AMC’s “Dispatches from Elsewhere” follows a core group of four seemingly ordinary individuals who are thrust together to be a team to play a mysterious game that include a supposed missing woman and a dodgy corporate institute. The second episode of the show puts the audience in Eve Lindley’s Simone’s perspective: Simone is one of those four people, a trans woman who has felt alone and often uncomfortable her whole life but through this odd situation begins to find herself and make important connections, including with Jason Segel’s Peter.
Lindley: I was so excited that this was a character to exist in the story, being trans but not being some sort of diversity box to be checked. She was very human, and I feel like that’s something I strive for in my life and something I strive for in my characters, too.
Jason is so great to work with. I don’t know if he’s ever written a trans character before, but I think he wanted that authenticity, so I think he was really open to taking my collaborative notes and ideas. But I have to say, there was no huge thing that had to change for me; it was all there. I feel really lucky to have added the bits of myself to her that I was able to, but from the very first read of the pilot I could tell she was super relatable, very human and had a lot going on beneath the surface. She never felt like she was there to be a tool for teaching or anything like that; she always felt like a leading lady.
In Episode 2, I was mostly in scenes with Jason, and he’s such a great improv-er, I was mostly, in the back of my head, saying, ‘Don’t f— it up!’ In Episode 2 there’s a lot of moments where Simone hears her inner thoughts narrated to her, and a lot of that was added after Jason and I met and had dinner.
This was the first episode that was not directed by the creator of the show. We had Wendey Stanzler come in, and she’s done a lot of episodes of television that I have seen, and she was really great. We hung out a lot when she got into town and got to know each other, and I didn’t even really think of that as part of the prep, but in hindsight that made a huge difference for what we were doing. She was really lovely and such an integral part of Simone for me.
The real question for me that I talked to Jason about was why she was living with her grandmother and not with her parents. Are her parents supportive of her or did they reject her? You see a very little snippet of her parents in the beginning of the episode, but you don’t really know what’s going on there, so I decided — with Jason’s blessing — that her parents were probably not the most supportive of her, and that informed everything about her.
Women move through this world and literally on one street corner you can feel very safe and then you turn the corner and suddenly feel that danger is very near. And I think for trans women, particularly, that’s a super real thing as we hear about these record numbers of trans women being murdered. So the lived experience really informs the character, and it just makes me think of trans people wanting to be portrayed by trans actors on TV: It does make a difference; there is a lived experience that other people may understand less.
As far as her comfort goes, she definitely is free when she’s in the game, and that was something that almost took me a minute to realize because I get nervous walking into any bodega ever, so the fact that she just flounces into a bodega and picks up glasses and talks to the guy, her freedom in this game is so complete and really transformative for her.
I feel like the whole episode is designed for the viewer to fall in love with Simone and Peter as a pair and almost forget that there is real life. Peter doesn’t say the words that he has feelings for her but he says, “I heard music when I saw you,” and I think for her to reciprocate that, it would bring up so many conversations that she doesn’t want to have or that she’s not ready to have. Real life bubbles up in that moment for her on the roof where she’s like, “Yes, this day has been incredible and I’ve been able to walk around the city with this very handsome man and have these experiences outside of my real life.” And when real life rears its ugly head, she freaks out and fears rejection and fears what telling this man that she likes him as well would mean. There’s just so many ways for it to crumble after she says it, so I think the fear of vulnerability is the fear to admit it.
We were on a roof, and when you film on a roof they have to harness you because you might fall, so there was nowhere for us to go — we were literally tied to the roof — and this is one of those moments where I got really lucky working with such a pro because every time we did a take, he did it really differently and therefore I responded differently. This was the great team of Wendy, Jason, myself and the crew trying it a few different ways, but we didn’t ever really talk about it — it just happened organically in the moment and you just respond to what your scene partner is giving you.
Jason wanted to do a lot of practical effects in the show as a whole, so in Episode 1 I walk in slow-motion, and that was not filmed in slow-motion; I was walking slowly. We had to practice it with a screen test. And then in Episode 2, there is a practical freeze-frame. I had practiced it in sneakers and then of course on the day they were like, “Here’s your three-inch heel!” I had to run hard on cobblestone in a heel and then freeze. And then there are other practical effects like the moment when I’m talking into the megaphone and it all goes blue behind me, that was the camera swivels with me and I swivel on my hips so it looks like I’m facing the same thing, but really we’re turning and the blue sheet is off to the side of me and we shift perspective. I didn’t realize how active I would be! It’s mostly just a fun challenge.
The story, as a whole, is begging everyone to look up and notice their surroundings and notice the art around them. Some days I do a pretty good job of that, but there are others where my headphones are in and I am not interested in the world, so I think it’s something I’m still learning and trying to take the things I learned from this job and apply them to my life.
The greatest gift for me in the show has been the promotion of it with “Simone is you” and “Peter is you.” The real gift is people watching the show and identifying with Simone when they thought they had nothing to identify with. I don’t know that every trans character on TV is relatable — their lives are usually very different than the viewers’ —so being able to connect with the audience in that way is something that I never really anticipated doing and didn’t really know was possible for me. I really love the response. And then in a more direct way, I really love doing stunts, and I would love to do more stunts!