Faye Marsay, who plays Katya Godman on AMC’s McMafia, discusses her complicated role in the Godman family unit, how she really felt about her father and Masha’s affair, and what it’s like to watch her brother descend into the criminal world.
Q: How would you describe Katya‘s place in the Godman family? How does she feel about the family’s situation?
A: I think she feels much more British than she feels Russian, certainly in the beginning, because this is where she’s been to school and it’s where her brother’s been to school and she’s grown up with that culture in London. She has these very strong Russian roots with her father and mother, but she’s also a bit of a black sheep and didn’t want to engage with that. He gets annoyed at her for not speaking Russian. She understands it, but chooses not to speak it. The problem with Katya is she feels quite lost. She’s not treated with the same kind of attention that Alex gets because she’s not a male in business. She feels less important. She’s the daughter, so what she needs to do is find a nice husband and all that kind of stuff and Katya doesn’t want to do that. That’s the two cultures clashing together. There’s that conflict between the two cultures for her.
Q: What are Katya’s feelings toward Alex?
A: I think she respects him and adores him. They went through a similar thing together in that they were taken from their world in Russia and put in boarding schools in the U.K. Although she was a lot younger, she understands the struggle to fit in the new surroundings. I think she admires him. I have a big brother and it’s that thing where they’re protectors, but you also want to protect them as well. There’s a fine line between feeling fatherly and like a good friend.
Q: The series is tracking Alex’s descent into criminality. Do you think Katya sees that change happening in her brother?
A: In the first couple of episodes, you don’t see much of Katya and I don’t think she’s aware of the lengths to which he’s gone to be in this crazy terrifying underworld. However, she’s not stupid. They do come from a family that was cast out of Russia. I think, as time goes on, the revelations about what he’s been doing are a shock to her but since she’s from a family that has ties with those kind of dealings, I don’t think it’s like “Woah! How could you do this?” It’s more like “Oh, right. You’ve gone down that path now.” I don’t think the judgement is the same as he gets from their father and mother.
Q: When Katya learns of Masha’s pregnancy and affair, who is she more upset with?
A: It’s more her father that she feels betrayed and let down by. The fact that it’s a friend is gross. She is let down by the friend, but I don’t think she has massively close friendships so I don’t think it was her best friend. Also, Masha used to date Alex as well, so there’s this weird triangle going on there. It’s the shock of her father going for the younger woman and betraying her mother.
Q: In Episode 6, Katya learns that Masha is planning to keep the baby. How does that make Katya feel?
A: Katya looks at this as a problem that will affect the family unit. Regardless of their problems, this family unit stands quite strong as a foursome. This outside influence and child makes Katya and Alex half-brother and sister to this child. She doesn’t want any other influences in the family unit. She becomes much more like her brother and her father and is quite ruthless. She offers to help, but makes it clear that the child is not welcome and neither is Masha.
Q: Katya is pretty brutal in that scene with Masha. Is she changing as well, or has she always had a bit of that darkness in her?
A: I think what we tried to show is that the sense of family is very important to all these characters. Do I think they’re all capable of what Alex is capable of? No, but I do think there’s a strength and a very strong bond between them. Family comes first. That’s who they’re going to protect, by any means necessary. All of them have traits of that in varying degrees.
Q: Why do you think Katya was struggling with being faithful to Femi? By the end of Episode 6, she seems committed. What has changed?
A: What she’s been doing is seeking approval and making sense of where she stands in this world. She hasn’t got the ability or business opportunity to make decisions and do these things. The only way to explore her world is to do stupid stuff like drink and stay out all night. She doesn’t really like herself very much. There comes a point where she has a realization where she either continues down this path and be emotionally estranged from her family because they don’t understand her or make a conscious effort to be a part of this strange family she’s in. She wants to come home. I think she has a lot of respect and love for her dad and thinks he doesn’t see her in the way he sees Alex. She’s vying for that attention and seeking it in other areas of life and in other people and sex.
I think Femi’s willing to love her regardless of her outbursts and the self-destructive button she has. This man continues to put his energy in her. In the end, that’s all we ever really want – someone to love us when we’re feeling crazy and love us when we’re feeling fine. She’s not going to find that in meaningless sexual encounters.
Q: In Episode 7, Katya finally speaks her mind to her father. What do you think finally allowed her to explode in that way? Is it a relief for her?
A: Her dad is very stuck in his ways and very traditional. A lot has been going on with her that he’s probably not aware of or given attention to – probably from a young age. She didn’t want to let him get away with the behavior and she wants to make it clear that she’s not someone that will be ignored. Enough is enough. You get the idea that this has been going on for years. He makes her feel stupid and under-appreciated and she just goes off.
Q: Do you think Katya’s feelings toward Alex have changed at all as he gets deeper into this world of crime?
A: I think initially she’s resistant to it. In that scene where they’re introduced to all their bodyguards, I remember shooting it and giving this look to Alex like, “Really?!” As she moves more in line with what this family is about and what Alex is now engaging in, she realizes that it’s serious. Allegiance will always be to the family.
Q: Once she confronts her father in Episode 7 and brings all the issues to forefront, does she hope for healing?
A: I think so. For her, it’s making him realize that she’s not going to be the quiet and obedient daughter. She’s never been that and yet, he still never gets onboard. Now she can express all of this and hopefully he sees her as a stronger figure. Perhaps he underestimated her. I think she hopes it shocks him out of his preconceived ideas of what she is and, therefore, makes the family feel like a stronger unit. Not only is Alex’s character taking things into his own hands, but the mother is also very strong. He’s got this family of really strong personalities that are willing to look after each other.
Q: How have your feelings changed about organized crime in the world since being a part of this show?
A: Everyone in this world is aware that there are problems with capitalism and corporations and there’s a much darker side. So I knew about that, but I didn’t know the scale of how these operations and business dealings were conducted. It scared me. It’s very slick, very well-organized and people are making more money than anyone can ever dream of. I think that’s quite terrifying. Globally, it asks a lot of questions about the ethics of capitalism and who we can trust. At what point is it about money and at what point is it about being fair and being open to helping human beings? It’s a really fine line. It was interesting to get into how ruthless these people can be.
Read a Q&A with Oshri Cohen who plays Joseph.
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