"She's been my biggest challenge. Living life prepared me for her": Lyne Renee on playing Anna in 'Deep State'
Lyne Renee shares how she was drawn to playing Anna Easton because the role gave her an opportunity to play a woman that other women can relate to.
Having premiered across the Atlantic in April, Fox's espionage thriller series 'Deep State' premiered on US shores this past June. The series is the network's first-ever script commissioned outside US shores and follows Mark Strong's Max Easton, a former Field Agent for British Intelligence Agency MI6, as he has his family life at an idyllic retreat in France interrupted after he's forcibly recruited back into the game in the name of one last mission.
The show, which is created and directed by Matthew Parkhill, has been praised for its scintillating cinematography, exotic and drop-dead gorgeous locations, and gripping and well-choreographed action scenes, and has already been commisioned for a second series.
Besides Strong, the likes of Joe Dempsie (Max Easton's son and MI6 Field Agent Harry Clarke), Karima McAdams (MI6 Field Agent Leyla Toumi), Anastasia Griffith (CIA Agent Amanda Jones), and Alistair Petrie (Head of Section for MI6, George White) also feature in supporting roles the show.
But arguably the most important supporting role was that of Max's wife Anna Easton, portrayed by Lyne Renee. Anna, to her horror, finds out that her husband is not the 'retired banker' who he claimed to be, and that his past holds secrets she has never been made privy to. As Max is pulled back into the muck, Anna discovers crumbs from his past life that brings her to the realization that he's not what he claims to be.
Meaww got the opportunity to talk to Renee about her role in 'Deep State,' her experiences on the show, and her plans for the future.
1. You play the role of Anna Easton in 'Deep State,' which will be premiering in the US later this month. Can you give us a little insight into your character?
Anna is the wife of Max Easton and they have two daughters. They live in the French Pyrenees where she practices medicine. Anna and Max have been married for ten years. Max is a retired banker and they live the perfect life...or so she thinks. I was drawn to Anna because she gave me an opportunity to play a woman that other women can relate to. I wanted to portray her in a very genuine and honest way — with both vulnerability and strength at the same time.
When I first read the script, I knew I was facing a big challenge with Anna. I remember going for my first fitting, where Rachel Walsh (our costume designer) told me I’d have one of the hardest parts of this show. Hearing it from Rachel (as another woman), I knew I’d have to dig deeper and push my own limits. Anna gave me the opportunity to delve into my own femininity, to portray a real woman in today's world, to represent every wife and mother. I knew I couldn't just brush up on the subject — I'd have to live her, feel her, become her. It took me a couple of months after the shoot to shake her.
2. What was the casting process like for the show? Because it's so action-packed, did you have to undergo extra preparation/training before undertaking the role?
These days, the casting process is pretty simple. You don't necessarily meet the Casting Directors in the room anymore. We get sent a script and sides (scenes to tape for the character), we study them, then using either a phone or iPad and a tripod you tape the scene with a fellow actor/friend and send it to your team who represents you. The tape is then sent off to casting and they decide whether to send it on to the Producers/Director/Network representatives all over the world. Those people then watch your tape on their phone! It all sounds very simple, but the time that we actors spend on getting a good set up, not to mention the hours of character study beforehand and getting the lines memorized. I booked my last four roles through this process, without having to meet with anyone from the Network.
In terms of preparation for shooting, as an actor, I always keep in shape physically between productions. Even though I wasn't part of the "MI6 action" in the show, it is always important to be strong, healthy and in good shape as an actor — 17 hour days on set and running with a 7-year-old on your arm across a field wouldn't be easy if you didn't have that fitness! As an actor, YOU are your business, so it goes hand-in-hand that fitness is my business!
3. 'Deep State' has quite the stellar cast. Over the many weeks/months you worked on the show, did you develop a close friendship with anyone? What was the camaraderie on the sets like?
Yes, the cast is stellar! Over the course of five months, I worked on the show in Casablanca, France, the Atlas Mountains, and London. I have to say that working with Mark Strong was quite surreal. He's an absolute gentleman. You know, all of the actors were wonderful - especially the girls, Cara and Indica, who played my daughters; what brave little souls! We learned so much through and from each other.
When you work such long hours and so close together, it’s inevitable that as a collective, a family, you take care of each other, look out for each other. You become part of an army of people with the same purpose and goal — to tell a story — and that happens best when you work together as a team. It’s a great deal of responsibility. If one of us were to fall away or not be prepared, you're affecting an entire production. The crew, wardrobe, makeup, producers, and directors — you form a band which is very strong and unique. It’s truly a beautiful thing to see people come together from all different departments and become a collective striving for the same thing. It’s very powerful.
When shooting, my best moment of the day is to arrive at base camp and see everyone before the start of each day (whether that is at the crack of dawn or in the evening before a night shoot). When a production ends, it’s the hardest thing knowing that all of us will go our own way — until our paths cross again.
4. 'Deep State' has already premiered in the UK. So, without giving away spoilers, what would you say fans can look out for when the show premieres across the Atlantic next month?
