The Interview: Jean Smart

Nov 3 • News, SMALL SCREEN • 772 Views • No Comments on The Interview: Jean Smart

HBO’s Watchmen series is a compelling watch as it ushers in a new era of storytelling with elements inspired by the ground-breaking graphic novel from the 80s. Premiering on HBO on 21st October, and airing exclusively on HBO GO and HBO (Astro Ch 411 / 431 HD) in Malaysia, the superhero drama television series, is inspired by characters from the DC Comics limited series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

The series takes place three decades after the events of the comic book, and is set in an alternate contemporary reality in the United States. Although the series is spearheaded by new characters, fans of the original series will be glad to know that the original characters from the graphic novel will be making appearances throughout the show.

In addition to Doctor Manhattan and Ozymandias, the former Silk Spectre played by Jean Smart will also have significant parts to play in the new series. In this interview, the veteran actress reveals more about her role in the series and the character of Laurie Blake.

Q: Can we talk about your character and who she is in Watchmen?
JS: Laurie Blake, whose name is actually Laurie Juspeczyk, is now an FBI agent and she’s hunting down vigilantes, masked vigilantes. She used to be one, so it makes it a little bit complicated, and her parents used to be masked vigilantes too, and she has a lot of very negative feelings, a lot of baggage from her childhood and from her parents.

For a variety of reasons she has ended up at the FBI and so she’s now arresting vigilantes who she thinks are not only ridiculous, but dangerous. But at the same time, I think she kind of misses that life that she had, that kind of exciting time when she was really young, when she met Dr Manhattan and she fell in love, she was a celebrity and it was all very exciting. But she hasn’t been able to let go of the time with Dr Manhattan and that was a very painful part of her life. 

There are elements in the film where Laurie crosses paths with officers like Looking Glass who wears the mask. But she can’t really arrest him because he is a legitimised vigilante, correct? You know, it’s funny, because it just occurred to me for the first time, I wonder if there’s a part of Laurie that’s just a tiny bit jealous. You know what I mean? That she misses that feeling that you’re talking about, do you know what I mean? I never really thought of that completely before.

It’s also very interesting to watch these characters undergo that transformation when they put the masks on. That ability to just transform and to sort of be absolved of whatever you’re doing.
Yes, and to put whoever you’re dealing with in a completely vulnerable subservient position. Almost like the hooded executioner.

Because the anonymity is such power?
I don’t have to be held responsible for what I’m doing; I’m just doing my job. 

The show is full of very strong female characters – does it feel to you like it’s a feminist piece?
I didn’t think of it that way. I don’t know if that’s necessary to think of it that way or to call it that. I just want everybody to get something out of it, something different. I don’t want to put any labels or expectations on it like that.

Outside of the conversation that’s being had in the show regarding race, do you feel like what’s happening now in terms of racial tension and white supremacy is something that’s always been there and the way that people are expressing racism has just been given a legitimacy or is there a new element that’s been stoked and encouraged?
I’m a little more optimistic. I hope that through just knowledge and education and living together that we’ll figure out a way. I think that there is a while, ‘60s, ‘70s, where everyone was supposed to go colour-blind, just think of each other as just individuals, which sounds good, but it’s kind of unrealistic and not very useful, really. And I don’t think that’s what the African American community wants anymore.

I think that they want very much to be identified as African Americans and that we need to respect their history and cultures apart from white Americans, and that somehow we still would have mutual respect and be able to coexist.  But every time we do a show like this or a movie or write a book or a song, hopefully that makes people think a little bit.

Catch new episodes of Watchmen on HBO, premiering every Monday at 9am.

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