HANNIBAL: LARA JEAN CHOROSTECKI ON FREDDIE LOUNDS' “ARMOR"
Written by: Eric Goldman
September 13th, 2014
Always an important part of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon — the book that introduced Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter — Freddy Lounds got a pretty notable makeover on the TV series Hannibal, becoming Freddie Lounds, played by Lara Jean Chorostecki. Gender swap aside, Freddie is still a notably ruthless tabloid reporter, just as Harris conceived, who will cross many lines to get a story.
With Hannibal: Season 2 on Blu-ray and DVD this coming Tuesday, I spoke to Chorostecki about this past season, which saw Freddie occasionally show a kinder side (while still pushing plenty of buttons), and where things could go in Season 3.
Suffice to say, full spoilers follow for Hannibal: Season 2.
IGN TV: Your character was involved in quite a bit of twists and turns near the end of Season 2. How was all of that described to you initially by Bryan [Fuller], as far as what the big plan was?
Lara Jean Chorostecki: Well, we sometimes get our scripts a little late, and I remember I got the script for the stakeout episode, where Will catches me in his shed. I got the script in an email, and I opened it up. I sat down, read it, and when I got to the end I said, "Huh. Wait a minute..." [Laughs] I sent Bryan a text and said, "I can't be dead. I'm definitely not dead." He said, "No, no, no, no, no. Don't worry about it." Because you never know in this day and age of television, which keeps the viewer guessing at all times, but I hoped -- and I think I do have a fairly good relationship with our producers -- I thought, "They probably would have given me a heads-up if I was going to die." So I was very happy. Also, in terms of this storyline, kind of from my point of view, when you sit down and think about it, it didn't make sense -- as despicable as she is and as immoral as she is -- for Will to cross that line and kill someone who is virtually innocent. It seemed like a great thing for the audience to consider, but certainly a very wide departure from where he truthfully was at at that moment. So I had to face that I wasn't dead yet, and I was happy that I wasn't. It was a fun plot twist to be a part of.
IGN: Was it interesting to be one of those secret-keepers for a couple weeks, when it was all very unknown and it seemed like he'd killed her?
Chorostecki: Yes! Yeah, you just kind of say, "I don't know! I did disappear. I don't know," and kind of avoid the question. I really enjoyed that time because we have such wonderful Fannibals online, and the Twitter response is always fantastic. Getting the various tweets was a lot of fun. There's a super fan, who's wonderful, who plays Freddie Lounds on Twitter. She was sending me messages saying, "We're not dead, are we!?" I said, "I don't know; you'll have to wait and see." So that was certainly enjoyable, to see people so passionate, especially people who during Season 1 who hated her so vehemently. I turned around, and suddenly they'd be sending me messages going, "No, you can't be dead! I'm not ready for that yet -- I just started to like you!" In fact, that was something Bryan and I had talked about. I know that was kind of his goal, to create this wonderful character who you do love to hate and make you think you hate her. Then she'll do something and you'll go, "Dammit, you just redeemed yourself. I'm not really sure how I feel about you." That is, to me, exciting to play, because it steers away from stereotypical roles and creates an actually fleshed-out character instead of this trope, in a way.
IGN: In Season 2, there was a couple of really notable moments in that regard. I think the first was when Freddie tried to keep Jack from going inside after Beverly had been killed. There was certainly a major level of humanity there that maybe we hadn't seen before as far as her telling Jack he shouldn’t see this. Then a big one of course was that she and Will both really, deeply cared about Abigail and were invested in justice for Abigail. Was that great for you to see? Because we don't know much about her personal life, but there's clearly something there underneath the mercilessness.
