'Bosch' star Juliet Landau's art thrives on 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer's influence with directorial debut in 'A Place Among the Dead'
Rita Tedesco is a difficult character to understand as a court reporter married to a man on a death row. When Juliet Landau got the role on her favorite TV show 'Bosch', she viewed Rita at an "arm's length". But only when she researched about women like Rita, and got immersed in the material, did she find Rita to be a "universal" character.
"I became obsessed with the women who have made this choice. There's a condition called Hybristophilia. This is when someone gets sexually aroused and attains orgasm only if their partner has committed an outrage (rape, murder)... With Rita, however, a big part of it comes from feeling like an outsider. She feels that Pres is an outsider; he's literally outside of the norms of society. She feels this bond and thinks he's the only one who truly 'sees' and connects with her," the 54-year-old actress explained.
Landau, best known for her role as Drusilla on 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer', may return for season 6 of 'Bosch', but she's got a lot on her plate. Landau recently made her feature directorial debut with 'A Place Among the Dead' and is also penning a coffee table book to 'The Undead Series' called 'Book Of The Undead'. What's peculiar is the fact that her projects, more often than not, revolve around vampires, and that has much to do with 'Buffy' and 'Angel' influences and all the "fantastic conversations," she had with her vamp-fam.
In an exclusive interview with MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), Landau discusses Rita's potential return and shares what she misses the most from 'Buffy the Vampire', while also teasing us on what is she working on.
What was it about Rita Tedesco that appealed to you to take up the role? What was your first reaction towards Rita?
I love the show. I had seen every episode of seasons 1-4. This was a feat because my husband and I have been creating and making a number of projects, but we still carved out time to watch. Sometimes it was in lieu of sleeping, but it was worth it! Titus is iconic in the role. Michael Connelly, who wrote the novels, is integrally involved in the series. I couldn’t wait to work with them and the phenomenally gifted Eric Overmyer and Daniel Pyne, who are the showrunners. I was also excited to work with the talented Tom Bernardo.
Rita is an intricately, complex character. She has been living a dual life... Working as an exceedingly skilled, reliable court reporter for the honorable Judge Sobel, who Bess Armstrong plays, for 16 years. During all this time, she’s secretly been married to Preston Borders, who is on death row for a gruesome rape/murder. He’s suspected of many more. At first, I viewed Rita at arm's length, but as I got immersed in the material, I found her desires and wants to be universal.
How do you think Rita managed to hide that big of a secret? How do you think the secret took a toll on her since she appears shy and nervous all the time?
I think she made a huge effort to stay under the radar at work. She’s managed to keep everything compartmentalized. There's a balance she's struck, but during the course of season 5, this gets thrown completely out of whack. Her nightmare is playing out. Everything is precarious, tenuous. She's terrified of being exposed because it could lead to her ruin. Her livelihood is at stake, as is her relationship. Let's just say, Pres is not the most forgiving guy. She's enjoyed having this secret component to her life. She wears her wedding ring on a chain at work and only shows it to her husband. He is the person she shares her "true self" with. In some ways, I think she is trying really hard to be who Pres wants her to be. Her choices have definitely taken their toll.
You were a fan of 'Bosch' since season 1 itself, did you ever think you would be a part of the show? How does it feel to see yourself in one of your favorite shows?
I didn’t think about it that way until I got the call, then I felt like it was perfect! I understood the universe and I was immediately fascinated and engaged by Rita. The 'Bosch' team runs a very well-oiled machine, but one which engenders creativity and collaboration. I asked for a mystery novel for one of my scenes, cause I thought Rita would read mysteries. Michael Connelly asked a fellow author friend, so clearance was not an issue and I could use it freely in the scene. It is an extraordinary working environment, one that fosters creativity and focused freedom.
Juliet Landau plays the role of Rita, a court reporter with a secret in 'Bosch' season 5
Out of all the splendid roles you've portrayed on big and small screens, who do you identify yourself the most with and why?
There's a part of me in every role I play. I just played an alter-ego version of myself in my feature film directorial debut. I don't know who I most identify with, but there are two stage roles I couldn’t get enough of: Roberta in 'Danny And The Deep Blue Sea' and Blanche in 'A Streetcar Named Desire'.
Will fans see you on season 6 of 'Bosch'?
I hope so! People on social media have been asking for it. It’s pretty cool to have people tweeting things like, "I can see it now… Rita’s revenge!" Or, "The judge said you are going to have a reckoning. Does that happen in season 6?" Or this from a court reporter, "Since we have control of the evidence during proceedings, what else has Rita been up to these 16 years?!" Also, lots of folks are quoting my line, "I wanna get freaky!" I didn’t see that one coming!
How did you prepare for the role?
