Virginia Kull, who plays Linda McQueen on AMC’s NOS4A2, chats with AMC.com about crafting Linda’s new outlook on life during Season 2, coming to terms with the truth of Vic’s supernatural power, plus what her tropical inscape would look like, and more.
Q: Linda seems to have grown quite a lot in the intervening years since Season 1. Did you have to reframe your mindset at all, coming back into the role?
A: Sure. Eight years have passed, so you’d be a fool to assume that someone was going to stay exactly the same over that course of time.
Q: Did you and the creative team give thought to what her life has looked like for the last eight years?
A: Jami [O’Brien] was very generous early on when the writers were back in the writing room for Season 2. They invited the cast to come in and dream about what a Season 2 would look like for the roles we were playing, so I spent this wonderful afternoon in their offices in Los Angeles spitballing ideas and throwing things against the wall and seeing what stuck. It was a lot of fun! There were some ridiculous ideas, but I was excited about what they concocted. I was thrilled about Linda falling for Sean the Mailman, that redhead that is barely mentioned in Season 1… I was excited about new love for her. I absolutely believe and play every scene as if Linda has got one of those cruise line credit cards, because she’s a major cruiser. Don’t you think? I just think it’s right on for her.
Q: It’s great to see Linda living her best life.
A: I really think she is! I think she plays hard, and I think she works hard. And I think she gives even less of a damn than she did before!
Q: It’s interesting to hear how inclusive the writers’ room was.
A: I personally have never experienced that, sitting in the room where our creative team is literally breaking story. They’ve got the notecards up on the bulletin board, and they’re asking me for my lunch order. I’m sitting there with basically my bosses, the people whose hands my employment lies in. So, it was nice to be included, to realize that they wanted to hear from me! I think that also has to do with going into a second season of a show. As an actor, the longer you live with a character, the more ownership you take of it, the stronger your opinions become on who this person is and what their journey should be. It’s exciting to work with writers like Jami O’Brien, who are not only open to that, but fiercely encourage it.
Q: We’re now halfway through Season 2. How do you think Linda feels watching her daughter decline over the years, especially because it’s so reminiscent of her ex-husband’s behavior?
A: I think it’s painful for Linda. I think it’s hard for Linda to see Vic follow the same trajectory as her dad. I will say that I don’t think Linda is surprised in the least. Linda has spent her young life white-knuckling everything, and an unfortunate side effect of white-knuckling is when you finally release your grip, which I believe Linda had done, your hands can’t help but be calloused. So I think that there is a hardness and matter-of-fact way of looking at things. Linda sees things clearly. She’s disappointed. She’s saddened. But not surprised.
Q: How do you think Linda has been as a grandma?
A: I think she’s loving the text updates with occasional pictures that she might get her hands on. I will also say that, as someone that started as a mother so early in life, Linda is enjoying not taking care of a child. I don’t imagine Linda is begging for a visit. I don’t think she’s looking for the best deals on Spirit Airlines to go down to give Vic a week off and take care of her grandson. I think she loves him very much, and I think she’s very much done taking care of children.
Q: Speaking of Chris McQueen, what was it like working with Ebon Moss-Bachrach for this episode again? You guys have a really touching scene in the hospital.
A: I have a list of artists that I keep. My agent and my manager know about it, and it’s the people that I am insistent that I work with again. Ebon is very firmly written in permanent ink on this list. So I was thrilled to get another opportunity to play with him again. One of the sad fallouts of Linda living her best life and finding love, is that Linda and Chris don’t see as much of each other anymore. It sucks for me as the actor, because it means that I don’t get many scenes with Ebon. So truthfully I was really disappointed by that, but for Linda’s sake, it’s great.
Q: In that scene in the hospital with Ebon, Linda struggles with the supernatural aspects of what Vic is saying, which admittedly sound crazy. But what do you think Linda is thinking when Chris says to believe Vic?
A: Yeah, that was a really interesting scene to play. I remember distinctly, we were in that hospital room set for a while, with Ebon and I, and then Jami and Hannelle [Culpeper], our wonderful director. We were really trying to specify and clarify what the scene was about. It was a tricky one. It was challenging. But I think at the heart of it, Chris is a lot of things, and Linda knows that about him, but he’s not a liar. When they were in their early days of marriage, he was cheating on her left and right — I don’t think he lied at all, I don’t think he tried to cover it up. Both of these people, as flawed as they are, they absolutely can be taken at their word. There’s not a disingenuous bone in either of their bodies. So when Chris — who, dammit, he’s infuriating and he’s made her life a living hell on one hand — when Chris McQueen says to Linda, “Believe her,” he is the one human being that she trusts. And so that’s what creates the little fissure, that little space in Linda’s head and heart, that makes what happens going forward in the show possible.
