A prolific character actor since the early 1990s, Ann Dowd has appeared in numerous film and TV roles, including Lorenzo’s Oil, Marley & Me, Compliance and Masters of Sex. She recently co-starred as a mysterious cult leader Patti Levin in The Leftovers (available to stream on HBO Now), who returns to the show’s second season in an unexpected way. We recently talked to Dowd about realizing her character’s place in a world after the Sudden Departure, and what it’s like working with the show’s co-creator, Damon Lindelof.
Going back to season one, how did you approach your role playing a character who is mostly silent?
I have to say, in the beginning it was daunting. You forget how much you rely on words. Surely in life we do, but as an actor, you start with the text: What is it I want? What am I saying? What am I talking about? Then, realizing you don’t speak, you’re going to have to figure out another way to get what you want from a person in the scene. But, I’ll tell you, as soon as the fear dissipates, it’s such an empowering thing. There is nothing like silence in a room when someone is talking to you and you are deliberately choosing not to speak. It ups the ante instantly, and the power shifts instantly to the person not talking.
The greatest challenge was just making sure I was clear on what Patti wanted in a given scene. If you don’t have that clearly in your gut, your body’s going to betray you, and it’s not going to look like you’re comfortable in that room. You’re gonna lose focus. As we started and continued, I have to say I absolutely loved it. Never had I done anything like that, and it was a very powerful way to proceed.