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« Ann Dowd: Quick Notes on Six Roles | Main | Mothers & Imagination »
Thursday
Jun182015

Ann Dowd: Playing Patti on "The Leftovers"

The Film Experience is proud to turn the site over to Ann Dowd for the day. Enjoy...

As Patti Levin on "The Leftovers"


-by Ann Dowd

Finding the character of Patti on The Leftovers was a fascinating experience. I remember having a lot of questions about her when I first read the script. It was scary at first, it was daunting the not speaking. “What is this about? How are you going to play this?” There are always so many questions for an actor. You think “Where is this person? How am I going to find her?” And then the thought came, "Take a breath, settle down, The information will present itself." And sure enough it did.

There are always clues when you’re searching for a character. Not speaking actually turned out to be an incredibly powerful position to be in and here's a clue: make sure you know what the character wants because you are not going to be able to tell anybody with words so it has to be in your whole being. Other clues turned up each time, episode by episode: what she responded to, what she didn’t respond to, her intense aggression toward Kevin, trying to understand why.

It’s a process and in those first episodes, I had just enough to do to slowly put that picture together. [More after the jump...]

 Damon Lindelof and of course Tom Perrotta’s novel were very helpful, too. The great thing about acting in a series for television is that you learn who the character is over time.This was also true of the Guilty Remnant - in terms of rules and regulations. Damon said to me one day:

It’s a new religion and they’re putting it together day by day.”

That was very helpful to me. My experience with Catholicism was helpful in creating “Sandra” in Compliance but this was a much different thing to find. The Guilty Remnant is not an institution or an established religion but a reaction. When something catastrophic occurs and there is no explanation for it, like 2% of the world's population disappearing, you can try to go back to life as it was, as many of the citizens of Mapleton did. Or, you can do what the Guilty Remnant did -- accept that it happened and know that the world as we knew it has ended. 

Randomness is terrifying. But denial is the enemy of the Guilty Remnant. Their goal is to let go of attachment, to bring every day life down to its simplest form, and ultimately to let go. Silence is a very powerful tool. When you don’t speak it stills your world and your focus gets stronger. The chain smoking? It’s all going to end anyway so it doesn’t matter.  The attraction to the Guilty Remnant, why people joined, I believe is because it alleviated anxiety. When you don't resist, when you accept, anxiety dissipates.

[SPOILER] Death was the ultimate goal for each of them because it's an acknowledgment that life has already ended. It's the ultimate letting go. Patti was prepared to die at any time. She didn't know when it would happen but she was prepared. Because Kevin was the peacemaker, because he lived in denial and therefore the enemy of the Guilty Remnant it would've been a great coup for the Guilty Remnant if he killed Patti. He wouldn't do it so she did it herself. [/SPOILER]

And then you work on the arc. I’m sure she came from a wretched childhood. and then into the marriage with a creep. And her knowing that something was coming, knowing with every anxious fiber of her being. And when the Sudden Departure happened it validated all of those feelings she had been carrying, those tremendous feelings of anxiety and that validation changed her life completely. Before she was a victim, after the Sudden Departure she became a warrior." 

Patti was an incredibly complex character but it all made sense to me by the end of it. Being able to jump on this particular train ride with her was one of the great experiences of my life

Previously: Falling in Love With Acting
Next: Mothers & Imagination, Favorite Roles, Future Projects

 

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Reader Comments (13)

"Patti was an incredibly complex character but it all made sense to me by the end of it."

That statement is so true of The Leftovers as a whole, too. That it doesn't buckle under the weight of all the mystery is a testament to the intriguing writing and tremendous acting of all the characters. Patti and the Guilty Remnant in particular. What a fascinating character, and all the pieces we saw of her made even more sense when the flashback episode came around. It's brilliant work by all involved. What a daunting task. What stellar work. Bravo.

June 18, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I am kicking myself so hard for not having seen the leftovers yet. This is a fascinating take on the process of character building and perhaps the best advertisement I could have gotten for the show. I think I'm going to start it tonight

June 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret

I LOVED The Leftovers and LOVED the character of Patti - even though your character bit it so operatically last season, any chance we'll see you pop up in flashbacks or halucinations?

June 18, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterfilmboymichael

Thanks so much for sharing how you developed the character of Patti. The Leftovers is a great show, and you were terrific in it.

June 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLiz S.

filmboymichael -- i keep wondering this myself but it's only because she fascinated me as much as she terrified me so I was trying to find a workaround ;)

denny -- yeah, they weren't afraid of opaqueness with this show which is I think why so many people had a problem with it. It's really not "audience friendly" in the typical ways.

June 18, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Now I have no excuse but to binge The Leftovers at work today.

June 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMarsha Mason

I really did end up loving THE LEFTOVERS and Ann's performance is definitely one of the reasons. So unnerving in the best of way!

June 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

I loved pretty much everything about TheLeftovers -- the art directions, the tone, the pacing, the elliptical narrative structure but especially the surprising, deeply felt work from the whole cast. But amidst all that good stuff, Ann Dowd's Patti (along with Marceline Hugot's Gladys) were the MVPs, who hooked me so immediately and so deeply into the world of TheLeftovers.

One of the things I love about great Supporting Actress performances is that they can provide a clarifying anchor for the whole of a complicated story. Ann Dowd's Patti did that -- pungently, powerfully, poignantly. No surprise, really, as Dowd's become of one of the great supporting troupers in contemporary tv/film. Still, it was an especial thrill to see her work receive such a vivid showcase in TheLeftovers.

And a genuine treat to get this generous peek behind the curtain. THANKS!

June 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterStinkyLulu

SPOILER
The scene where she takes Amy Brenneman's character out to the diner for the first time was so tense and surprising. I loved that moment. But Patti is such a tough nut to crack. The door opened a little and then closed again. By the time of her death she was more of a mystery to me than ever. Great work on the show, Ann Dowd.

June 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

I'm guilty of projection all the time, but as a movie nut, I constantly despair for actors having to do so much press when they could be creating, or studying life in the ways that later feed characters. I interviewed Mia Wasikowska recently and felt guilty for even doing it, even though I enjoyed it and she was lovely. All this to say I really love these occasions on The Film Experience where, even as the actor is clearly still in promotional mode -- and it's working, since I'm now curious to see The Leftovers, and maybe even to get HBO, at long last! -- I like hearing actors speak more on their own terms, not answer the same questions all the time, and show creativity and personality in what they decide to disclose to us about their characters, process, background, and projects. Thanks, Ann, and thanks, Nathaniel! I hope it's as refreshing a change for the artists as it is for me as a reader. (I'm skimming the paragraphs and comments that feel likely to reveal plot points, but it's exciting to know that HBO keeps supporting projects that take gutsy turns and also don't hustle to "explain" everything, in story or in character profile.)

June 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

I share the love for The Leftovers. It could have been an epic disaster because the premise is so extreme, but it totally worked. I was fascinated with your character. I will miss you. It was so much fun rooting against you!

June 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

But what did she think of Justin Theroux's sweatpants?

(Okay, so I don't watch the show, but maybe I should...)

June 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

Thank you for Patti, she was perfect. Pushed my buttons and pinched my nerves.. Ennoying in so many ways, I felt like shaking her hard to wake her up - have her realise she was throwing a beautiful gift (life) away. But, when looking at her, beyond my own reaction to this stoic being, I could see that the beautiful gift (life) hadn´t been so beautiful to her, and that she, in her own way, had checked out of it all already.

June 20, 2015 | Unregistered Commenter@runneth0ver

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