In July, I had the awesome opportunity to go to San Diego Comic Con. As much of my blog coverage at cons tends to have more to do with the experience and the treatment of my fellow geeks than about the Hollywood scene that the event has become over the last five years, this year was a little different.
This year I got to interview the awesome Jaime Murray from SyFy’s Defiance where she plays Stahma Tarr, wife of Datak Tarr, both Castithans from space. Stahma is described as a Lady Macbeth-like character in a society based on castes and tradition. Confused by all those names and words that sound downright unearthly? Check out Defiance for some awesome world building, new species and cool characters.
I am always so interested in the angle from which actresses approach characters, so it was especially cool to talk to Jaime about the many women she has portrayed. So often not heroes or good girls, she has gotten to show the darker underbelly of femininity in stories on TV and in movies. Here’s what she had to say about playing lady villains and what made her get into acting.
Where do you find inspiration for the complex, sometimes totally villainous badass characters you play?
I really enjoy playing them. [H]istorically our portrayal of women, I think, has been a bit unbalanced, and it’s often material that’s been written by men. And it’s often been written with the purpose of coloring the male character’s character, giving a window into his soul and humanizing him or whatnot. And while those characters, those women, are still interesting to play, they can be a bit undimensional and a little bit…you know…you want your character to stand-alone as an individual.
I really love that the genre films and TV really allow an actress to play something a little bit more complex. I was very interested in philosophy and psychology. I actually studied it at the London School of Economics. I thought, possibly, before I became an actress that possibly that was what I was going to go into. I am just as interested in the complexity and the ugliness in the human psyche as I am in the other stuff.
What I will say is, I don’t like playing flat or cookie cutter. I don’t really like playing sweet. I feel as though, maybe, that’s something that I need to do. Maybe I need to go there next. I feel as though this idea of what women should be is interesting to me if it’s subversive or you see how repressed that woman is. I have actually quite enjoyed showing how awful and ugly women can be too.
For example when I look at the TV that I love, I love HBO’s Girls, and one of the reasons that I love it is that Lena Dunham is really willing to go there and be really truly awful and ugly and some of her actions are shameful. [T]hat’s quite fun to see because for a long time we were only really allowed to be cute, sexy or whatever it was.
Of course it’s not really across the board. Of course there have been amazing female characters. People still talk about Lady Macbeth because she stood out. We talk about Lady Macbeth characters because she was showing that women aren’t necessarily mothers and sweet daughters and girlfriends.
What made you say, “I’m going to go after this – this is what I want to do – create things” ?
I was a really good girl.
Maybe that’s why it was sort of good for me to play so many bad characters because I was really high achieving Little Miss Perfectionist, and I just wanted to please my mom and dad. I went to a convent school, and I had my sex education from nuns, and I used to have to go to bed at 9 pm at night. I grew up in quite a structured environment, and I really love my parents, but I think it was very liberating for me when I left home to study philosophy and psychology. Leaving home and making that break, I suddenly realized I wasn’t just a daughter. As much as I would do anything to make them happy, I couldn’t spend my whole life trying to make them happy and wake up at 45 or 50 or whatever age it is when you look back on your life and realize that it wasn’t really your life that you lived. You were living the life to please others, and I think that this is quite a female issue in some ways.
I think that young boys experience it as well, to be fair, but I think that the curse of being lovely and being a people-pleaser is quite a female trait in many ways. I think that you don’t have to be a bitch, but you do have to kind take something back at some point and be an individual and realize that this is your life and you gotta live it. You have to make mistakes and you have to fail, and it’s better to fail spectacularly at something you love doing than never try and then regret the fact that you don’t know what would have happened.
So I realized that. I still read psychology books now. I think it was as close as I could get to acting without acting. It was the academic version for me – psychology and philosophy. I love history and art and English as well, which are all very closely connected. But I think that I really did have a yearning to be an actress, and I think that leaving home and going to LSE and having that little bit of space made me realize that I needed to be a grown up and make my own choices.
I’ll be tuning into Defiance this year for sure. I love me a good genre show with a heavy undergrowth of Shakespearian drama and complex social structures. You should check it out and look for some seriously awesome inspiration in Jaime Murray’s badass lady.
Feature Image via Flickr