Mayfair Witches Q&A — Beth Grant on Carlotta’s True Intentions
Based on Rice’s bestselling trilogy Lives of the Mayfair Witches, Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches is a dark drama that follows neurosurgeon Dr. Rowan Fielding (Alexandra Daddario) as she learns about her past and discovers her unlikely ties to a family of witches. In this interview with amc.com we speak with Beth Grant, who plays Carlotta Mayfair, about her favorite parts of shooting in New Orleans, Carlotta’s true intentions, and filming the final moments of Episode 4.
Q: Carlotta is such an interesting character. When we first meet her, it's kind of unclear where she falls on the spectrum of good and evil, but by Episode 4 she's done some pretty horrendous stuff in the name of her beliefs. I'm assuming that this internal conflict was a big part of what drew you to the character, but were you also a fan of the books as well?
A: Well, I was definitely a fan of Carlotta, but there were a couple things that drew me to all of it! Of course, the books and the legions of fans. Being a Southerner – I'm from the deep South – I really feel like only a true Southerner could have created these characters and stories. And only a true Southerner could have created Carlotta! I love that conflict between good and evil. I'm a great believer in mythology and this is great Southern mythology, and reflective of the matriarchal system that I grew up in. So it's just absolutely delicious for me — just every aspect of it.
What I love about Carlotta is her pain. She wants to do good in the world but like so many she gets seduced in her journey to be good, to be perfect, to be what she thinks good is. I also think that we all have a dark side. Carlotta thinks she’s helping her by protecting her from Lasher. She wants to suppress her like she’s suppressed herself throughout the years, and it's just not working out that well for Carlotta!
Q: Well, that leads perfectly to my next question Beth! In speaking with Esta, she brought up a really valid observation about the characters we meet in this world: "There are some very, very bad characters involved that are doing nefarious things, but everybody believes their own position wholeheartedly. They really think that what they're offering is good and true." Like you said, this obviously speaks to Carlotta's character as well. How did you work to strike a balance between how Carlotta presents herself to Rowan and the world as this pious woman, versus what she reveals to be her true nature in private. She’s determined to protect her family at any cost.
A: Right, she's really trying to protect this family. Again, I'm a Southern woman. This is something that we do! My brother called me after the second episode — when I grab Annabeth quite forcefully at the hotel, and then I smile — my brother went, "Ooohh, I know that look!" There is a violence underneath that interaction and that's because we’re suppressed, but we've learned to try to be nice. So for me, it came very naturally. I didn't plan that at all. I love that Esta said that because I know Carlotta is fun to hate. There's no doubt about it. We need somebody to hate. Lasher's sexy and good-looking, I would like to be Lasher! But I'm Carlotta, and I don't mind that at all. I like playing her. I like her soul and I like that she's well-intentioned, she just loses her way.
Q: The rivalry between Carlotta and Cortland is so intriguing—I think we all want to know how they ended up in such opposition to each other! Carlotta thankfully does have one sibling on her side, her sister Millie played by Geraldine Singer. Can you talk about filming those vulnerable moments with Geraldine? It seems that Carlotta still has some softness in there.
A: Yes. Geraldine Singer, who plays Millie, is such a flexible actress and so willing to put up with my shenanigans. In Episode 3 when we started the scene on the bed, I said, "Can I put my head in your lap?" And she went along with it! I just felt like this is Carlotta’s one person in the world who she can be vulnerable with, who she can reveal her soul to, who she tells the whole truth to, who has been there with her the whole time and is on her side. So, I wanted to feel like a little girl with her. I wanted to feel that sister love. And I was just delighted to work with her, and I was so glad she was willing to play a little bit. You never know, you don't have much time. It's not like doing a play. When you're doing television or a film, you just have a quick rehearsal, so you really have to get to know each other very well. Can you imagine if I said to you, "Can I put my head in your lap?" [Laughs]
The intimacy really needs to be built in a short amount of time.
Yes, in a very short amount of time. And that's why an experienced actor like Geraldine was crucial. I'm really grateful to her for that, I loved working with her. All of the actors on this show — we had this beautiful, diverse cast — and everyone is so experienced and brings their own history to the project.
Whether I was in a scene with them or just got to talk to them at craft services, I just found every single person to be lovely. You know, Tongayi is a wonderful human being. Not only is he handsome and all that. I saw him with the stand-ins, with the background players, being kind, being courteous, being friendly. It just means so much on a set when everybody's equal. And this was an egalitarian set from the top on down! It starts with the network. It starts with the producers. It starts with the lead actors. And I think everyone felt welcomed. And we had a couple of real live witches on the set! I don't know if you heard about that.
Well, you need those consultants to make sure everything is right, right?