Chorostecki: Yeah, I think it's such a great character to play, and the writing is so intricate and fleshed-out and beautiful. Even in terms of finding character, Gillian Anderson's character, you don't know much about her either. There's a lot of characters we don't know much about, but these little moments -- and you've mentioned two of my favorite moments -- are layered in where you get this little hint of something. There's all this armor that's worn in this show, all these facades that are put on. I mean, that's kind of the nature of the show, Hannibal being an unknown serial killer that's yet to be caught. There are these personalities that we put on top of things, and Freddie certainly has a very strong one in terms of how she dresses and how she acts. When you get those subtle moments where she approaches Jack and tries to spare him from seeing Beverly -- or even in the very last scene with Will, where I mentioned very briefly where I'd started, which was as a cancer editor at a tabloid. To think how this woman has survived in this particular business -- in a business that must be incredibly isolating and lonely -- and they come together at the end there and talk about Abigail. You see that she did have a glimmer of humanity and care towards this girl. It's really an exciting character to play, and I hope that I've done justice to the writing. You know, in Season 1 she comes in kind of balls-out and is rather obnoxious to start. Then through various stuff that's happened to her, which on the surface perhaps seems not to affect her -- having Chilton opened up in front of her seems not to affect her -- but ultimately what I think is happening and what I think is written well and hopefully I've brought to life well is that this stuff is happening and is affecting her underneath. It's just this coat of armor on her is so strong, she's had to wear it to survive and succeed. Ultimately, I think she is looking for the truth. I don't think it's just a line like, "Haha, I'm a reporter looking for the truth." I think she really, truthfully is, and she believes there's some justice in that and nothing that she's doing with this moral compass that's askew is wrong, because she's doing it in the pursuit of something she believes in. Those couple moments show, actually, these things have affected her. She really, really works her ass off.
IGN: I don't know if you've been given any hints or anything about Season 3. Have you been given any heads-up on where Freddie might be going?
Chorostecki: A little bit, but most of the stuff you know, that I think was mentioned at Comic-Con and various interviews. Bryan's given out a good deal, and I think to give more wouldn't be very fair. [Laughs] He's given quite a bit.
IGN: He has!
Chorostecki: As he already talked about, we are most likely going to tell the Red Dragon storyline, so those who are familiar with the canon know that there's probably going to be some exciting things for Freddie. I think he's done well over the last two years. She is such a strong character, and he's balanced the line of using her but not overusing her and not underusing her. I think we can expect about the same kind of level, of when she's in there she's going to make an impact. It's going to be well-used. Yeah, we'll see what happens.
IGN: We do know that we're picking up a year later, rather than in the immediate aftermath. Freddie obviously had a lot of investment in what was going on -- even though she wasn't there -- in that house. Even the fact that Abigail was alive but now apparently is dead… Will it be interesting for you to show a Freddie that has had to digest -- no pun intended on Hannibal! -- and deal with everything that happened in that house? Because she was even a big part of Jack and Will's plan, it turned out.
Chorostecki: Yeah, I'm really excited to see that. I know Bryan's talked about what the first couple of episodes are going to be and that, after the first couple, we'll see the aftermath of where everyone's been. I'm really excited to get to that and start filming that and start layering in exactly what you're talking about, which is how much that cracks people's armor and how much she's allowed to show and what fun scenes -- I've been so blessed over the last two years because of the type of character she is. Whenever I come in I'm often blessed with one-on-one scenes with Mads, Hugh and Laurence. It's been such a joy to learn from them and get to know them. I look forward to playing with them more as we continue.
[Editor's Note: If you've never read Red Dragon -- or seen either of the film adaptations -- beware of spoilers from the source material in the next question and answer]
IGN: When the show began, we were thinking, "Okay, the show takes place before any of the events we knew," but there were certain expectations like, "Oh, we know what happens to Freddie Lounds during Red Dragon.” But that's been subverted a lot by this point, because Bryan’s shown just how much he will divert. Even with the fake-out death, he very purposely used a visual — the burnt body in the wheelchair — we associate with Freddie from Red Dragon. I don't think the show would do that twice now, so even if Freddie did die, it'd have to be something different. Do you like that great unknown now, as far as what your character's fate is?
Chorostecki: Yeah, I think there's a question mark as to how the Red Dragon storyline will be changed and played with. I think certain things will be kept the same. I'm super excited to find out who our Dolarhyde is. Knowing Bryan and the team, the cast has been so stellar all the way around. I'm sure it will be someone absolutely amazing. Yeah, it'll be interesting. I think there's a lot of question marks, and I think that's been done so brilliantly. It's lovely that we have the audience guessing and that there are unknowns. I think that makes it exciting for the people who love and are so familiar with the canon, to be able to come into our show and not quite know what's going to happen but still have some sense of familiarity and seeing their favorite characters in that way.
IGN: I was thinking about the fact that -- beyond just the gender-swap -- there just couldn't be three more different type actors than Stephen Lang, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and yourself to play the same character. Did that kind of free you of any burden and you didn't need to worry about being compared, since it was clear that you were going to be a very different interpretation of this character?