Q: A little later in the episode, Linda is looking at Vic’s old drawings, Vic comes in and they have a heart to heart — it really marks a shift in their relationship, and it’s so subtle. How did you, the creative team, and Ashleigh craft that moment of reconnection?
A: It wasn’t an accident that it was in Vic’s childhood bedroom, because you’ve seen these two women there countless times before. It wasn’t an accident that her artwork was strewn all over the floor, and Linda was looking through it. But eight years earlier that artwork was threatening to Linda, because she didn’t understand it and it communicated that there was a divide between these two women. But eight years have passed, and she’s opening herself up to this again. She’s looking at these triggering pictures that were charged back then, and now instead of seeing them as a threat, I think there’s curiosity there and there’s the start of wonder.
Q: How do you think Linda is coming to terms with the crazier parts of Vic’s story? Do you think she actually believes it, or is she just trying to support her daughter?
A: If we’ve learned anything about Linda watching this show, reading Joe’s genius book, Linda does not blindly support things she doesn’t believe in. Linda was the baddie throughout Season 1 because she didn’t blow sunshine up her daughter’s ass. She was the one trying to tell her the truth. So I don’t think that she’s just trying to support her, because for Linda, that’s not being loving. That’s not supportive. That’s actually dangerous and destructive. Do I think she believes her? Linda needs to see to believe, but I think she wants to believe her. She sees that Chris is on board. Chris and Vic have always had a connection; Linda has always resented or been threatened by that connection. I think now she wants in. She wants to understand. She’s opening herself to the possibility of belief, but she’s not quite there yet. But we have some more episodes to go. We’ll see.
Q: You have my favorite line of the season when you’re talking to the FBI detective.
A: “My husband works for the post office. We go to church.” Don’t you know that woman? I know and I love that woman so much.
Q: That woman in a supernatural horror story is just so great.
A: Well, that’s Joe Hill for you. That’s Jami O’Brien for you.
Q: Have you given any thought again to what you would want your knife and inscape to be?
A: OK, this is as Virginia, not Linda, right? I don’t remember what I said last season, and it was probably something trying to be generous or gracious. This new season in my life, that is not the case. I was talking to my husband about this last night; we were laughing. One thing that folks may or may not know about me is that the whole time I was shooting Season 2, I was nursing five-week-old twins. So it’s miraculous! I have no memories to share with you, because everything is such a blur from that time. Now they are nine months. And so my knife would definitely be whatever food-stained, drool-covered apron, t-shirt, nightgown I have on. And my inscape, it would transport me to a hammock on a beach, where no one can touch me and no one needs anything from me. It’s quiet and calm, and I can just take a freaking nap. That’s what it would be. Yeah, raising twins in a pandemic is no joke!
I was talking to Ebon about it because he’s got two girls, and he was welcoming to parenthood with a grin on his face—just understanding the wonder, miracle, and mess of it all. I was trying to describe it to people, and I said, “It feels like you’ve been injected with the most joy-inducing drug, while simultaneously being hit head-on by a Mack Truck.” So it’s so good and it’s so bad all at the same time. If Linda can do it, I can do it, right? Actually, Virginia’s worst nightmare is being on a cruise ship. That’s a big difference between the two of us. My cruise equivalent would probably be a tent in the woods on top of some mountain. That sounds like paradise to me!
Watch the latest episode of NOS4A2, available now on amc.com and the AMC app for mobile and devices. Check out the on-air schedule here for more encore viewings and upcoming episodes of NOS4A2 on AMC.
Watch a sneak peek from Sunday’s all new episode here, in which Millie sets out to find answers about why the lights are flickering in Christmasland again. But she’ll have to confront the ghosts of the past to do it.
For more of a behind-the-scenes perspective with the NOS4A2 cast and creators, check out this interview with Zachary Quinto, who plays Charlie Manx. Quinto talks jumping right into the action of Season 2, revealing the layers of the villainous vampire’s backstory, and more. And don’t miss this Q&A with author Joe Hill, who teases the bigger world of Season 2, plus shares details about his unusual writing practice, how the NOS4A2 set is like stepping into his own inscape, and more.
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