***This interview contains episode spoilers***
The series Evil
follows psychologist Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers), priest-in-training David Acosta (Mike Colter), and private contractor Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi), as they investigate cases dealing with phenomena involving miracles and possession, to decide whether they have a scientific explanation behind them or are something else.
Christine Lahti plays the role of Sheryl Luria, Kristen’s mother. In last week's episode, Dr. Leland Townsend (Michael Emerson), an expert in the occult who is in league with the devil, introduced her to influencer Edward Tragoren (Tim Matheson), who drugged her so that Leland could inject the two of them with an unknown substance and perform some kind of weird transfusion.
In the most recent episode, Sheryl appears reinvigorated, and after she ties up a man, she drills into his head. She later also helps Leland bathe in human blood to counteract the exorcism that was being performed on him.
Jamie Ruby of SciFi Vision caught up with Lahti recently in an exclusive interview to better understand what happened with Sheryl, what it means moving forward for her character, and more. SCIFI VISION: Did you know at the beginning of the season the crazy journey she was going to go on?
Yes, I'd gotten a warning that she was going to be kind of going off the rails this season, and I couldn't have been more thrilled, because last season, I felt they didn't really quite know what to do with her. I think they found her groove when she was giving advice to her granddaughter about what to do with a bully. She said, “The best way to deal with the bully is to hit them in the between the eyes with a rock. They either make you their bitch, or you make them yours,” and I thought, “Okay, now I see where we're going with this character.” From then on, it's just been a wild ride, and I’ve loved it. I just love it.Is there anywhere other than the script that you took inspiration from, especially for this version of her, but in general, also, but just something that you kind of thought of as you were creating her?
I mean, just the more backstory I gave her that has involved abuse and [being] marginalized and controlled and actually, you know, some sexual and physical abuse, I think that that is a backstory that really infuses is her journey now, because she's done with all that. There’s not going to be anymore.
I don't know about a specific person, but I do know there are a lot of angry women now who are finally being able to tell their stories and speak their truth and are not going to put up with any more of that treatment from men. So, I take that energy that #MeToo, #TimesUp energy and put it all into Sheryl, because, I think, it's maybe not going to come out in the most positive ways, but the rage and the anger is very relatable. Now, this may be something that’s more supposed to be left up to the viewer, but I’d like to get your opinion. With everything that's happened, has a lot of it, do you think, been kind of influenced by Leland? Because she says something about how she dated - and granted that probably was not literal, but dated other demons. It's not 100% clear if he's influenced her and made her more evil? It seems like she's just her own kind of crazy. Can you kind of talk about that?
Yeah, I mean, I think Leland believes that he has some sort of influence or power over her. He has none, from my point of view. I believe, because he has this wild dark side, I think it's brought out Sheryl's own. It’s inspired Sheryl's own risk-taking wild nature that has been suppressed for many, many years. But I think Sheryl’s on her own path here. I think that when she said she was dating, or she has dated, a lot of other demons, I just think she means she's dated a lot of bad guys who are not good human beings, and clearly, Leland is one of the bad guys she's dated, and I think she's done with bad guys. I think she’s done with men who have tried to hold her down or, quote, unquote, influence her or control her…Its Sheryl’s turn now, and I think that she is exploring her darker nature, and for her, it's about revenge about power, and I think she's going to surprise Leland and some of these other people who think they have some sort of control of her. I feel like she does really love her family, but sometimes the advice she gives, like you had mentioned to the granddaughter, is not always the best. Do you think that she believes she's helping them? Can you just kind of talk a little bit about that?
Yeah, I mean, that was one thing I talked to the Kings about that I love. She's exploring; she's going to the dark side. I love that she's exploring her own empowerment, even though it's maybe not the healthiest way to do it, but I really believe that she loves her family, loves her granddaughters, loves her daughter. And they reassured me that, yes, what she's doing is never intentionally going to harm any of these people who she loves. In fact, she will go out of her way to protect them. I think she gave her [grand]daughter that advice, because she really believes it. Sheryl has been bullied; Sheryl has been abused by men. I think that she really believes that. You’ve got to show them who's boss, and don't let them mess around with you, otherwise, they'll just keep bullying you. So, this is not going to hurt her in a horrible way. It'll shock her, and it'll stop her, and I really do think it's good advice from Sheryl's point of view. I hoped you could explain a bit of the last two episode to me. I'm confused about what they're injecting, and I don't know if everybody's supposed to not know exactly what they're doing, but can you just kind of talk about that? Like, she obviously is not okay with it at the beginning, but it seems like she is now. And going by what you’ve been saying, a lot of it's her, so it's not necessarily something they did that changed her that then caused [her to kill that man].
