Exclusive: Sylvia Hoeks Talks "See"

Sylvia HoeksThe first season of See recently aired on Apple TV+. See, created by Steven Knight, takes place in the future after a virus has wiped out most of humanity and caused the survivors and their offspring to be blind. After centuries pass, sight becomes myth and even heresy to talk about.

Things change in the village of Alkenny, when Maghra (Hera Hilmar), wife of Baba Voss (Jason Momoa), gives birth to twins fathered by a man named Jerlamarel (Joshua Henry) who are born with the gift of sight.

Queen Kane, played by Sylvia Hoeks, sends her Witchfinder General, Tamacti Jun (Christian Camargo) to the village to find them.

Later, it's revealed that Queen Kane is actually Maghra's sister and has been scorned by Jerlamarel.

Hoeks recently talked to SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview about her character and work on the show, learning what it might be like to be blind, and more.

Slyvia HoeksSCIFI VISION: Was there anywhere other than the script that you took inspiration from when you created Queen Kane, like anybody you thought of, or anything like that?

SYLVIA HOEKS: Yeah. [laughs] This is going to sound weird, but it's loosely based on Lou Reed. He just popped into my mind when I heard his song. And the song is also in the show. “Perfect Day,” I heard it on the radio. I was just driving, and I remember thinking, "Oh, this is a great song for Queen Kane," because it's a song where he's saying “perfect day,” but something bad could happen at any moment. [laughs]

So, I sent the song to Francis [Lawrence], the director, and he's like, “Oh my god, that's great." And he told me to send my whole playlist for the queen.

So I did, and then I said, “Could we use it for the first scene, when we meet Queen Kane for first time?” He said, “Yeah, I'm going to try. I mean, hopefully, Apple can use that song.” Normally it's quite hard, I guess, to use an original song. It must be very expensive, but Apple pulled it off, which is great.

So, I watched a lot of Lou Reed’s interviews and the way he kind of toys with people around him. It was kind of like a cat and mouse game that he did, mostly years ago when, you know, he was kind of on top. He has this craziness that I love in his songs, and there's a way about him that really helped me. [laughs] I hope he doesn't mind. It helped me create the queen. [laughs]

You told me sort of how you created her, but how did you kind of connect to her and her extreme side? Was it hard to step in and out of her darkness, you know, her craziness and evilness?

SYLVIA HOEKS: Yeah, I think some days it was easier than other days. I used my voice to get back into her, so I kind of created this weird cadence for her character, and I remember I had a couple of lines that I would just repeat over and over again to get back into her.

Then letting her go sometimes was challenging; it was interesting. But I'm really good friends with Christian Camargo, who plays Tamacti Jun, and he and I both had a shaved head.

We were both walking around Vancouver together and in restaurants drinking red wine, just chatting, and everybody kind of knew us as the baldies. [laughs]

So, after a day's shooting, we really had each other, and also just the people around in Vancouver were so nice that we had the best time there.

That was one of the things I was going to ask. What made you decide to shave your head? I mean, from what Dan Shotz said at the press junket earlier in the season, it seemed like it was your choice to do that, and you did it on your own. How did that come about?

SYLVIA HOEKS: Yeah, well, because it's a blind world, I didn't want to be a queen with long, blonde curly hair. [laughs] That didn't really make any sense to me. And then I felt the touch of a shaved head was also so interesting, in a sense that when she is in her chambers alone, and she has a shaved head and isn't wearing any crown, it can be very meditative and vulnerable.

Slyvia HoeksI also saw almost like a warrior shaving their head after they've been in battle, after they've lost all their family. When she starts out, she's lost her sister, and she’s lost Jerlamarel, and she's the only one left; she lost her father. So, she's kind of, I felt, like a grieving warrior. So, all of that made sense to shave my head. [laughs]

Can you talk a bit about the makeup effects? She obviously gets pretty brutally beaten. Could you talk about the physical part of them transforming you in that way?

Yeah, it was great. I loved every minute of it. There were different stages, but she gets so beaten up that I had stuff in my mouth; I had all kinds of bumps and cuts. It was so beautifully done by Toby Lindala. He's a special effects makeup person from Vancouver. I think he's going to be there a second season as well, and he's amazing. They did such an amazing job, but it was sometimes hard to be able to speak and to do speeches [laughs] with that thing in my mouth. You know, you're trying to articulate, but it’s very difficult.

And then also it was the cadence in which she speaks that I really needed. I was really struggling with the words. [laughs] But she's so beaten up that I think, you know, the only way to make a person like that vulnerable is to really f*** her up, and so we did. That really helped me in her arc of getting a little bit of love from the audience and kind of getting a little bit of understanding from people and then to, you know, f*** everyone over all over again. [laughs]

So it’s like, did she learn from her mistakes? No.

I was kind of surprised to find myself feeling bad for her - at least for a little bit.

I know, thank God. Thank God you did that, because I really hoped that people would do that. But I think the only way was just really beating her up so much.

