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Quick Takes: Marley Shelton & Michael Gradziadei Talk Lifetime’s The Lottery [Exclusive Interviews] 

Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/Lifetime
Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/Lifetime

Did you freak out when you watched The Lottery premiere? I did. Not only is this show freaky, it is so real and interesting. There isn’t anything like it out there.

Series Synopsis: Set in a dystopian future when women have stopped having children, The Lottery reveals a world staring down the barrel of impending extinction.  Remarkably, 100 embryos are successfully fertilized and a national lottery is held to decide the surrogates.  As conflict, control and mystery over this global crisis unfolds, the government’s interests and power begin to dominate, igniting a highly controversial debate over our fundamental and personal freedom to raise a family.  The Lottery stars Marley Shelton (Eleventh Hour) as Dr. Alison Lennon, the brilliant fertility specialist whose scientific breakthrough may have life-and-death consequences; Michael Graziadei (American Horror Story) as Kyle, a recovering alcoholic and single father of one of the last children born in the country; David Alpay (The Vampire Diaries) as James, Alison’s colleague and lab assistant; and Martin Donovan (Homeland) as Darius Hayes, a calculating government official willing to use any strategy to achieve what he believes is the greater good.

If you haven’t started watching and you like to be entertained and freaked out, this show is for you.  If you are tuning in, , how good is the kid that plays Elvis (Jesse Filkow)? I’m not the only one who thinks he’s doing a great job. The actors think so, too. I recently got the good fortune to interview the two of the show’s leads, Marley Shelton (Eleventh Hour) and Michael Graziadei (The Young and the Restless), during a press gathering.

Michael Graziadei

Photo Credit: Phillipe Bosse/Lifetime
Photo Credit: Phillipe Bosse/Lifetime

TV GOODNESS: Tell me about working with the kid.

Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/Lifetime
Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/Lifetime

Michael Gradziadei: Working with the kid, Jesse Filkow, who plays my son, is phenomenal. What a little ray of sunshine on the set. He’s a kid so he’s got energy and is all over the place. I think I’m kind of a big kid as well, that’s why we relate to each other. But he was really fun because you don’t know what kind of situation you are going to walk into when you are working with a child.  He’s so young but so professional. He comes on set and he listens and he hits his marks.  

TV GOODNESS:  And I was thinking that the relationship with the two of you, I thought oh my God, I felt so bad for your son, he just wants to be with his Dad.

Michael:  And I just want to be with my son.

TV GOODNESS: So tell me about when you read the script.  It’s very different from anything I’ve seen.

Michael:  It’s very different. I actually read it and fell in love with the material. It was one of the best things I had read in five years. I called my reps and said we definitely need to get in on this and they said, yeah, you are in don’t worry. I thought it’s really got a Children of Men feel to it.  And then when they told me Tim Sexton wrote it.  (Laughs)  And when I put that together….

And then I asked who is doing this and I found out it was Lifetime. How are they doing it? We are living in an amazing time of television right now. Actors want these parts and there are really amazing projects. And they said, ‘Hey we are looking to do this to expand to a broader audience with this show and we want it to be dark and we want it to be creepy and we want it to be nothing like Lifetime before.’ And everything they said has happened. That makes it really exciting and I wanted to be a part of that show at that point.

TV GOODNESS: And also it feels real, it’s something that can actually happen.

Michael: Absolutely, that’s what makes it so scary. If you think of that psychology, it’s something that everyone can relate to.  Whether it being children, having children or a world without children. Because a world without children, humanity ceases to exist. That’s the realization. And that’s terrifying.

TV GOODNESS:  How do you like working with the rest of the cast?

Michael: I love the rest of the cast. Marley [Shelton] is just a darling, she’s so lovely to work with. She and David Alpay (The Vampire Diaries), who plays James, are the only other two that I have worked with and I’m sorry, and Athena (Karkanis of AMC’s Low Winter Sun). I do so many things with just Jesse, I’m trying to think. But I am dying to work with Martin Donovan and Yul Vasquez. We all went to dinner the other night and it was incredible. And that’s when I told them that you have no idea how excited I am to be a part of this and start putting the gloves on with you guys.

Marley Shelton

Photo Credit: Phillipe Bosse/Lifetime
Photo Credit: Phillipe Bosse/Lifetime

TV GOODNESS:  So I wanted to ask you as a woman when you read the script did you think this was a little too real? As a viewer it freaked me out a bit.

Marley Shelton: Well especially, you have friends like I do that are desperate to get pregnant and they are really trying. They are starting later in the game. Technology has advanced so far that we are also taking a lot more risks in terms of starting families much later in life because of career and other things. So I think it’s one of those primal fears, especially for us…women that want it all, wants a career and motherhood. And so there is that sense of urgency.

TV GOODNESS: There is a horror element to it, because it’s so real.  

Marley: Yes!

TV GOODNESS: Was that something that appealed to you? Because the material is great.

Marley: I love that it is only set ten years into the future because that is so tangible, it’s so real. It’s not a thousand years from now, we don’t have to worry about that now. I think what our society needs to realize is that this stuff is happening at an exponential rate. Things are changing and changing fast. And I think, for example, technology is evolving at an exponential rate. We in society are playing catch up to it in terms of our ethical and moral codes. For instance, on a much lighter note, when cell phones came out we didn’t have a cell phone etiquette.  It took us forever to catch up and say, ‘Oh maybe we should say no cell phones in restaurants.’  But that took a while. Or texting in cars, it’s actually more dangerous than drunk driving. It takes a while to get the laws in place.

TV GOODNESS:  Absolutely! It’s like the internet…

Marley: Yes, it’s so fast. It’s like slow down. And I think as human beings we need that perspective because ethical codes don’t move at that rate or should they? So it’s a weird paradigm and I think our show explores that.

TV GOODNESS:  Have you gotten to work with [Jesse Filkow]? Because he amazed me.

Marley: If you looked up what an adorable child is in the dictionary, there would be a picture of Jesse. He’s so darling and just so sweet.

TV GOODNESS:  Do you feel protective of him being a mom yourself?

Marley: His parents are super cool and really grounded. I think this might be his first job. And they are real as it gets. And what’s nice about our show is that it shoots in the summer, it’s a ten episode show. I have my two kids with me. It’s nice not to have mom guilt since we are shooting in the summer. We are not taking them out of school. I feel it’s good.

Both Marley and Michael are fantastic in this show and if you haven’t started watching it you really should. You should also check out the interview that my fellow writer, Heather did with the creator and writer of The Lottery, Tim Sexton.

The Lottery airs Sundays at 10/9c on Lifetime.

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