“I loved her! I loved her. I had no idea who this person is, but I loved her energy,” admits Noma Dumezweni about her first thoughts when she landed toe role of tough-as-nails criminal defense lawyer Haley Fitzgerald in “The Undoing,” HBO’s six-part thriller that concluded last November with an explosive finale. The series was the ultimate “who-dunnit,” keeping viewers guessing about certain characters’ motivations and of course who was responsible for the gruesome murder at the center of the story. Watch the exclusive video interview with Dumezweni above.
“The Undoing” was created by multiple Emmy-winning writer/producer David E. Kelley (“L.A. Law,” “Picket Fences,” “The Practice,” “Ally McBeal,” “Big Little Lies”) and directed by Emmy-winning director Susanne Bier (“The Night Manager”), based on the book “You Should Have Known” by Jean Hanff Korelitz. It follows Grace Sachs (Nicole Kidman), who lives a picture-perfect life in New York City as a successful therapist, married to esteemed doctor Jonathan Fraser (Hugh Grant), raising their son Henry (Noah Jupe).
Their lives painfully unravel after a mysterious woman is brutally murdered, Jonathan goes missing and it is later revealed that the victim was Jonathan’s mistress. As a series of shocking revelations rock Grace’s world and the family endure a painful trial, she is forced to start over with her son while questioning whether she truly ever knew the man she married.
The acclaimed British actress plays the straight-shooter attorney hired to defend accused murderer Jonathan. She has this powerful quiet gravitas about her, like when she gracefully strides in to a room, or the way she thoughtfully talks with intentional precision, coming across as confident and formidable to those around her.
Dumezweni reveals that it took some time to hone the mystique around her character, as she really hit her stride when Haley commanded the screen in the quieter and often non-verbal moments. “I came in from doing theater, so I’m still hitting the back of the room, it’s all a little bit big. But actually,” she explains, “let’s get stiller and stiller and stiller, and as I got stiller and quieter, is when Haley started to make sense,” she says.
The series, which was HBO’s most-watched series of 2020, poignantly explores how people often twist themselves into knots by making excuses for the people they love that are toxic, or distrustful, because of the need to avoid pain and heartbreak, despite everything telling them otherwise. Dumezweni agrees that the characters at the center of the story illustrate this perfectly, as Jonathan has been able to grift or manipulate for years, until it all comes undone after tragic circumstances force Grace to reckon with the niggling doubts about her husband.
“I see it as that sense of having created a construct, which is perfect and suited to how I moved into the world and around the world. That glimmer or that shatter or crack in the structure is actually the most terrifying thing. It’s the idea of it all breaking up and having to deal with the truth of how you move in the world, and I find that fascinating,” she sighs. “That’s the tension of good storytelling.”
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