The actress reveals Evie's motivation behind John Murphy's one-of-a-kind birthday gift—and how joining a cult was a dream come true.
What appealed to you about the role of Evie Murphy?
I felt like Evie was really relatable. She's your average teenager. Super involved in her community and everybody loves her, but I could tell that she was angry about something and that pretty much describes my high school experience. I also felt like nothing was a lie in Evie's story—she loves her family and her community, but she can see the bigger picture about Miracle, the bullshit and the lies, and that makes her angry.
What do you think attracted Evie to the Guilty Remnant?
A couple things. First, that so many people in Jarden are pretending that nothing happened, when it absolutely did. I think that's one of the things Evie's most angry about. The whole world did change, but the people of Jarden are pretending it didn't change them. Evie doesn't like seeing people putting on fake smiles and profiting from other people's pain. Even though she doesn't go outside of the walls of the town, she sees people come in, identifies with their pain and can't do anything about it. That's why, when she meets Meg, there was this total connection between them. Just looking into Meg's eyes, she felt that someone finally understood her pain. Being so young, Evie was vulnerable and susceptible to peer pressure. Meg is beautiful, older and smart, so there were a lot of reasons why Evie would go with her over some other random stranger.
I don't think Evie immediately decided to join the G.R., though, whenever Meg came back for her. Evie did research because that's the kind of person she is. It's also what I did when I booked the show—I Googled the Guilty Remnant and found a bunch of websites and blogs, some of which talk about the show and some of which talk about the G.R. as if they are real. That was really good for my process. The G.R. offers something concrete to believe in, and I think that concreteness is what really attracted Evie.
We know that Evie and Michael are twins. How do you think that bond affected her decision to join the Guilty Remnant?
It was a big part of it. When the Departure happened, Evie was young enough that she still believed things because her family did. When she looks at her brother, she sees this beautiful, amazing person. When the Departure happens, Michael believes it's the Rapture and he wasn’t taken. Evie looks at this and sees her brother's heart broken and doesn't understand why the God he's devoted himself to didn't take him. That snapped something in her because it changed Michael, and she can't stand to see him suffer that way.
How did you react when you first learned where Evie disappeared to?
Well, before I booked the show and watched Season 1, I thought to myself, "Man, it would be so fun to play in the Guilty Remnant—that’ll never happen.” So when it did—I don't know if I'll ever again feel the way I did when I first read that script—I audibly gasped, probably shouted some curse words.
Via notepad, Evie tells her mother, "You understand." What do you think she means?
I think the message means a lot of things, but at the core of it, the Murphys have gone through some hard, painful times, and yet they pretend that they haven't. Even that monologue Michael gives at church about the real story behind the overflowed bathtub—how he turned up the water so Erika wouldn't hear Evie crying. There are all these ways that Evie has tried to protect her mom, and vice versa. Evie knows that Erika knows how much she's been hurting and that Jarden is bullshit and that it's not fair that people are hurting. That sign says so much, but in short, Erika really does understand Evie's motivations.
We finally learn what John's birthday gift from Evie was. What was her motivation there?
I cried when I read that. It broke my heart! Her thoughts behind the gift are quite simple—she didn't want him to worry about it anymore. She knew he would miss her and have his heart broken when she left, and with the cricket gone, it would be one less thing for him to worry about.
What's been your favorite part of working on The Leftovers?
First, getting to work with almost every lead on the show—getting to be in the same room with them was a dream. Everyone in this cast is brilliant, loving and so willing to share. I'm still very young and have a ton to learn, and any time I'd ask a question, everyone was so willing to help me—even if they were shooting, too. That was just the biggest gift they could have given me.
The second thing was after episode 2, I went home knowing I would be in one more episode, but not in what capacity. I prayed that when I came back I would be really challenged and in over my head. And it happened! I called one my best friends after shooting one day and she said, "Just remember that this is what you wanted. This is God reminding you that you asked to be in over your head." I don't ever want it to be easy. I want the chance to be challenged and to grow and to be uncomfortable. And I had that pretty much the whole time—but in a good way! [Laughs.]