Chorostecki: Yeah, I think it was never a concern. Bryan's said to me from the beginning, "She's modeled after Rebecca Brooks. She's a more sophisticated version of this character." I mean, I love Hoffman's version and Lang's version. They're both really, as you say, very different in themselves, but as soon as you gender-swap you're given so much freedom, because you're not the same. It allows her to wear a different set of armor. I think the touchstone of Rebecca Brooks was a huge thing to start with and be able to play off of. Then, when you added on to this kind of balls-out external character -- the hair and the costume and everything -- it just instantly opened it up for me to be extremely different and craft her in the way that we wanted to do.
IGN: You mentioned this moment in passing, but I have to ask about a scene from Season 1, which was the Gideon operating on Chilton sequence. What was that like to film?
Chorostecki: It was pretty crazy. Guillermo Navarro was directing those ones. He's a wonderful director in his own right. It was really exciting to do, and I'd admired Eddie [Izzard] for years. I used to watch him on a show called The Riches, if you remember that one, that he did. Then of course he just did Bryan's Mockingbird Lane. It was wonderful to meet him, and thankfully we got along like wildfire. And I've also admired Raoul [Esparza] for years because I'm a theater girl at heart, and I'm also a musical theater girl at heart. So in that sense it was very exciting for me to be in the room with those two, but then you add in Guillermo's craft and the incredible team we have -- and let me tell you, those guts looked real in person; just as real in person as they do on screen. It was a lot of fun to play that one, especially in that particular scene where she's just standing there silent the whole time and trying to, again, wear that armor, trying to not let it show. I remember somebody saying to me, "You didn't seem scared at all," and I said, "Well, if she showed she was scared, then this serial killer beside her wouldn't see her as an asset." I mean, he was treating her as an asset at that time and kind of talking to her fairly on the level. That's one thing about Freddie as a character: she's treated at all times somewhat as an equal, or certainly as someone that people can't just readily get rid of. That's a wonderful thing also, as a female actress, to be able to play with all these men, is to be treated as a female character, as an equal. So for her I think she is very, obviously nervous but at the same time fascinated that she's allowed in on this moment, you know, with the wheels turning, like, "How am I going to keep him alive afterwards and get out of this?" Ultimately, she always cares about herself, so "How do I get out of this alive?" is her thought. Certainly, showing fear is not going to get you out of that situation alive -- at least that's my thought if you're in that situation and realize a serial killer is opening someone up in front of you. I don't think being afraid is going to do you much good.
IGN: [Laughs] Right, right. Before I let you go, I have to ask, this show is so visually striking. We just talked about the horror level, but I also have to ask you about that trial scene and the hat you were wearing and the sort of noir lighting.
Chorostecki: Yeah, actually, that scene -- Jim Hawkinson, our DP, is really fantastic, and I always have the utmost faith in him. He always lights me so beautifully -- he lights everyone so beautifully. So there's not much technically you have to worry about to be able to get that visual atmosphere and look, because he kind of takes care of it and allows us to do our thing. That hat -- he loves that hat. When Bryan and I were talking about the beginnings of what was going to happen and when I would start filming my stuff for Season 2, he said, "Oh, you're going to come to the court room, and you're going to be wearing this hat." I said, "What do you mean 'this hat'?" He said, "This hat! It's going to be amazing." Then Chris, the costume designer, and I tried on a bunch of different hats. I think someone pointed out, and quite rightly so, that it's kind of a His Girl Friday kind of a look. I think it's just she's putting on a huge display at that point, because she genuinely thinks that Will killed Abigail. So I loved it. My direction from Bryan was -- because, you know, I said, "How is she playing this? She's in this hat. She's really throwing herself in full Freddie mode, old character mode. What's up with that?" He said, "Well, she just wants to kick him in the balls," because he killed her friend. So, as much as possible, she wants to make him suffer. That's even reflected again when he's in prison, and she comes in again with this full-force attitude. It isn't until, at the end [of Season 2], you see that wonderful scene with them when she's in hiding and she's helped them out, their whole thing - and the hotel room before, where they have an understanding and she understands that there's no way Chilton is the Chesapeake Ripper. She's stopped wanting to kick him in the balls and she realizes what's going on.