One aspect was research. My editor has a friend, April, who is a court reporter, so I called and grilled her a number of times. I watched tons of videos about stenographers. I talked to a retired sergeant, who was the second in command at South Central LAPD for 25 years. He consulted on my film 'A Place Among The Dead'. I asked him about the conditions on death row and if he'd met people like Rita, but this didn't prove to be the most fruitful avenue in all of my research. He said, "Juliet, I spent years putting criminals away, not visiting them!"
I became obsessed by with the women who have made this choice. There’s a condition called Hybristophilia. This is when someone gets sexually aroused and attains orgasm only if their partner has committed an outrage (rape, murder). The word is derived from the word 'hubris'. With Rita, however, a big part of it comes from feeling like an outsider. She feels that Pres is an outsider; he's literally outside of the norms of society. She feels this bond and thinks he’s the only one who truly "sees" and connects with her.
I watched every documentary I could get my hands on. There was a particularly compelling series called 'Death Row Dates'. I read every article I could find about killers and the spouses who wed them in prison. I read a few books including Tammy Menendez' autobiography and one which had 12 case studies of women married to violent criminals, some on death row, some who got out. One particularly striking case involved sisters each married to a brutal criminal. One got out and murdered one sister. The other's husband, who had killed his first wife, was released later. He beat and tortured the second sister and because of this, was sent back to jail. She stood by him and was waiting for his release, rationalizing that he suffered from PTSD, so it was not like her sister's murder or his previous wife's murder! The power we humans have for denial is potent. I also re-watched the series and read the entire 'Bosch' book series.
Fans loved you in 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' as a villainous but a splendid Drusilla and for many reasons 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' will always remain a cult favorite...
Joss created something that struck a chord. His writing touched a lot of people and continues to do so. He weaves pathos, drama, action, and humor together flawlessly. He created multi-dimensional characters, including empowered, female parts.
You are making your feature directorial debut with 'A Place Among the Dead'. Can you tell us a bit more about the film as well as your docuseries 'The Undead Series'?
'A Place Among The Dead' is about the repercussions of growing up under the sway of narcissism and evil. It questions if you come from evil, will you continue to go toward the dark side in life, or can you make a change and go toward the light?
I star in the picture and we have a stellar cast of what I like to call, "cameos on steroids" because they are much larger than traditional cameos. These include Gary Oldman, Ron Perlman, Robert Patrick, Lance Henriksen, my old boss from 'Buffy' Joss Whedon and best-selling author Anne Rice, appearing for the first time in a movie.
'A Place Among The Dead' takes the viewer on an emotional, visceral and extremely personal journey, and as they say, the more personal, the more universal. The goal is to start a discussion, a dialogue. We recently held in-house, sneak-peek screenings and the movie did just that! It struck a deep chord with our theater full of young people from the Midwest AND our theaters full of industry notables such as Rian Johnson ('Star Wars: The Last Jedi'), David Greenwalt ('Grimm'), Jim Kouf ('Natural Treasure'), Jodie Foster ('Money Monster') and many more! Each time the entire audience, many who came out crying, stayed unprovoked for an hour and a half afterwards, to talk about the picture and then began sharing intensely personal stories of their own. I’ve never experienced this kind of outpouring and exchange of personal histories at a film before! It’s been beautiful!
'The Undead Series' is a bit like Jerry Seinfeld's 'Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee'. But this is 'Vampires In Coffins Getting Blood!' All of the people who are in 'A Place Among The Dead' came back to work on the show. We’ve also interviewed Tim Burton, Willem Dafoe, and 26 other brilliantly talented folks!
'A Place Among the Dead' and ‘The Undead Series’ also revolve around vampires. What about vampires fascinate you?
With 'A Place Among The Dead', I chose the vampire genre partly because of my ties to 'Buffy' and 'Angel'. Also because it's an entertaining genre, but mostly to lull the audience into a sense of safety to explore unsafe and radical ideas. With 'The Undead Series', I’d had fantastic conversations through the years with other vampire alum, the kinds of things, which have never been caught on film before. My husband, Deverill and I decided to share this insider’s view.
Are there any other projects you are working on that you would like to share with us?
Deverill and I are penning the companion coffee table book to 'The Undead Series' called 'Book Of The Undead'. Dev is shooting spectacular imagery as well as Gary Oldman, who is taking astonishing, tintype portraits on his camera from 1853.
I’m also about to start shooting a starring role in William Malone’s 'Thallium’s Box'. Bill directed 'House on Haunted Hill' with Geoffrey Rush and 'Feardotcom' with Stephen Rea. We are in the throes of developing the make-up, wardrobe design and discussing props/belongings for the character. I have to say, it’s one of my favorite parts. In 'Ed Wood', I was in character the moment I put on the 1950's bullet bra and garters! With Dru, each time her signature manicure was applied she took shape anew. With Rita, I had a letter from Pres tucked in my purse at all times… In 'A Place Among the Dead', my alter ego has a tattoo.