Erin Darke, who plays Leeta on AMC’s Dietland, talks about what her character represents to the show and Jennifer’s take on feminism.
Q: What interested you most about the show?
A: When I first saw it listed, I wanted to be on the show. I was already a fan of [Executive Producer] Marti [Noxon]’s previous work. I saw a little blurb about it and was excited about a show being made by women… that explored topics in what felt like a new way. If I could spend the rest of my life doing feminist TV shows, I’d be happy. [Laughs]
Q: What specifically stood out to you about the character of Leeta?
A: I read the script before I read the book and I felt like she was this girl who probably spent her life not quite fitting in. Instead of removing herself and closing herself off, she’s developed this deep sense of empathy and care for other people — especially other people who she sees also feels like they don’t quite fit into society for one reason or another. I was so into this empathetic, weird girl who looks like she might be scary but actually has so much heart.
Q: Over time, we learn of Leeta’s true identity and connection with Jennifer. What has it been like to play in this world where women exact revenge through violence?
A: It made me think a lot about that line within a resistance and fighting back. I consider myself such a pacifist and I’m not into violence at all, but then you look back at the history of feminism – the suffrage movement in the U.K. in the early 1900s was incredibly violent. They were bombing places and there were public suicides. It’s not something that’s never existed in history. More than anything, I hope women don’t have to get to that point in order to see a change.
Q: What does it mean for the larger picture now that we know Jennifer also targets women? Does it speak to a collective responsibility?
A: It absolutely speaks to a collective responsibility. I love that when they target their women, it makes women at large a little more polarized about whether or not they support them. I think we as women are trying to rebuild the sense of community and fighting all as one that we’ve lost through these various waves of feminism. The idea of seeing this woman as a perpetrator instead of also recognizing the way that society has also made her a victim… The idea that she then becomes a target is really polarizing. I think a lot of women are like, “I’m cool with seeing rapists get murdered, but we’re on a different level now.” I wonder if the effects of participating would have been so bad on Leeta if it had been one of the male victims or if there was something in particular about seeing a woman that just broke her.
Q: As you mentioned, in Episode 9 we see that Leeta’s well-being is compromised. What’s weighing heavy on her?
A: I’ll be honest, I did not see the end of the season coming! I think she’s very into the idea of Jennifer and fighting back through violence, but it’s a very different thing being there and doing it for real and seeing an actual dead human being — especially a woman. She clearly can’t handle it. When I read 109 and 110’s scripts, I was like “holy sh-t!” [Laughs]
Q: Why do you suppose Leeta takes such a liking to Plum immediately? What does she see in her?
A: She sees this beautiful, capable and intelligent person who is so wrapped up in her insecurities. There’s this urge in Leeta to help her see her how amazing she is. That’s initially what draws her to her. Sometimes you just meet people in life and you walk away and think, “I think I’ll be friends with this person for a long time.” I think there’s a connection that’s not easily defined. It’s one of those beautiful human things.
Q: Leeta carries such a presence on the show. What do you think it is that this character represents?
A: Before we meet any of the actual members of Jennifer, Leeta is the closest we have to a face for it. Leeta comes with so much heart and empathy and because of the place that her actions are coming from, it immediately lets you see the human side of why Jennifer is doing what they’re doing. We still don’t know that much about her, though! She’s this weird little mystery.
Q: What kind of impression did the show make on you after wrapping?
A: I walked away with a much deeper empathy for the experiences of other women – particularly fat women. I think I thought I was being an ally, but there are so many ingrained social and cultural things that I realized after working on this show. I wasn’t listening enough. This show has completely changed my perspective.
Read an interview with Adam Rothenberg, who plays Dominic.
Dietland airs Mondays at 9/8c. Click here to add a reminder to your calendar.
To get more exclusive interviews with the cast, sign up for the Dietland Insiders Club.Read More