Amy Brenneman on Laurie’s Journey, That Fight and Saying Goodbye

The actor responsible for the complex woman discusses what it’s meant to bring Laurie Garvey “back to life.”

HBO: What was the most challenging aspect of evolving Laurie Garvey from cult follower to spirit guide?

Amy Brenneman: She’s become more and more relatable to me. In the first season, between not having any dialogue and encompassing this enigmatic figure, it was difficult to play the mystery. To everyone else, she’s mysterious, but I have to understand her.

It’s always challenging with The Leftovers, but I’ve gotten more and more comfortable with her. Laurie’s journey is to come back into the fold, especially in Season 2. She had to work to get her children back and make amends for the ways she hurt them. Often people who have been through the sh*t are the people who are able to help others.

HBO: "Certified" was the first time we understood why Laurie joined the Guilty Remnant. What was your reaction upon reading this reveal?

Amy Brenneman: Damon and I came up with that idea together three years ago, so that was always the working story. Over the first two seasons, I thought, “It’s too bad we’re never going to see that moment, but I know it’s there.” One of the millions of reasons I love The Leftovers is Damon reveals information when it’s the right time. The show does whatever it needs to do on its own timeline. It was so gratifying to show the moment that’s if not sympathetic, understandable and relatable.

HBO: Laurie and Nora have a bond like no other members of the Garvey/Murphy tribe. How is this possible? And what was it like shooting that fight scene?

Amy Brenneman: It was awesome! One of the pleasures of the show is looking at this cast, seeing everybody’s work week-to-week and thinking, “I wish I could work with her!” There are so many treasures. I think Carrie and I, and Laurie and Nora, have similar traits. One thing that’s always been awesome about Laurie — and I think Kevin [Justin Theroux] would say the same — is that they don’t long for their marriage that once was. Kevin and Laurie are very loving co-parents — he trusts her, probably more than anybody else — but there’s no triangulation. There’s no looking at Nora and going, “You got my man.” That’s really refreshing.

When you look at the structure of The Leftovers, there’s a series of people who tell their truths to Laurie. Almost every one of them has more or less said, “I know you’re going to judge me. I know you think I’m crazy.” To which Laurie basically says, “You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.” What’s really beautiful is Laurie goes from making this extreme choice for herself to letting go of her contempt and judgment. Laurie is seeing Nora quite clearly in that moment [in the van].

HBO: What do you think she gets out of her relationship with John?

Amy Brenneman: Everything. Talk about balance — I think John brought her back to life. They’re really simpatico and in-sync in a way she probably was with Kevin a long time ago but hasn’t been for a while. John makes her feel girlish and sexual — they’re these partners-in-crime. She really blossomed with him and she didn’t think she could feel that way again.

HBO: Why do you think Laurie saved Kevin for last in her round of goodbyes?

Amy Brenneman: Kevin is the father of her children… and it’s quite beautiful when you look at the structure of why Laurie decided to go to Australia. She got that call, she helped him through a psychotic break, and she sees people like Matt capitalizing on Kevin’s mental instability. Laurie thinks she has to do her due diligence. It’s a really genuine moment.

HBO: What does Laurie think about the end of the world?

Amy Brenneman: What I find relatable, as a mom and an activist, is that Laurie goes through a lot of her day trying to fix things. It comes from a genuine place, but fixers can ultimately be judgmental. She spends most of Season 3 trying to help people feel better while letting go of that judgment.

What The Leftovers shows is that people are longing for this emotional release to feel like they’re a part of something greater. And Laurie, whose expertise is in psychotherapy, can deliver a lot of those emotional needs. So if it’s a white lie to tell a loved one they’re going to be OK, she thinks it’s fine. It’s all a prop. As Lindsay Duncan’s character Grace said, “It’s all a story anyway.”