive” for 107 hours in her current form. As the season progresses, she evolves from something of a fembot outbidding her masters to a surprisingly central character whose very existence tears at Lumon’s safely protected secrets. What does this company even do…? Who is Mrs. Casey outside of work? How did she end up here?
There’s a twist that’s too good to spoil for starters, but suffice to say it includes a much bigger arc for Lachman’s character in the newly announced second season of the show. Of course, she’s not entirely immune to the deluge of fan theories full of hypotheses about Casey’s past and future, but she’s reluctant to guess much.
“If I stuck with an idea about what might happen to Mrs. Casey and then went in a different direction, I’d be disappointed,” says Lachman. “And I really want to trust that they know what’s going on.”
The term “they” refers to show maker Dan Erickson, as well as Stiller, who executive produced and directed most episodes of the series. Working with Stiller was daunting at first, especially with the Covid mask restrictions in place, meaning that “all I can see of Ben are his beautiful, bright blue eyes – but merely his eyes,” she says.
Stiller’s guiding touch became the undercurrent of much of Severance’s strange stillness. He was going to play this beautiful music on a bluetooth speaker – [and it] Sometimes he unintentionally breaks up, which is annoying,” Lachman laughs. “It was… the scene starts out nicely [saying]Just breathe, take long breaths in and out. “
The space provided by the chain seemed like a luxury. “They finished all the scripts before I started shooting, which is very rare on TV,” she says. It’s also a far cry from the role that Lachman might be best known for in Australia: the young teenage rebel from Neighbor’s Woebegone Katya Kinski, who spent more than two years in the mid-2000s, had a particularly hard time—even by the standards of a serial opera.
I read an incredibly chaotic list of everything Katya had been through: blackmail, kidnapping, ending up attacking someone with a pacemaker—”I stabbed! I think I’ve been stabbed,” Lachman interjects.
“It was like, go, go, go. [We had] To conjure up emotions very quickly, especially when you’re talking about a character… who always goes through these really extreme scenarios.”
Like many Australian exports, Neighbors became its first break in what was still an incredibly tight industry.
“It was important to be represented in terms of Australian television,” says Lachman, who was born in Nepal, who has a Tibetan and German heritage. “I am so grateful that they even gave it to me at first.
“What happened before that was very homogeneous [and] It was great to be part of that wave that reflects the community a little bit more.”
When her contract expired in 2007, she immediately packed his bags. “At the time in Australia, we were just filming Home and Away and maybe a couple of other ABCs [period dramas], and”—pointing to her face—“I didn’t see myself in that space. “
She lived out of a suitcase for three months in Los Angeles, eventually landing a role in a made-for-TV movie as an Aztec princess running away from a dinosaur. The movie was called – descriptively – Aztec Rex; You didn’t realize what kind of movie it would be until you caught a glimpse of a visual scene early on while filming.
“I was like, ‘Is this the dinosaur?'” Is this how it would look?
“But it really worked because I think if you try to make a funny B movie, the actors need to take it seriously. It makes it funnier.”
It wasn’t the star-making role she was hoping for. It came later, with Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, a science fiction series that has been watched by the right people – “a lot of writers” – despite its reasonably short duration. It has propelled her into a career where she has returned to science fiction over and over again, in shows like The 100, Agents of SHIELD, and Altered Carbon.
Severance, then, is a continuation of her long-standing fascination with the genre. “I still find myself in these stories where…there’s kind of a technology that makes you think about our humanity and our relationship to it,” says Lachman. “Technology is so wonderful in many ways: it saves lives, and it has certainly lifted people out of poverty, [but] We need to adjust our relationship…we have to be careful.”
She couldn’t play these characters grappling with the fragility of big technology — “often the villain or the victim,” she says — without training the neighbors.
“[Neighbours stalwart] Ian Smith has always said, “Wherever you are in the world, whatever your situation, don’t be afraid. Just pretend you’re here. And I’ve never forgotten that.”
“Although I forgot about it a bit in Severance.”