Can you talk a bit about your costumes?

Trish Summerville is an amazing costume designer, and she's really one of the pillars of the project. What she came up with, for all of our costumes, was so world building. I think so much of the show is there, because of her costumes and what she discovered and learned and what she put in about the different tribes.

So, I think for Queen Kane it was very important that she had the crowns with the rings, with the bells that everybody hears that she's coming. Her maidens had the flowers in their hair that people would smell that the Queen was coming, because the maidens were close.

So, all these things were done for the other senses instead of sight. It was all done for hearing, smelling, and touching. All the costumes were made for that, and she did an amazing job with that.

Slyvia HoeksI know at the end at the end of the season, obviously, what happens, but my question is, can you talk about just from your own perspective, the queen's decision to let Maghra join her as counsel? Was that just the only way she thought that they would listen? Do you think she actually plans to keep her promise? I'm just curious how you feel about that.

SYLVIA HOEKS: Yeah, I wish I could tell you that. [laughs] I wish I could tell you anything about that. But learning from the queen, you know, she always tries to survive and then be the last one standing. So, there's a lot more shit to come, I think. [laughs]

I guess she didn't have another way. I mean, she was kind of pushed into the whole thing where she was stuck with her sister in a way, and I think she will always try to use anything for her benefit. She loves her sister. There's definitely love for her way, way, way back in her heart, [laughs] very deep.

I know that you guys did a sort of training, boot camp type of thing, where you had to learn to move around without seeing. Can you talk about how that informed your choices?

SYLVIA HOEKS: Yes, very much, actually. It was a very interesting time where we got to learn all the skills that people have that are blind, that they've learned. I mean, there's no way in, you know, learning to be blind, because I'm not blind. So, I'll never know what that is like, but it was interesting, learning the skills that they use, like walking with a cane. We started with a sleep shade on to realize what other senses come up that feel strongest to you that you would want to use or that you feel most comfortable with. And for me, that was very much touch and temperature.

For a lot of people, it was also smell, and hearing, of course. For everyone it’s hearing, but for me it was also very much touch and temperature.

So, I think I used that for the queen, definitely, where she comes close to people when she needs to either attack them or be dominant to them and feel where they're at, or feel anger or fear to be able to defend herself. So, I think that those are very interesting things to learn.

What was the most challenging part of pretending to be blind? Obviously, you can see, but I would think it would be hard to pretend you can't.

SYLVIA HOEKS: Yeah, I know. It was a very interesting training period, because, you know, there were some actors that were sight impaired or blind, and that was very interesting to see their journey. But for the other actors, we don't know what it's like to be blind, so we learned the skills of a person that is blind, and that was just super interesting to me.

I remember it as a very meditative journey for me, and to really focus on other senses and not get distracted by what is happening in front of your eyes, it was a very interesting meditative process. It kind of feels like when you're meditating, and you're doing your mantra or whatever and trying not to get distracted by the sounds around you. It was kind of that feeling where you see everything happening in front of you, like cameras and people walking by, and not focusing on that. Your eyes shouldn't go there, because you can't see. That was interesting.

That sounds like that would be something that would be hard to get used to.

SYLVIA HOEKS: Yeah, that was in the beginning I think a very new thing for everyone.

Other than that and learning about not seeing, was there any other kind of preparation or research or anything that you did before you started working on the show that you can think of?

SYLVIA HOEKS: Yeah, many things. I guess, for me, the curiosity about a character drives me to watch documentaries and films and read books and listen to podcasts that have to do with some part of it, and some may not be very logical or very much near the subject, but they always help. I think I always want to learn as much about a world, or what I would think the world would be.

So, like I said, I looked at Lou Reed, and I looked at Queen Elizabeth and other characters that were misunderstood. I guess my main drive for playing darker characters, is that I always wish for the misunderstood to be more understood. [laughs] So, looking at those people, that was very much a journey for me that I took a lot from.

Do you have a favorite scene you filmed?

Slyvia HoeksSYLVIA HOEKS: Yes. I think one of my favorite scenes was the one with Cora (Jessica Harper) where I'm at the silk farm, because I feel like that’s where the queen for the first time gets beaten, but it's also as a scene where we see her for the first time without her robe and without any queenly likeness. So, she's wearing this work thing, and I think she's totally vulnerable.

But suddenly, there's some humor that I got to play with, and I found it very fun to see the queen in a totally different environment, with everything taken away from her, still going at it with humor but also with just her arrogance. It was just a lot of fun.

Sometimes people have trouble with this, but can you describe her in three words? Just your own interpretation.

SYLVIA HOEKS: Misunderstood. She's cramped up, I would say. And a cat, like a cat plays with mice, I would say; I would call her a cat.

All right. Well, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it. Like I said, I really enjoyed the series. I think Queen Kane is the most interesting character on the show.

SYLVIA HOEKS: It was so fun. She's so fun. Thank you.

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