Yes! There was this one little lady – I think she was 90-something — she was in her Sunday suit, and she said to me, "I'm a witch." And I said, "Oh!" And she said, "No, no, I'm really a witch!" I just loved it. Don't let my enthusiasm scare you! [Laughs]
Q: Let’s talk about the look on Carlotta's face when she sees Rowan wearing the necklace towards the end Episode 4. She’s absolutely devastated.
And it seems like she makes the decision right then and there to do something drastic to end Lasher's reign. And oh boy, that final monologue at dinner with Rowan was very intense! What do you think is going through Carlotta's mind at that final dinner? And what was it like to film that scene?
A: I have to give the director of that episode, Axelle Carolyn, a great deal of credit for that moment. The first time I played it, I played it a little more Dame Judith Anderson, Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca. And I can’t remember exactly what Axelle said, but it was something along the lines of "just be yourself," "just let it be" or "be vulnerable." I felt my whole body relax and I felt a willingness to reveal myself. So, I took her putting on the necklace personally and I allowed the hurt to register on my face because my hopes were dashed in that moment. I had brought Rowan into the home. I had said, "You have free reign! Go look at your mother's room." I was going to make her my daughter and I was making plans for this wonderful Southern meal, and she was going to meet everyone in the household. I crack the door and I see her, and I know all is lost. Carlotta’s heart is broken and it's personal and it's very sad for her, that dinner. She doesn’t want to make the decision that she makes. It’s a horrible decision to decide to kill Rowan and burn down the house. What happens with Ciprien is kind of an accident, but I have to summon full power. It's interesting that Carlotta's not a witch and yet she divines the power of Antha and the other designees. Even though I'm asking for forgiveness of their souls, I go into a state, a bliss, to summon the power. I have to do that to be able to have the courage to do it. Even though Carlotta has obviously already murdered when she killed Delphine.
Which was also incredibly brutal.
How about Deneen Tyler, who plays Delphine? What a great actor she is and what a fabulous player in that scene with her, when I'm taking her to her death. And her nuances – I mean, I've watched that scene a couple of times now – her nuances are so fabulous! And I felt that we could feel each other. We had that 42 years of history in that scene. Pretty blissful for an old-timer like me to find these partners. Now back to the rage when I burned down the house! I don't think that Carlotta really thinks that she's going to die that night. I don't know what she thinks is going to happen with Lasher bonding to her. Maybe they'll go off together somewhere, out of New Orleans. But I don't think she expects that violent and sudden death.
It does seem that as you're calling up the previous designees, you are in a haze of sorts. And when you set light to the tapestry on the wall, that's when things get crazy! And then you pick up the lantern and throw it!
I mean, I wonder how much she feels she's going to do. I'm not quite sure that she knows. I think she lets the darkness overtake her, which is so ironic because Carlotta is trying to fight the darkness! She's trying to fight the evil spirit and yet she is taken over by it. And it's just so sad really. Because when she's doing that prayer, who knows what she's really going through? She lights the sage and she's cleansing the room and there's the tapestry and then next thing you know, whoop [sound of something lighting on fire]! I mean, pretty bold, wild stuff. And then I accidentally – poor Ciprien, I stab him. That's an accident! I don't mean to do that!
And for all of it to end with Lasher whispering in your ear, "She's already mine."
Oh my God, was that good?! Because I was so in my state that I didn't even think about it and suddenly Jack Huston/Lasher's right there! I'm telling you those are real reactions. He's a powerful man and his little whisper shot right through to my soul! You know, he's so gregarious and wonderful and when I met him at base camp, he was just so friendly and loving. But, man, when he's in character, forget about it!
Q: Episode 5 gets crazier for everyone involved. As we move into the second half of Season 1, let's reminisce a little bit. What were some of your favorite parts of filming in New Orleans?
A: Well, I loved shooting Deirdre's funeral on the levee when we shot outside the mausoleum. When the prop people came over and started handing us parasols and we were all walking in together — that felt real to me. Again, being a Southerner and from Wilmington, North Carolina, we have a very famous old cemetery, and it has a lot of mausoleums. I used to love to go there. I love cemeteries. I thought our cemetery scenes were beautifully done by our production designers, our two Elizabeths, I mean just brilliant. It was just a perfect day, and it was so hot!
Alexandra somehow never looked hot to me, and she never complained about anything. She was a cheerleader for all of us! I saw her taking water to people that day. I would watch her from afar and I would think, "That's a real star!" Again, I love the cast. I love the crew. I love the producers. I love the sets. And I love New Orleans! It's very exciting for me when I do a project that from start to finish is a joy. Steve Cainas who was our supervising production manager/producer/everyman, took care of me from the first phone call and never stopped for the whole entire experience. Every single moment of this has been nothing but a joy. So, I'm a little overly enthusiastic.
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