Even while her character is battling alcoholism, jet-setting around the world for her job and trying to solve a murder, some of the most complex moments Kaley Cuoco has to perform on HBO Max’ “The Flight Attendant” only take place in that character’s mind.
Her Cassie Bowden retreats into a mind palace, a device that the story uses so that she can comb through her — admittedly fuzzy — memories and have imaginary conversations with her dead one-night stand.
Diving into a protagonist’s perspective this deeply allows the audience to see different colors of them — ones they might otherwise filter out from interactions with other characters. Even though the events in these scenes aren’t happening in the real world of the show, they still provide opportunities for growth and emotional catharsis, which moves the characters along in their journeys and requires the acting approach to be just as grounded as any other scene work.
In the second season of TNT’s “Snowpiercer,” Melanie (Jennifer Connelly) steps off the 10-mile-long speeding train that is orbiting the frozen-over globe in order to check out a weather station. While there, she finds herself having conversations in her mind with everyone from her former foe to her daughter. The latter, Connelly says, is “what she wants from the deepest part of herself” — not only that the duo can build a relationship but that her daughter is simply with her.
“I didn’t go through a process or filter of, ‘How would she behave if she thought she was there but didn’t really know if it was just a part of her?’ I think that would have complicated things unnecessarily,” she says. “It was a true, gut response and an emotional response to the fear and sorrow and grief and frustration she was experiencing.”
Listening to instinct is always essential for an actor, but it became even more important for Jane Levy in the second season of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” on NBC. Zoey has gotten used to hearing the innermost thoughts and feelings of those around her performed for her as pop songs, but she is also becoming more empathetic because of this new insight. So, Levy wanted to see her interact more, as in the eighth episode when Simon (John Clarence Stewart) sings “Into You” by Ariana Grande.
“If she touches him, maybe the song will be over, and she doesn’t want the song to be over yet. And is she willing the song to happen? Did it happen because she’s wishing for him?” Levy says. “These numbers come from Zoey. I think of these songs as a private moment, so Zoey can be as immature or vulnerable or goofy as possible in these moments because nobody sees them.”
While Zoey’s supernatural ability exposes the deepest truths, Emma (Lily Rabe) spends much of Amazon Prime Video’s “Tell Me Your Secrets” in a “waking dream, where you don’t actually know if you’re in reality or not,” the actor says. This is born out of memory loss that might be selective due to the trauma she has experienced — from learning her boyfriend was a serial killer, to doing time in connection with one of his alleged crimes, to an assault she experienced.
Rabe wanted to be extra vigilant about conveying that Emma is “not making a conscious choice to twist her reality.”
“Even when she does have memory that she feels certain of, to some degree she doesn’t trust her judgment to even assess the validity of that,” she says. “There are certain things that she doesn’t remember and then there are also certain things that she can’t remember. But where one becomes another was such a big part of the journey of the character, and that was what I thought was so fascinating to dive into [and] play.”