André Benjamin, who also plays Fredwynn on AMC’s Dispatches From Elsewhere, discusses his relentless character, how he creates his own version of the Memory Palace, and why Jason Segel’s only direction to him made him smile.
Q: What drew you to this story/script? Were you already familiar with the backstory upon which this project was based?
A: What drew me to the project was the first episode’s script. It had enough intrigue to make me want to know more. Also, after speaking to Jason by faulty FaceTime, and then ultimately by phone, I resonated with where he was in life and career. It seemed then like a project I should support. I wasn’t familiar with the backstory until about Episode 8. I had dinner with Mark [Friedman], the showrunner, and he said, “Oh yeah, it’s based on this documentary called “The Institute” set in San Francisco. As soon as I saw it I immediately saw who the Fredwynn was.
Q: How would you describe your character, Fredwynn? What were some of the challenges of playing this character?
A: Fredwynn is a wound-up conspiracy theorist who will stop at nothing to finish a task. He’s not much of a team player and feels that others will just slow him down. Right before shooting, Jason Segel gave me one strict direction… don’t smile. Because I’m a naturally smiley person, that was a fun challenge. I actually smiled when I heard it.
Q: What do you make of Janice and Fredwynn’s pairing? Do they balance each other out in any way?
A: Janice and Fredwynn are definitely the odd couple. But the balance is the gift. She calms him down. He gets her to move fast.
Q: Given his logical and calculated outward demeanor, how were you able to connect with your character on a deeper and more intimate level?
A: Not so much. I was basically acting how I thought someone like him would act.
Q: How do you think your music career, particularly in regards to performing and developing the persona of André 3000, helped you in this role?
A: Honestly, the only thing I can say that translates from the music world is vocal timing and rhythm.
Q.When Janice introduces Fredwynn to Lev, he shares a bit of himself, revealing that his mother didn’t take good care of him and his brother. How do you think that impacted/shaped him?
A: Because he was left to take care of himself and his brother I think it made him not connect so well with other people. And take all matters into his own hands.
Q: How did you enjoy learning about his Memory Palace? Do you yourself have any tactics when it comes to calming your mind?
A: The Memory Palace scenes were fun to do. I didn’t know there was such a thing in real life, or a book written about it. To calm my mind I like to get into nature, walking, or go to the beach and play the flute.
Q: Why do you suppose Fredwynn takes all of this so seriously, even delivering the line “It has to be me.” It sounds like a lot of pressure.
A: He takes it seriously because he’s set in his mind that this is serious government doings and he won’t stop until he’s gotten to the bottom of it. And then he keeps digging.
Q: All four members of the group view this experience differently. Do you see all of those perspectives rubbing off on one another
A: Yes, I think the separate bags we carry into this actually start to bleed into each other. Which is part of the point, I think, Jason has pointed out. We are all more alike than different.
Read an interview with Eve Lindley who plays Simone.
Dispatches From Elsewhere airs Mondays at 10/9c.
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