Interview: Autumn Reeser talks 'Last Resort'
Is her character a hero, a villain or a work-in-progress?
Viewers who tuned in to last Thursday's premiere of ABC's "Last Resort" may not have a read yet on Autumn Reeser's Kylie Sinclair.
I've seen three episodes and I'm not sure I know what to make of her either. As a weapons lobbyist, Kylie's not inherently sympathetic, but she's Manipulative with a capital "M" and it seems like if we want to unravel the "Last Resort" mystery, she's going to be a crucial source of information. So she's a bad guy, but maybe she's going to eventually be a good guy? Or vice versa?
Of course, I like Kylie. But that's because she's played by Reeser, whose Taylor Townsend was largely responsible for the late-run renaissance of "The O.C." and who also provided quirky humor and energy to ABC's "No Ordinary Family."
I got on the phone last week to talk with Reeser about her character's dual nature, about the rewards of playing smart women and about the fun of delivering exposition in the middle of a sex scene.
Click through for the full conversation...
HitFix: I've seen three episodes so far and I can imagine versions of this story playing out in which your character emerges as the hero of the story and also versions in which she emerges as the villain...
Autumn Reeser: [Laughs.] I love that!
HitFix: Well how do you look at Kylie and her motivations and where she fits into this entire story?
Autumn Reeser: I think of Kylie sorta as a villain thrust into a hero's role, a reluctant hero, which I think is so interesting. She's in a place of great change and of questioning her values and morals and what's important to her and sometimes doing the right thing and not even knowing why. And sometimes not, sometimes continuing with what's been working for her in the past, which is making choices to serve her own needs and her own ambition. It's fun to play her, because she walks the line between the two things.
HitFix: So you reckon that at some point before this story begins, she's done some fairly bad things, probably?
Autumn Reeser: Oh yeah! To me, Kylie existed in the world of sales. I think of her as a salesperson. She's a DC weapons lobbyist and I think of her as brilliant at her job and brilliant at sales, because she's willing to do whatever it takes to get the sale. You can't do that without compromising a lot of what would typically be classic morals. They don't really exist for Kylie up to this point. It's all about getting the sale. I love playing those types of characters too, so she retains that. That's a big part of who she is. She's been very entitled in the past. She comes from a lot of money and she's very safe. She lives a very safe sorta bubble existence and she plays like mad in that frame. And then all of a sudden the framework that she has built her life around is blown to pieces and so she's having to sorta rebuild herself within this new world and she's constantly surprised by the choices that she's making. I think she doesn't even know sometimes why she's doing what she's doing. She just feels like she has to do it.
HitFix: And do these conflicting sides of her free you at all from worrying about making the character quote-unquote "likable" in a conventional way?
Autumn Reeser: Yeah. I definitely have that consideration now, a few episodes into it. Definitely that bumps up for me, but I try to put that aside. This is a fun journey for me, because I do typically play the characters that everyone goes, "Oh, she's adorable!" or "Oh, she's so likable!" So I feel like I've done that. I know I can play likable and that's not anywhere within Kylie's world. So I just try and play Kylie's world. I think it's a character people are going to like for different reasons than the fact that she's "likable." It's like Vic Mackey. He's not necessarily a likable guy, but he's one of the most iconic, memorable characters on television.
HitFix: In the pilot, your character has to deliver a big chunk of exposition while, at the same time, being in the middle of a love scene. What are the challenges of combining those two potentially awkward things to do as an actor?
Autumn Reeser: Somebody on Twitter coined a phrase that I'm gonna use: Sexposition. I thought that was such a brilliant mash-up of the two. It made me laugh. I like scenes like that. In this case, it was very physical. It was very reminiscent to me of the Faye Dunaway scene in "Network," it's that epic afternoon where she's just talking about television shares while they're screwing all over the place. It's that sort of thing, because getting a sale is part of what gets Kylie off, so it ties in nicely, as well as providing a bit of television fun, shall we say.
HitFix: You also did a lot of jargon-spouting in "No Ordinary Family." Is that something that comes somewhat natural? Or have you worked on it?
Autumn Reeser: I guess it's something that comes naturally to me. I haven't thought that much about it, but I do think that it's, apparently, a fairly difficult skill. I don't know. I like stuff like that. I like all this technical stuff. I do end up playing a lot of those characters.
HitFix: Even going back to "The O.C." people liked to give you the chance to play "intelligence."
Autumn Reeser: And that's a nice compliment. I like playing smart women very, very much, because I definitely learn from them. Typically they're experts in some fields that I previously knew nothing about, so I get an opportunity to learn as well, which is one of the reasons I got into acting, one of my favorite things about playing characters.
HitFix: "Last Resort" feels like it's three or four shows at once and you are, at least in the early going, off on a show by yourself. Does that produce a challenge?
Autumn Reeser: Yes. Yes. It's very challenging. It's fun, because I typically get to really drive the scenes that I'm in, because I'm the agent of action within the Washington, DC world that we're exploring. So that's fun as an actor. That's really nice. But yeah, I also wonder how I'm going to be integrated into the island setting. I think that Kylie's mission is very important to everybody who is on the island, because Kylie's one of the only people who can sort solve this conspiracy in Washington and get to the bottom of it, so obviously her mission is very important to them, but heretofore, they're sort of unaware of her, so we'll have to see how that plays out.
HitFix: How connected, then, do you feel to the full ensemble cast?
Autumn Reeser: As far as individual people and actors, I love everybody. I definitely see everybody and we get along, but as far as working... It doesn't really serve the story right now for me to be worried about getting to do scenes with everybody. I absolutely hope eventually, over the course of the series, that it runs a long long time and I get some nice scenes with Andre [Braugher] and Scott [Speedman] and Robert [Patrick] and Daisy [Betts] and everyone, but I think that's down the line. I think the current mission of the show is that Kylie can best serve the show by staying where she is in Washington, DC and solving this conspiracy.
HitFix: And, as a last question, have you set foot on the sub and are you begging to set foot on the sub?
Autumn Reeser: No, I have not. I do not like submarines. Please do not put me on a submarine.
HitFix: Is that claustrophobia or something else?
Autumn Reeser: Yes! You're in a closed in space and you're underwater. It's a double-whammy.
HitFix: But surely the set isn't underwater...
Autumn Reeser: Yeah, well I can go on the set. But if I had to set foot on a real submarine, I don't know. I don't know how that would go down. It is my goal to make myself do that by the end of the show. So...
"Last Resort" airs on Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.