The creators behind The Good Wife surprised everyone when their latest project, BrainDead, a political satire science fiction comedy-drama debuted earlier this summer. Yes, you read that right, BrainDead touches upon all of those genres—and it’s doing it really well. It’s a smart, weird show that’s taken many viewers by surprise. We participated in a round table with some of the members of the cast, to talk about conspiracy theories and the bugs behind them. Catch up on BrainDead now and be sure to check out a brand new episode on Sunday, July 24th at 10/9c.
Your role in BrainDead is really multifaceted—you can flex your horror film chops, but you can also play into more touching, dramatic story lines.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead: Yes, this show really brings it all to together! It’s like every genre in one, which for me is so much fun. I think as an actor, anytime you get to be funny and heartfelt and action oriented, it’s a win. There are so many different elements to the show, which is what I’m always looking for—you can take all your tools out of the toolbox—it makes it a lot more interesting.
You’ve also received a lot of attention for your role in 10 Cloverfield Lane. You seem to always be living in the land of conspiracy—is there something you think casting agents see in you, or do you think you’re just naturally drawn to these kinds of roles?
MEW: I think I tend to seek out roles where the character is just really active, and is constantly thinking and trying to accomplish something, do something, become something. I don’t like to be passive, playing characters who are sitting around or waiting for a phone call from their husband or whatever, which unfortunately is what is often offered to women—it’s a lot of sitting on the phone while the guy goes off and does the exciting stuff. So I’m really drawn to roles where the character is out there doing things and making something happen.
Aaron, why do you think we’re drawn to stories of conspiracy?
Aaron Tveit: I think the nice thing about conspiracy whether it’s in books, television, or film, is that, like Mary said, there’s constantly something to strive for and something to overcome. I think especially in TV, you need a story that can play out and sustain itself over the course of a season or multiple seasons. Personally, I always go back to that first season of Homeland when you didn’t know whether or not Brody was a terrorist—it was some of the most exciting television I’ve ever seen. I think the longer that you can play out these conspiratorial ideas the better it is for a long run of a show.
When you first got the script and you read about the bugs, what was your reaction?
AT: I thought it was a little gross. I know I have to read the scripts, but I get a little grossed out sometimes and it’s just action lines describing it. I’m like, “That’s so disgusting.” That was my initial reaction!
MEW: I think I was just so blown away, because I didn’t expect this from the creators of The Good Wife! I think that’s what was so exciting to me. I thought to myself “This is so different for them, and so risky,” because it’s so strange and out there. It really made me excited to work for them, because they’re coming up with something so odd, unique, and unexpected. I was like, “Oh yeah these are the kind of people that I want to work for.”
AT: Also I think that CBS is taking a chance on something so off center for them. They’ve been so successful, and just to see that they’re branching out—it’s really exciting to be a part of.
Braindead seems to play into all your great strengths as an actor. You don’t shy away from the sick and twisted—is that what appealed to you and drew you to this character?
Yeah, I think that was part of it, but also the fact that my character is like two characters in one. Red goes through such an enormous transformation, and goes from a person who’s kind of given up and has become weak and damaged, to someone who’s revived and reinvigorated. Whenever you have a character that’s evolving quickly, that’s interesting and that appeals to me.
Were you at all worried about the transformation? Did you get attached to the earlier iteration of your character?
I did lean heavily into the first Red, the Red who’s a heavy drinker, a lush. That really was only for half of the pilot, so I couldn’t get too attached. I like the new Red. I like the fact that he’s energized and quite a bit sharper, a bit smarter. Also, gradually becoming more fit, more confident, more politically savvy. That’s been an interesting journey.
Was there a conscious effort to try and keep the comedy at a certain threshold, while mixing in Sci Fi elements as well?
It’s so interesting, when you start to try to define what that tone is. How do you capture that? What’s the comedic tone we’re actually going for here? It’s a tricky question because the reality of our political situation right now is bordering on farce. In fact, I think it’s the only thing that keeps people interested.
What was the process like to get into this character? Did you have an opportunity to shadow any politicians?
For me the process actually began, fortunately, before I got the job, but before I got the script. Because, like so many people, I’ve become fixated on this endless, endless, maddening election cycle. I can’t even remember when it began, it was so long ago. It feels like it’s never going to end. It feels like November just will not get here.
When I got this job, I just thought, “Oh my god, I’m already in this head space.” It was a very short walk from CNN to this. Then I started to really focus in on the debates … I mean in a different way. I was already obsessed, but I started to really look at behavior. Sometimes I would just close my eyes and just listen to the chatter and how each candidate has such a distinct voice and way of speaking. They are characters, really. Some were more boring than others.
That was really the process for me, and the process is ongoing, because things just keep getting stranger.
Photos courtesy of Brad Balfour of Insider Media.