Deep State is a contemporary espionage thriller, a current and original piece of work based on what’s happening in the news, in the world now. It is a show with a profound political dimension that asks questions about the connections between the representatives of the people, and the big industries that profit from global conflict. But Deep State is also a family drama. Running parallel to its complex conspiracy stories is an emotional story of a father and a husband. It’s a beautiful marriage of both worlds, and there is something for everyone to relate to.
5. Espionage thriller is a subject well-explored in Hollywood. What sets 'Deep State' apart from the rest of them?
Definitely the inclusion of the family drama behind the espionage action. With Deep State, you get to see who is affected behind the scenes — the wives, the children. As an audience member, you are thrown into the emotional story and human drama behind the politics. You are shown what happens to those not directly involved. The collateral damage, so to speak.
For example, Anna is met with many new truths in the first two episodes. Those truths shatter her reality pretty quickly. It was a great challenge to play her. I had to ask myself the right questions — what would I do if I found out my husband was living a double life? This is a whole new reality of the person I've been married to for 10 years. I wanted to make her strong — and to do that, I had to be vulnerable — as I believe that is where our strength lies.
6. You starred in Belgian TV series 'Kinderen van Dewindt' and the Dutch movie 'Ober' before deciding to move to Los Angeles. What was that initial experience like and why the decision to leave everything behind and move to a new country?
When I graduated from Studio Herman Teirlinck in Antwerp, I was cast in 'Children of the Wind.' It was my very first experience on a set, as I had only performed on stage with a live audience. Film is a completely different world. It's a totally different way of storytelling, and I didn't get any training for the technical part of it. I had no idea how to work with the camera. The technicality is something you learn as you go. It’s only now that I feel I really have the hang of it and I can let go of it and just play.
It wasn’t until I did the film 'Waiter' where I worked with Alex van Warmerdam (which was exhilarating!), that I fell in love with being on a set and just thought "Why not try doing this abroad?" So I did and I just left. I had already started going back and forth to LA to lay down the groundwork, get representation, start my green card process, become part of the union, etc. I just followed the steps that were necessary, so that when I graduated I’d be prepared. For me, to live and grow, is to travel and challenge yourself constantly. I get uncomfortable in my comfort zone. When I start to feel like something is easy, I know it’s time for change. I consider myself wealthy because I have lived in different countries, lived amongst different cultures, speak different languages.
7. From Los Angeles, you then switched to London, where you starred in 'The River Line' at the Jeremy Street Theatre. How was working on stage different from that from working in front of a camera?
I moved to London after six years of being in Los Angeles and was thrilled to be on stage again! It is just such a different experience — no one to say action or cut, no second takes, no 250 person crew. It’s just one stream of storytelling, where you tell the story from start to finish. So much can go wrong — but that is where the magic happens. For me, the theatre is the source of my passion. It is a place where you continue to grow and change your performance night after night. It’s a very intimate experience.
It’s also a completely different technique of acting. In front of the camera, I try to minimize everything and bring it all into the eyes. The idea is to let your audience in through the lens — it's almost like bearing your soul. Whereas on stage, your whole body has to portray the character and story. They are two completely different worlds and techniques and I can't pick one over the other. I love them both equally.
8. You've appeared in quite a few roles across multiple film industries. Which would you say you were the proudest of?
I am proud of every production and character I have portrayed. Each experience builds you up for the next. Every character has taught me something so completely different that I take with me to the next. I have had many proud moments. In the last three years, I've been able to work with Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller, Noah Baumbach, Gabriel Byrne — so many incredible actors and directors. It’s been an amazing roller coaster so far.
But I have to say that Anna has been the icing on the cake. She's been my biggest challenge and role in a TV series. I don't think I could have portrayed her without the work I did before this. Personally, she is also a woman I couldn't have portrayed a few years ago. Living life prepared me for her.
9. Is there any character you've seen on TV/movies that has made you go, 'I wish I could have portrayed her!'
Wonder Woman!!! I think Gal did a fantastic job but, yeah, who doesn't want to be wonder woman?! Also, Mariah Callas — playing her would definitely be a dream role.
10. Could you tell us about any of your projects in the pipeline?
I have a film premiering at the end of the month — "An LA Minute." I just got an offer on a new film but I can't talk about it yet! I've also started working on a new one-woman show. Performing my own monologues is something I started doing in my 2nd year of university. It’s an incredible experience to be on stage and carry your own show — much like stand up comedy (I LOVE doing comedy).
I wrote and performed two of them back when I was 22-23. The one I'm working on now is through the eyes and experience of a woman at 39 (which will be so much different than the ones before!). It’s an exciting time for me. I'm very proud of where I am and what I have accomplished. I work really hard at it. And as I say to my friends, I remind myself all the time, it’s only the beginning. It is also an exciting time to be a woman in this industry. I feel like I've reached a moment in my career where I have a voice and it's being heard. Better roles are being written that portray us woman more genuinely, not just as glorified versions of who we are and what we stand for. Anna represents that in so many different ways. I'm thrilled for the series to come out in the States!