The actress behind Patti Levin discusses the appeal of the Guilty Remnant, her feelings for Kevin Garvey and that final moment of triumph.
HBO: Patti could be menacing when she wanted to and charming when she needed to. What was your understanding of her going into the show?
Ann Dowd: I had no understanding. Zero. I just read the pilot and I thought, "Who is this woman and what is she about?" I was very drawn to her commitment, her complete rock solid commitment to what she was doing. I didn't know what that was but I was just drawn to her strength and her stoicism. And to what she knew, whatever that was.
HBO: Can you discuss this rock solid commitment to the Guilty Remnant and its message?
Ann Dowd: People have said, "Why in the world would you want to be in that group?" but it made a lot of sense to me. The event of the Departure is catastrophic. It changes life as we know it. If that isn't the most unsettling thing, I don't know what is. It just pulls the rug out of everyone and everything we knew. You can live in denial of that and go back to the mall, or as the Guilty Remnant does, you can say: “It's over."
It's like in life: If you resist the fear, "OK, I'll weather this. I'm going to go back to life," boy, does the anxiety increase when you do that. The Guilty Remnant does the opposite. It's: "I'm putting down any lens except this one, which is life is over as we know it." So the relief of that, the ability to let chaos run the day is tremendously freeing. The resistance is what causes the friction. Patti understands that in every fiber in her being. She's one of those people who doesn't let things go. What she's grappling with, she stays with until she's squared off with it.
HBO: What's behind Patti's antagonism towards Kevin? Is it that he's the chief of police? Or because he's Laurie's husband?
Ann Dowd: There's lot between them, not the least of which he represents "let's keep denial as the front runner." And that's the enemy of the Guilty Remnant – denial. He also tries to keep the Guilty Remnant safe. [She wants him to] stop doing that. Stop trying to control what's uncontrollable. From Patti's perspective, Kevin is so close to letting go into the chaos. That's the thing that really moved me the most, watching what happens to the two of them, and the intimacy and the closeness between them.
HBO: So Patti could tell that Kevin was on the edge of letting go?
Ann Dowd: Yes. She senses it. She's a tremendous sensor – she can take the temperature of an emotional situation very quickly.
HBO: Do you think she anticipated Kevin would take things to such an extreme?
Ann Dowd: I think Patti was prepared for it every day and absolutely ready. She had cleared the emotional wreckage from her psyche, from her life, from her soul. She had surrendered to it entirely, embraced it, and said OK. Every single day she was ready for whatever. Think of the volatile nature of their lives: People hate them.
HBO: When did you learn about Patti's end?
Ann Dowd: I found out from Damon [Lindelof, co-creator] during preparations for 107. So I had a few weeks before we shot 108. I did not see it coming.
HBO: Can you discuss the last scene and Patti's recitation of the poem?
Ann Dowd: I love Yeats. I don't know if it's because I'm Irish or what. I can tell you what the poem is about and you can pull it apart and dissect it. But its correctness in this part of the scene and whatever it did to Patti, I couldn't tell you. I could not put words to it because it expressed so profoundly what this is all about, this being what happened to our world in our story.
HBO: What was it like filming a scene with such emotional intensity?
Ann Dowd: I would say I had maybe a week with the script. I worked on it like I work on a play. Every day, I would keep it in process, meaning, don't look for solutions right now. I spent a lot of time alone. I talked to my husband, who understands and helped me talk through it. So when I got to the day, I kept saying, "Don't chase it. You've done the homework. Trust the material. Trust the relationship and let it affect you. Take your hands off the control," which is what Patti is doing, too. It's extraordinary to me how it all dovetails.
I just took it one take at a time, knowing that whatever unfolded, they would choose the one that worked, and we would move on. I have not seen it and will probably not see it for a little while because the memory of doing it is so huge for me. I don't know when I've been more affected by any material ever.
HBO: And in the next moment, after experiencing that catharsis, Patti goes on to deliver her final message. So no happy ending for Patti and Kevin?
Ann Dowd: Well, it is a happy ending. It's straight into what she believes. It's triumphant moment for her, a moment of strength and commitment.