During our recent webcam chat with Liv Tyler (watch above), she refuses to divulge the plot of the upcoming third and final season of HBO’s critically acclaimed “The Leftovers” beyond, “there’s a lot of things that are the same, but quite a few changes.” This drama series is about a world in which 140 million people (i.e., two percent of the world’s population) have vanished in what is known as the “Sudden Departure.” It contemplates how people cope with sudden and inexplicable loss in a way that is unlike anything else on television. Tyler plays Meg Abbott, a confused and impressionable woman who joins the nefarious Guilty Remnant cult in season one, and eventually becomes the cult’s leader in season two.
“I have had a really personal journey playing Meg,” the actress admits. “It’s such a complex world with so many twists and turns, and for a while, much like the audience, I was trying to figure that out. I was a little more tortured in the first season as Meg was going through all those changes and trying to figure those things out herself. By the time we got to the second season, I felt completely liberated and I let go.”
While the second season of “The Leftovers” was deliberately lighter in tone than the first, Meg became a much darker, more menacing character. It was a fascinating contrast, as a character that started out as nonthreatening ultimately became a hostile villain in season two. And Tyler readily acknowledges that playing Meg has been very challenging. “A lot of the traits that Meg has are so beyond anything that I can relate to myself, and super out of my comfort zone. Normally as an actress I try to study and I read quite deep into the understanding of the character and why I’m doing things. With Meg, it’s the opposite. The more I think the worse it is, and the less I think, and jump of a cliff and go with it, the better it is.”
“I’m not an angry person, you have to really piss me off to make me really angry,” Tyler explains. “Somehow, in playing Meg, there were these little glimmers of this deep rage, and I think Damon Lindelof [the show’s co-creator/showrunner] saw that and just continued to push. It was scary because it was something that I didn’t feel comfortable doing. It became pure joy to play this bizarre, wonderful and crazy person.” And, she adds, “I learned to not ask so many questions and to completely trust Damon and trust the storytelling. I had a total letting go, and I think Meg had that too where she definitely found her power and was playing around with that in a way, by seeing how far she could get.”
On “The Leftovers,” each character is featured in their own episode as a way to learn more about their backstory. It was a storytelling device previously employed by Lindelof during his days as showrunner of “Lost,” and is used here to great effect. In the penultimate episode of the second season, “Ten Thirteen,” Meg’s past is explored in detail and helps to explain her relentlessness and hostility. “That was such a great gift for me. I feel like when I first signed on to do the show, Damon said that it’s not going to make sense, but he was going to try to give each one of us an episode to explain who our character was,” Tyler explains. “That came along at the very end of the second season, and I really wasn’t expecting it. I was really surprised by it and really grateful to have the opportunity to see for myself all of those sides to her.”