Nive Nielsen, who plays Lady Silence on AMC’s The Terror discusses how she handles the loss of her father, why she appreciates Crozier and Goodsir, and her character’s connection to the creature on the ice.
Q: It took a long time to cast Lady Silence. How did you hear about the opportunity and what was the process of joining the show like for you?
A: I heard about the part on the Greenlandic radio news. I don’t often get to go home to Greenland because I am usually touring with my band. So, it was already a coincidence that I was home to hear about the part. I sent a quick little email to try out for the part, thinking I probably wasn’t going to get it. My first audition was through Skype in Nuuk, Greenland and I kept getting callbacks as we were touring. So I ended up auditioning through Skype and FaceTime from Copenhagen, Denmark, Utrecht Holland, and flew between shows from Dresden to Budapest and back to Hamburg for the final audition. In the end, I moved to Budapest for five months when we were done with our tour, with the same suitcase I had left with for touring.
Q: Before this, you were primarily known as a singer-songwriter. How did you handle the adjustment to acting?
A: Having a band and performing so often is actually the reason I thought I could do this. I’m not sure I could have handled the pressure and all that attention if I hadn’t been performing with my band for this long. It was never natural for me to be the center of attention. I used to have horrible stage fright my first many years. Performing with my band was always a challenge — it took me years to get comfortable on stage and comfortable with people watching me with expectations. So all those years trying to get comfortable on stage really paid off in the end, for this.
Q: When Lady Silence first encounters the crew members, what is her reaction?
A: When she first encounters the crew, she’s going through the very traumatic experience of her father being injured and the Tuunbaq is on the loose on top of that. I imagined that this was before any encounters with Europeans, so she has no idea of what they are capable of yet. So, she is very worried about her father and scared of the Tuunbaq. At that point, the Englishmen are the least of her worries.
Q: Is she surprised that Crozier is able to speak her language somewhat? Does that give her any sense of relief or calm at all?
A: She is definitely surprised that Crozier speaks some Inuktitut, and she can hear he learned it in a different region. It does give her a sense of relief that someone can communicate with her, and that he appears to have some awareness and respect for her culture — enough to learn some of her language.
Q: How would you describe what she’s going through after she loses her father?
A: Losing her father is a huge moment. She has been traveling with him alone and getting to know him in a different way than she did before, learning about ways of the spiritual world from him. All of that is cut short. And on top of that she doesn’t know yet how exactly to handle the situation that’s unfolding. She has to rely on only herself before she is ready for it.
Q: How does she feel when she sees the crew put her father down the fire hole?
A: It’s too much, she can barely glance at it. It’s wrong on so many levels, but she knows it’s too late, there’s nothing she can do at that point to fix it. The important parts of the rituals have already been broken, and nothing can remedy that anymore. That body does not contain her father anymore.
Q: How much do you think she fully understands the Tuunbaq creature? When he gives her the seal in Episode 3, does she take that as an act of kindness or intimidation?
A: She is scared of the Tuunbaq. She cannot control it. It has its own will and it’s hard to predict its behavior. But at the same time, she has a lot of respect towards it. She is not sure how to take the gift.
A: She thought they were going to kill her. She got very scared of these men, but she feels like she has some responsibility to guard them despite some of the men’s ignorant behavior. The Tuunbaq is on the loose, and she knows nobody else will have a sliver of a chance to rectify what went wrong if she doesn’t try.
Q: What does she make of Goodsir‘s kindness and interest in helping her?
A: She can tell that he is a good person. She has a good sense of intuition, and she appreciates his efforts.
Q: How did your cultural background inform the way you played the character of Lady Silence?
A: I think being Inuk I’ve always been interested in our ancestors’ history, but from the inside of the culture. We are the most studied culture in relation to population, and I have always found it fascinating to study perspective. Written history usually tells as much about the historian’s culture as it does about the subjects. I have a master’s degree in visual anthropology and I would say it has helped me imagine the situations Lady Silence was in, having a good idea about what the conditions and customs were at the time.
Read a Q&A with Jared Harris, who plays Captain Francis Crozier.
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