Amy Manson (‘The Nevers’) on humanizing a villain: ‘I’ve never played somebody who I don’t think is redeemable’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a character affect me the way that Maladie has,” explains Amy Manson. The actress is responsible for bringing the unhinged villain of HBO’s “The Nevers” to life. But as Manson explains, there is a traumatic backstory to this woman who was previously known as Sarah, which makes her much more complex and relatable than your average “big bad” on TV. “I respect her in a way,” admits Manson, “because she’s got so much resilience.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.

Manson’s first step was to “find her frequency and her energy.” The actress sports an almost animalistic physicality and wild voice. It carries an air of unpredictability. “Aileen Wuornos was a big influence on me,” says Manson. She was particularly struck by that real life serial killer’s final speech before her execution. The actress realized that, just like Maladie, Wuornos had a “coming to Damascus moment” where she believed that “there’s a higher purpose for her.” In this science fiction tinged period drama, Maladie gets her “turn” (the series’ term for superpowers) as a strange being flies across the sky. She thinks she’s seen God.

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One challenge with the character was staying grounded in motivations, but also “big and bold and enjoying it at the same time,” says Manson. Maladie might seem crazy, but she’s actually always two steps ahead. “Acting crazy” is simply a response to her former persona as Sarah. “She is an amalgamation of everything she hated about her former self,” explains Manson. “She’s mocking Sarah.”

The actress studied the character’s behavior intensely, and had the difficult task of maintaining a state of hypomania. “She has gone through so much,” notes Manson. In order to make such a heightened state appear human and believable, she had to chart Maladie’s trauma at the hands of others. “It was understanding the level of abuse that Maladie went through, and understanding what sort of mental state she ended up in,” describes the actress.

Manson hopes that for all of Maladie’s misdeeds, the audience can understand her plight. “I’ve never played somebody who I don’t think is redeemable,” she states. The actress is intent on painting a full picture of her pain, and teasing out the master plan that is the result of years of trauma. This is not some generalized revenge tale. “It’s deeper. It’s darker. It’s layered,” says Manson, “she’s playing the endgame.”

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