So, here's what I think happened that horrible night of last Sunday's episode where she had the roofie put in her drink and then was paralyzed by these horrible men and against her will. It was a horrible, horrible night. I don't think she remembers what happened because of all the drugs they gave her, but what I believe happened is that she had her blood exchanged with this Tim Matheson character, who is very evil, and he's a big influencer, but a bad guy. So, she's got some blood exchanged with him.
Then, the brown stuff, I believe, from what I heard from the Kings, is that it's almost like going to a spa, and you get this youth serum; it's vitamin B12 and B6 and Vitamin C, and it's a rejuvenating, wonderful kind of elixir that is now coursing through Sheryl's veins, and she feels fantastic. So, that, plus not having a memory, like almost a blackout of what had happened with the the whole [drugs], I mean, she was, you know, made unconscious, basically. She doesn't have a memory of that. I think that she's feeling great, and I think she's on a roll. I think she's on a roll towards a bigger plan, which is going to be concerning her power over Leland and other bad guys.All right. It's interesting if she sort of had a transfusion with him, too. That was was my other question, because I wasn't sure of that. So, that kind of answers that.
Now, you mentioned a murder, and I don't remember this episode…Where did I murder somebody? This is from the finale. I mean, technically, they didn't actually show she murdered somebody, but she's taking a drill it looks like to his head, and there are lots of jar of blood, [laughs] so I was assuming that there was a murder.
So, that was a big question I had. I don't think I murdered him. I don't think so. [laughs]
Maybe I'm rationalizing, [but] I don't think I'm a murderer. I think I got some brain fluid out of him that Leland has asked for, and, again, this is a part of a bigger plan. I'm not just Leland’s handmade. I am doing this stuff for a bigger purpose that will hopefully come out in season three, but I don't think it's murder. I think the guy is going to have a headache, for sure.
All right, very interesting. [laughs] You’re giving me even more questions. I thought at first when they put that other woman in the other room, I thought they were going to switch bodies or something. So, I was way off at the beginning with my guess. [laughs]
The woman in the room, she's the doctor from the fertility clinic. Is that right? Yes.
Yeah, I don't think she's going to be murdered. I think they're just taking her blood, and they put her on the same drug that Sheryl was on. She's awake, but she's actually going to have no memory of it, I think. Okay. Very interesting. Now, I have to go think about all that. [laughs]
Yeah, don't take my word for it. This is just what I’m guessing. I know the Kings love to keep things a mystery, so there may not be real answers yet. These are all just guesses. All right. Can you talk about working with Michael Emerson? There are some great scenes in the finale, especially.
Yeah, he's a delight. He is always unpredictable, which is an actor's dream, because it keeps you alive and moment to moment and present. He's hysterically funny…I do love Evil
for this particular reason the most, which is it is such a beautiful blend of horror and comedy, and the comedy parts are just so crazy and fun and to me balances the scary in a good way. Yeah. I really liked the tone this season.
So, you get some really great costumes in the show, especially in these last couple of episodes. Do you have a favorite?
Well, Dan Lawson is the the costumer. He's a genius. I mean, everybody who works with him just loves him. I think that red dress at the white party was pretty perfect. I think that gave me a lot to play with, actually, and that's an actor's dream when a costume really feeds the scene or feeds the character and actually helps tell the story in a great way. Earlier in the season, it looks like Sheryl is putting away the fairy tale book from the [intro sequence] in the one episode. Do you know if that's the case and it was kind of put in as a joke or a reference?
I think it was me. I had the black nail polish. I think it was me. Sheryl was opening it and looking at it and putting it back on the shelf. Okay, will that maybe come more into play later?
I don't know that answer, but I can imagine it would, because why is Sheryl taking that book out and looking at it and referencing it? Good question. Thanks.
What do you find the most challenging about working on the series?
Well, I [am] really, really anti-violence. I hate it. I don't like it. So, whenever I have to do something that's violent, like drilling the [man’s] head, that was a hard day. I had to really figure out a way to justify that, and it was all for the greater good, for me. It was like, “Okay, I'm doing this, but it's for a greater purpose.” And it's, you know, not going to kill the guy, which is what I kept telling myself and asking everybody. “I’m not killing him, right?” And the direction director would say, “No, no, no, no, no, he's just gonna have a bad headache.” [laughs]
So, that's the most challenging, that stuff. All right. Have the Kings told you kind of where her strange religious ideas came from with the doll and everything? Have they discussed any of that?
A little bit. I’ve just been doing my own backstory, but I think that she is exploring sort of satanic worship, just dabbling in it and thinking, “Well, maybe this is a way,” because she doesn't believe in God; she is an atheist. So, maybe this is another belief system that could help her. And I think that Eddie the Doll gives her a lot of positive energy. I think it’s like meditation, but, I think, to her, it reminds her to be calm and not reactive and just to actually access her empowered self. So, I think, for me, I have to think of it all as positive. Eddie’s a positive force in Sheryl's life. The Doll and the satanic worship, or satanic exploration anyway, it's all a positive thing for her.