The actor behind the formidable Patti Levin discusses her character’s ever-evolving dynamic with Kevin Garvey, and the love story between them that could only be found on The Leftovers.
HBO: What drew you to playing Patti Levin?
Ann Dowd: What I find most fascinating about her is her journey. She began as an abused wife with a husband that couldn’t have cared less about her. She felt like something bigger was happening, and then it did. That’s when she began her life full-on; embracing her strength, intelligence and capabilities as a leader. Once she had done that, she let go of attachment, and accepted that the world as she knew it was over. Patti embraced what needed to happen, which, ultimately, for her, was death.
HBO: What’s been the biggest challenge in playing her?
Ann Dowd: I don’t know if I will ever get over where the show and the writers took us. It’s not as though it was a conscious, linear trip; it’s not. It hit us deeply.The biggest shift was going from not talking to talking. First I was terrified of not talking; I wasn’t sure how I would get anything across. Then I got so attached to the silence, because it’s powerful; You take charge of a room immediately. Then when I had to talk, I was like, wait a minute... How do I do that?
HBO: Did you approach Patti differently when she was “haunting” Kevin?
Ann Dowd: I played her just as I knew her. Whatever she is, she is present in Kevin’s life. She’s the same person. There was great comfort in that. I remember asking [co-creator] Damon [Lindelof], “Do I decide when I show up? Do I want Kevin and Nora’s relationship to work or do I not?” He said, “You don’t believe in relationships.” Which is genius. He said, “You don’t know what’s happening or when you’re going to show up. As far as you know, you cut your throat and now you’re back.” The beautiful journey of Season 2 is Patti trying to get Kevin to step out into his life; to pay attention and stop running. Meanwhile, she has her own moment of understanding where she had her chance: when she won enough money to leave her husband and the abuse, and she did not do it. I think she was able to have that realization from her intimacy with Kevin.
HBO: What’s your take on their dynamic?
Ann Dowd: It’s such a gorgeous relationship, the way it was conceived. The armor was dropped, and they were able to connect to each other in the deepest way possible. He was able to take her to the next place. She was allowed to let go. The little girl in that beautiful episode [“International Assassin”] was amazing. She was handling such huge stuff.
HBO: What crossed your mind when you found out you’d be back for another “assassin” episode?
Ann Dowd: It was a blast, it was also terrifying. The script was thrilling, and then I realized, now I have to do it. The whole thing was terrifying and wonderful. The show means everything to me, so it was sad too because it was going to be over. It was full of everything. It was a terrific experience.
HBO: Why does Patti want Kevin to destroy the world?
Ann Dowd: To her, the Departure is a dealbreaker. The world is over. We are just waiting for the final thing that shuts it all down. That’s part of the creed of the Guilty Remnant: Stop with the nonsense. Stop that stupid parade. Don’t go back to the mob because you’re an idiot. Stop pretending things are ever going to be the same. But Patti’s moved beyond the Guilty Remnant standpoint in many ways; with Kevin it’s something different. It’s, “Blow up all that you’re hiding behind. Let it rip.” Because it crisscrosses on so many levels. It could mean one thing, but also means other things equally important.
HBO: Patti says she wants to help Kevin the way he helped her. Why have they made such an impact on each other?
Ann Dowd: It’s a really important question because I don’t know if any of us really find that person in life who absolutely sees us -- every fault to the very core of us, every fear of what our external life is actually hiding. But they found that in each other. It’s an unlikely love story, but there’s something profoundly freeing, safe and terrifying in it. I think that’s what draws them to each other; it’s like a sacred contract. They have seen each other without any cover; what they are afraid of most; what hurt them most. That’s a bond I don’t think ever breaks. They were able to go through the biggest trials of their lives together. Is Kevin going to step into his life and a relationship or embrace what is real or is he going to keep hiding? Patti helped him say, I’m not doing that anymore. Whatever their journey was, they helped each other to complete it.
Watch the series finale of The Leftovers June 4 at 9 pm on HBO.
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