Amy Brenneman on how ‘The Leftovers’ freed her from being likable [Exclusive Video]

“It’s like a movie. Your value is how far you can go forward and how deeply committed you are to these extreme stories,” says Amy Brenneman about undertaking HBO’s mysterious drama “The Leftovers.” She plays Laurie Garvey, a wife and mother who joins a cult following the Departure, in which two-percent of the world’s population inexplicably vanished. (Watch our complete video chat below.)

Justin Theroux | Liv TylerAnn Dowd | Christopher Eccleston | Carrie Coon

Brenneman often struggled to understand Laurie’s motivations – showrunner Damon Lindelof withholds story and character details, even from the actors – but the experience of playing “such an incomprehensible and slightly unlikable character” was ultimately freeing. She explains, “It was really funny midway through the shooting to realize, oh, I’m the villain of this piece. I don’t think of myself as the villain of this piece, but … I feel like Damon and Laurie really freed me from the addiction to be likable.”

Brenneman adds, “As an actor, as a female, there’s this fine line of ‘I want people to like me,’ ‘I want the man to choose me’ – whatever the paradigm is, but I feel like all of my Laurie chipped away at that, and then he was pitching the season to me where I’m such a bad-ass, and I was awesome with it. I feel like that’s been burned away, my need to be liked, which is really freeing as an artist.”

But she felt like she needed to better understand Laurie’s point of view, so she was excited for the penultimate episode of the first season, “The Garveys at Their Best,” which flashes back to the days before the Departure to reveal that Laurie had been pregnant and lost her unborn child in the tragic global disappearance. Revealing the characters’ backstory that way was “such a beautifully structured idea,” she says, “because they’re on the Titanic and don’t know it.”

The Leftovers” returns for a second season later this year, but while Brenneman can’t say much about what to expect, she does reveal that “everything is a little bit better, for me anyway. I’ve left the [Guilty Remnant] … and I just understand Laurie a lot better, so I’m more comfortable in my skin.”

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