Sonya Cassidy, who plays Liz on AMC’s Lodge 49, discusses why she connected with Liz right away, how cleaning gives Liz some control, and why her job at Shamroxx is a blessing and a curse.
Q: What aspects of Lodge 49 and the character of Liz appealed to you?
A: What struck me was she’s a female character not ticking any convenient boxes. She was so relatable and human. She’s someone who is incredibly capable, but makes very stupid decisions. She’s very independent, but has become quite lonely. She’s strong-willed, but also vulnerable. She works very hard at her job, but can’t seem to channel that into doing something to change her life for the better. She’s fearless when it comes to her brother, but also terrified with regards to looking at her life and future. There’s a roughness around the edges. I find her very funny. In many ways, I related to her just by our differences. There was something about the way she was written that I connected with immediately. A sign of good writing is feeling like you can tap into your instincts with the character and it feels easy from the get-go. When I read the scripts, I fell in love with the show. In the span of two pages, I went from laughing out loud to being so genuinely moved. I loved that it was so character-driven, yet there are these long-running threads that are so unique and philosophical and more intriguing than anything I’ve seen in a long while.
Q: Where is Liz at in her life as the show begins? How has she handled the death of her father?
A: Liz is someone who is just keeping her head above water. Her life is going to work to make as much money in cash as possible to steadily chip away at her debt. She lives day to day. She won’t allow herself to look into the future because it terrifies her. It’s interesting how these characters deal with their pasts. Dud is someone who looks back upon the past with a rose tint. In some ways, it galvanizes him to be positive in looking towards the future. Liz has a totally different view. She’s trying to forget her past, but feels so bound by it. The tragedy is that she’s been lumbered with this debt and she thinks her dad killed himself. That’s a huge amount to deal with and there’s no closure with that. She’s desperately trying to find closure, but she can’t because the debt is there and it’s a reminder that her dad got her into that position. She loves him dearly and misses him profoundly, but there’s an anger there and a child-like longing to just try to understand and make peace with what has happened. The fact is life just doesn’t work like that. She’s not like Dud, walking around Long Beach looking for doors that could open into a magical world. She doesn’t see the magic in her life. What I liked about her is she’s not someone that’s wallowing. Her pain and anxiety are active. She’s dealing with the cards she’s been dealt and getting on with it. She does it in a very cynical way, which I think is quite refreshing. [Laughs] I think she’s a realist, actually.
Q: How would you describe the relationship between Liz and Dud? How are they alike and how are they different?
A: In physics, there is a beautiful phenomenon known as quantum entanglement. Very simply, it’s where two particles come together and collide and, despite going off in separate directions, they somehow remain connected. They are able to continue to communicate and respond to one another whether they are inches apart or light years apart. It is utterly extraordinary. In a sense, that is how I see Liz and Dud. This tragedy has happened in their lives that has sent them colliding. They’ve gone off in different directions in terms of how they’re dealing with the grief, but what is wonderful is that they’re still so profoundly connected. Sometimes the way Dud is dealing with things can drive Liz mad – and rightfully so because he’s not pulling his weight and he’s adding to the stress and pressure she already has, but Dud is all that Liz has. Liz doesn’t have the lodge, she doesn’t have any family, she doesn’t really have any friends. Without Dud, who is essentially sunshine in human form, she would really struggle.
Q: Even Liz’s dreams are dominated by her work life. How does she really feel about Shamroxx?
A: She’s just getting on with it. It’s not really about Shamroxx, necessarily. It’s more the fact that at her age, she’s surrounded by a lot of people much younger who are maybe doing this between jobs or to make a bit of extra money to move onto the bigger things they’ve got going on in their lives. It’s not where she saw her life, but she feels so consumed. She doesn’t feel fulfilled. For some people, it would not be a fulfilling job and having to wear that uniform at any age – you’re not living the dream. I don’t know that people grow up wanting to work at Shamroxx, but I loved that there was no judgement of that world. It provides a support network for Liz. She adores the guys that work there. They give her an energy and a lift and provide her with some escape when she’s at work. Shamroxx is a vehicle to make as much money as possible. She finds it soul-destroying because she feels powerless.
Q: Does Liz clean her apartment as a way to have some control?
A: I really loved those scenes. It’s interesting to see what people hold onto when they feel powerless, whether that’s an obsessive habit or food or booze. It’s very rarely about the thing you’re doing. It’s about why you’re doing it. Liz’s thing would be vodka tonic and cleaning. It’s a very simple activity. You can see something that needs to be done and you work on it and then you’ve accomplished something. It’s so minor. There’s a tiny amount of satisfaction. It’s a physical distraction, but also her own way of finding some sense of pride in the minutiae.
Q: When she shuts herself in the fridge, is she just trying to hide from the world, or is there something darker going on?
