“It was nice to bring a lot of empathy to Jessica Hyde because I understood where she was going and where she was coming from.”
Anyone who knows the career of Utopia Star Sasha Lane probably already knows this, but it’s such a good story worth repeating: The actress was discovered lying on a beach during spring break by famous British director Andrea Arnold, who had spotted her for her 2016 film. American honey. Back then, acting was “the opposite of what I always wanted to do,” Lane says on a phone call, but instinct told him to just go. “Something in my stomach was telling me, ‘You have nothing to lose, do it.'”
Four years later, that instinctive instinct is still paying off. Lane is making waves on new Amazon Prime sci-fi series Utopia. Written by Gillian Flynn, the show follows a group of comic book fans who believe a graphic novel called Utopia can predict catastrophic epidemics. Lane plays Jessica Hyde, a character from the comedy series who is actually a true recluse who has been on the run her entire life. We caught up with the actress to find out more about what drew her to the show, its real parallels, and what utopia looks like to her.
What made you want to play with Jessica Hyde?
“I think the main thing was his psychology and the idea of playing someone who didn’t really grow up with social norms. She didn’t have much care, she was always in survival mode her whole life. He’s someone you want to hate about jumping because there’s a lot of killings and stuff, but I loved the idea that you could bring emotion to him. She’s a character in layers and there are reasons she does the things she does. I fell in love with that aspect of her – of not being really good or bad but having a purpose. And then she meets this group of people and it starts to crack her armor a bit.
It’s a really stimulating role, both physically and emotionally. Was there something that made you nervous or apprehensive?
“I loved doing all the stunts. The physicality was exciting, but I also ended up getting pregnant [while filming]. So I was like, ‘How can I keep pushing myself and giving the character what she needs while being safe at the same time? “When am I like ‘hey, the stunt double has to kick in because I don’t necessarily have to go that far now.’ But I always kept the same energy, so at least on my face it looks like maybe I did all of this.
I read in an interview that the script reminded you of your past – a time when you always felt in survival mode. Can you tell me more?
“Growing up I suffered from a lot of mental illnesses and stayed a lot to myself. There was a feeling of paranoia and I didn’t really like socializing. Every day was like “okay another day, let’s see if we can make it”. I wasn’t really good at my emotions, I resisted a lot. But that’s because I didn’t want to go that far, because when you bring in emotions and feelings, you’re vulnerable and I didn’t want to be vulnerable because I felt so fragile inside. This is why I enjoyed the character of Jessica Hyde and the fact that you can’t judge her because she doesn’t want to kiss everyone. It was nice to empathize with her because I understood where she was going and where she was coming from. My job was to get her out of that and hopefully get people to see a little bit of that and not just at the surface level “she’s crazy”.
Jessica’s style on the show is so interesting – what can you tell us about her looks and what he’s supposed to communicate about the character?
“I talked to the stylist a lot. Not for shade, but when it comes to clothes for badass female characters, it’s tight pants, skinny boots, and a tight leather jacket. But how many punches can you throw in that leather jacket? For Jessica, as someone who has been running since the age of 10 or 11, if you are looking for clothes, you are going to find things that are thrown in the streets, like an eight year old sweater or a 45 the big t-. one year old guy’s shirt. I know Gillian really wanted the ragged skirt, and I wanted things that were sturdy and ragged a bit and didn’t fit well. It’s realistic and what someone on the run would wear.
At the center of this crazy story is a group of young people who want to save the world. And I think that is part of the wave of activism that we have seen in recent years that is all led by young people. What do you think about this?
“Overall, this change is a good thing. I think we are heading in the right direction. What I love about the show are the different nerds coming together with their own purpose and reason for wanting Utopia but also realizing “maybe we have some kind of obligation to do something about what we know”. It’s related to the world now. This one decision you make might actually lead to so many other decisions or open so many doors, so that you may have a different goal or a different direction or role to play in the overall scheme of things, but it remains. important. You have to find out what you can do and what your action is because it’s like a domino effect – it can all lead to good or bad.
Everyone was bellowed Utopia lately, but what have you been watching excessively during the lockdown?
“Death in paradise. Lots of real crime documentaries. I like guessing who killed who or trying to pick things up. It’s my favorite stuff to watch. Guess that’s telling … I haven’t read any of Gillian’s books but after seeing the movies and Sharp objects, I really want now.
No one would expect a show called Utopia be so dark and stressful. What does a real utopian world look like to you?
“I guess when I first think about it, there’s peace and everyone’s vibrating, and money isn’t really a thing, and there’s no hate crime. It sounds a bit boring, but it’s interesting to think about what it would look like because I don’t think it ever existed unless in my mind. So feeling light and flowing and just good vibes, good people, good energy.