Olivia Sandoval, who plays Janet on AMC’s Lodge 49, talks about what truly motivates Janet and her friendship with Liz.
Q: What initially attracted you to the show and to this character?
A: The writing drew me in right away. I was completely smitten. I remember my audition was this long and surreal monologue that seemed part Shakespeare and something from a J. Peterman catalog. It was truly bonkers and I had never seen anything like it. It was very hard to pinpoint Janet in terms of the classic actor homework: What does she want? Where is she coming from? Where is she going? Who is she? I was attracted to that challenge of how to ground someone who apparently lives in a parallel universe of their own design. Once I saw the rest of the scripts and the whole show, it was just pure magic and joy from start to finish.
Q: There are a lot of mysteries on this show, but Janet might be the biggest one of all. How would you describe her?
A: I see Janet as an embodiment of that American brand of greed. It’s a mix of ingenuity and narcissism. She’s pure bloodlust hiding behind the deceptive veil of meritocracy. Janet would like you to think she’s earned her success by simply being better and being gifted, but that really is just a spin on a simpler story of privilege. She knows how to talk her way into – or out of – anything. She’s perfected her own brand. She’s part magician, part entrepreneur. I bet there are many Janets running around Silicon Valley.
Q: In a cast full of dreamers, Janet is painfully practical. How do you think she balances the cast of Lodge 49?
A: Janet’s practicality is fed by the vision of her empire. In that sense, she is also a dreamer. It’s not that she doesn’t dream, but her dreams look vastly different than someone like Dud. In a world of ethereal, soft, non-judgmental dreaming, Janet represents the selfish and consumeristic version. When she dreams, she sees a path to a goal and sees obstacles along the way. She then devises a strategy to achieve the goal. She’s certainly no mystic, but she’s a seer in her own way. Her visions are narrow and self-serving, but she’s dedicated to them with unflinching postulancy. Janet is a very devout member of the Church of Janet. [Laughs]
Q: How would you describe the dynamic between Janet and Liz?
A: Even though it may not be a two-way street, I truly think that Liz is the closest thing to a friend that Janet has ever had. Sure, Janet’s ready to bleed Liz dry at any moment, but until then, let’s get froyo! It’s almost like Janet is cos-playing friendship: “Do we hug now? Is this what girlfriends do?” Liz completely disarms Janet, and quite literally when she punches her in the face. I think she’s drawn to that feeling because it’s unfamiliar and exciting. Janet is constantly surrounded by cultish followers and sycophants. Liz offers something different, like a window into another life. Liz wants nothing to do with Janet and that is an irresistible conquest.
Q: How do you think she balances her own sense of morality?
A: In her mind, it is a position of great honor to be thrown under the bus of Janet. You should be so lucky to be chosen as the sacrificial offering! It’s not that bad. We’ll throw you a big party before and then you get to go to a way more rad Heaven than the other Heavens. [Laughs] Janet and Liz are sort of dark reflections of each other, which keeps them tied whether they like it or not. Janet is a shadow of where Liz’s ambition could take her if she applied it. Liz is a shadow of Janet’s own deeper desire for connection and normalcy. As cynical as Liz is, she’s also surrounded by people who love her, which is something that Janet maybe never experienced in her life.
Q: What attracts Janet about Dud’s quest? Is it only about money with her?
A: Money is certainly the god that she worships – no doubt about it – but I think it’s the scapegoat for the real thing, which is the desire to love and be loved in return. Janet doesn’t know how to approach anything without an ulterior motive. She has no idea how to just be a friend or a person. It all has to be a means to an end. I bet even in her childhood, love was something to be earned and bought: “Talk to me when you bring home an A or your first million.” I think she sees this merry band of weirdos and even though she lacks the insight to understand her own impetus, it’s ultimately the camaraderie that she wants. The money is there to preserve her reputation and empire, which is how she measures her own self-worth. She’s really on the hunt for deeper meaning. So, it is magic – in her own way.
Q: How does it land on her when she’s finally arrested in Mexico? Did she ever expect that? Can Janet ever truly be stopped?
A: I think Janet has such profound tunnel vision in Mexico that she is truly surprised when she’s arrested, even though there are so many obvious signs along the way. I wouldn’t worry too much about her. She’s a true Darwinian. She’s the cockroach that will be left after the apocalypse. [Laughs]
Q: What excited you most about Season 2?
A: There was so much opportunity for adventure in this season. I was eagerly waiting for the arrival of scripts – not just as an actor but as a reader and a fan. Just when I thought I knew where the story was heading, someone jumps out of a plane on fire. The imagination of the great minds behind the show is just so delightful. It’s humbling that I get to be a part of this magical universe. It’s a dream job and Janet is a dream part.
Lodge 49 airs Mondays at 10/9c.
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