The Deuce will return to HBO with a second season on September 9, which will reunite audiences with Times Square and most of the debut season’s major players, who are either fully entrenched or on the periphery of the burgeoning porn industry. A time jump from 1972 to 1977 means that everyone’s got new hair (it’s now easier to tell Vincent and Frank, the twins played by James Franco, apart) and slightly tweaked professions. Yet some major changes are afoot, including how Abby (embodied by Margarita Levieva) moves to the forefront of the action with a transformation in process.
Levieva spoke with us about how Abby’s wise-beyond-her-years beginning in the series has taken her into new territory. From college student to barmaid to artist to activist, she truly becomes central to the series’ critical gaze upon the sex industry. Abby’s also the long-term love interest of Franco’s Vincent, and Levieva was happy to chat about all these topics in our conversation.
Abby’s always been remarkably wise for her age. You’ve been asked previously about playing a 20-year-old [Levieva turned 38 this year] college student, but she’s older now with the time jump.
Yes, she’s actually 26 or 27 years old now.
Does that feel much different for you, playing an older Abby?
Definitely. It’s good that she’s had that time to grow up, and I can explore what that’s like for Abby and see where she’s going.
I feel like she’s almost deceptively nuanced. The series objectified her more early on, but she was the one who hung back and questioned why certain characters do what they do. How did she become so wise?
Part of it is that Abby is someone who comes from a lot of privilege and ended up in this world. In the first season, we see how she doesn’t quite understand how some characters live the lives they do. She’s definitely wise but, at the same time, naive about how the world works, especially the world outside of her immediate upbringing. Now she’s had some time to live in it and experience first hand what a lot of these people go through. I think her determination to make a change, to help people, to find a way, and to just contribute in whatever form is so important. And she’s also more realistic this season about the way things work and maybe not as hopeful on some of the magical thinking. Her early 20s are gone, and I think she’s looking for ways to do something of substance, and she’s become so practical.
She’s taken more ownership of the bar, and I feared that would be the bulk of her arc, but in episodes 3 and 4, we see some enormous shifts in her perspective. What can you tell us about that?
Coming into the second season, I had to create a lot of the history and the inner world of Abby and really think about what the last six years have looked like for her. And I was very excited for 3 and 4 because some of the changes in Abby’s most immediate circle to do with Vincent, to do with some of the changes she’s learning about that are happening onscreen, will propel her to move forward in a way that has more purpose and even more action and fire — that internal fire. And she’s also getting yet another opportunity to grow up and find out that things aren’t necessarily how she believed them to be. And another opportunity to see that they’re way more complicated, and this world that she’s a part of is not safe, and it’s not easy, and it’s not on the surface, and stuff that I think she was a little too naive toward in the past.