I think she flirts with the idea of not being here quite a lot. That’s something she’s not afraid to think about. The thing with the fridge is an interesting one. When I was doing it, I wasn’t playing the scene like, “What if I killed myself in this way?” It was an odd moment of, “What if I just get in here and cocoon myself in the dark, cold and shut everything out for a little bit?” It was more an instinctive moment. Have you heard of the term fridging? I don’t know whether [Creator/Executive Producer] Jim [Gavin] intended this, but I love that he’s been able to write a scene of a woman in a fridge choosing whether or not to fridge herself. [Laughs] There will be a very small number of people who will get that, but I love that image. It’s such a bizarre image. But there’s no way she would do anything that would affect Dud’s welfare. She’s living for Dud. She’s keeping him afloat. Were she not working essentially for him – even though she’s got the debt – I think she would find climbing out of the fridge very difficult.
Q: In Episode 3, Liz learns Dud took out another loan. Does her frustration with Dud stem from worrying about him or more from anger that she has to be the responsible party?
A: It’s all those things. She’s exhausted. The total lack of awareness from Dud is hurtful. How can you not see how hard I’m working for you? It’s not deliberate. He’s just not in that space. She needs an extra helping hand. She would love it if sometimes her brother picked up the slack. It’s not even that she expects him to do anything for her, but she expects not to do as much for him. Although they’re twins, I think Liz feels like the mature one of the two. She needs some support. For his own self, Liz does worry about Dud. She sees someone who, in his desperate longing for that which is positive and optimistic in life, can be a bit gullible and taken advantage of. She wants to see that he’s learning from life and taking more ownership and responsibility.
Q: Liz decides to have a memorial for her dad. Do you think she intends it to be about closure or more about forcing Dud to deal with it? What do you think it says about Liz that she takes the money meant for charity?
A: It’s a combination of things. One, they need closure. Liz can’t cope with having the debt hanging over her head, supporting her brother, not knowing where her life is going, not having buried or had a memorial for their dad. They have to accept that he’s not coming back. It’s just one thing that can be dealt with. Again, she’s grappling with things she can seize and move on from. Also, she does think she can make some money out of this. She’s in such a tight corner, she’s like, “Well, my dad got me into this situation. He’s going to help me get out of it.” [Laughs] On some level, she’s aware of that being a pretty awful thing to do, but I find it quite funny. Why wouldn’t you? So, it is genuinely for that closure, but also for the cash.
Q: What does Liz think of Dud’s ties to the lodge, especially when he makes that crazy speech at the memorial?
A: She’s really worried. She thinks he’s steadily losing his mind. It’s gone too far. She’s not particularly interested in the lodge and I think she’s concerned that Dud will be taken advantage of or led down a path that will only lead to something that will fail him again. As much as she can be quite the ball buster, she would do anything for him. I don’t have children, but I distinctly remember the moment where I could imagine what it’s like to have kids. I was at a taekwondo grading that my brother and I used to do. They were so nerve-wracking. You’re in this massive hall. Your parents and family stand at the back and it’s pin-drop quiet. It was my brother’s turn and we’d been practicing and I knew how hard he worked, and I just couldn’t do anything to help him. I felt so nervous and powerless and this astonishing gut yearning to want to be out there with him and help in some way. He was great and he passed, but in that small moment, I was like, “This must be what it’s like all the time if you have kids.” That idea of letting go. That’s what Liz is feeling – being a sibling, but also mom.
Q: How awesome was that burrito?
A: [Laughs] That burrito tasted absolutely delicious. I eat a lot of food on the show, but I’ve got to give it to our props and catering. The food was always so good. It made eating it all the more enjoyable. In scenes where characters are supposed to be eating, I like to eat. I also think it’s nice to see women on-screen eating and enjoying food. That didn’t take many takes because of the cream on the face. It was a bit of a continuity nightmare.
Q: AMC fans will remember you as Hester from HUMANS. Were there any challenges to playing not just an American but a specific Southern Californian character?
A: I love accents. I love the challenge of them. Throughout my career so far, I’ve been able to flex those muscles with a variety of different dialects. I did a lot of American plays when I graduated from drama school. The American thing wasn’t new to me. In Britain, we grow up watching a lot of American television as well. That American way was in the back of my mind and the seeds were sown from a young age. In all honesty, my general American accent is not dissimilar to Liz. It’s a testament to the writing. If something’s written well, I start speaking the lines. There’s something that just happens to my voice. It melds to the writing. You find the right speed and the right tempo. It’s such an instinctive thing. I found that lowering her tone and making it very dry and deadpan and not having much musicality to her voice worked really well. Jim was there on set every day, so I had a Long Beach go-to. There were times when I was like, “Maybe I’m just doing a female version of Jim Gavin.” [Laughs]
Read a Q&A with Brent Jennings, who plays Ernie.
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