Tamsen McDonough Talks Bringing Lucy to Life on Killjoys [Exclusive]
Killjoys has flipped the script on so many sci-fi staples in its short two seasons (bring on a third!) and one of the most lovely, warm surprises is Dutch’s ship, Lucy, voiced by Tamsen McDonough. She’s smart, funny, sassy, serious, and non-corporeal, sans one brief flicker as a fembot in this season’s “I Love Lucy.” She’s also, in all fairness, probably Johnny’s first love. I talked with McDonough this week about playing Lucy, her web series project, Miss Odette’s Modern Handbook to Manners, and her work with the Humane Society in Canada.
When McDonough was cast, she had no idea how big a role Lucy would turn out to be, and surprisingly (or not, if you peek behind the curtain of voiceover work), she’s just about the last thing added to every episode, and she records her dialogue in an ADR booth on her own. On-set, her dialogue is yelled out to the cast by the first Assistant Director. Think about that the next time the small nuances give you all the feels.
McDonough loves playing her. “She’s just so well written. The writers went about it the same way they would create any other character. She has a bit of a backstory, she’s got a future, and she’s got relationships with each of these characters,” she says.
“They’ve really fleshed her out. And she’s got this complication, I believe, that she wants to be human or to be able connect more fully, but she can’t. There’s this restriction on her at all times, which creates an amazing challenge to play.”
As taken as she was with playing her, McDonough considered the fan response pretty early on. “[With every script], I thought, ‘This is really good. I wonder if the fans are going to respond to this.’ It’s so well done. And the fact that there’s this crush on a human,” she says. “It’s so sweet and there are so many possibilities. They did such a good job of putting this character together.”
McDonough says recording on her own is done mostly to ensure the crispest audio, and she feels like she’s right there because of the tech that goes into the process. “Each of those days [on-set for the cast and crew are already] incredibly long, and to get such clear, clear sound for the ship, it’s better that they bring me into the studio afterward,” she explains.
“It’s a screen that’s a huge wall and surround sound, and I feel like I’m in the scene. All the FX have been done. It looks beautiful. It’s easy for me to immerse myself in it. I’m always so impressed about how the other [actors] are able to do their lines with me when they’re shouted from off set.â€
She recently added Lucy to the season finale, airing Friday, and said Aaron Ashmore just killed it in the Johnny/Lucy scenes [they both do]. “I was crying as I was trying to do my lines. I was blown away that he’s listening to the first AD yelling these lines at him and he’s pulling out that performance,” she says. “I was boggled.”
When “I Love Lucy” came up, McDonough wasn’t sure what the setup for the episode was going to be until fairly late, but she had a blast. “It was really fun and a bit nerve-wracking. My agent called and said Killjoys wanted to know if I was available for set [with no context],” she recalls. “I was finger-tapping, ‘more input please…'”
“It went back and forth and eventually they said what it was, but the episode wasn’t named in the script. They told me my days and what was happening with the character. You tend to find out more when you go in for your fitting. It’s a character pow-wow [with the whole production team and cast] about the look and the vibe and that helps you get prepared for the episode.”
McDonough doesn’t radically alter her voice to play Lucy, but there is some tonal adjustment that happens almost by default, depending on the setting. “Put a mic in front of someone and it changes their voices, get on the phone [or] get them in person, and their voice changes,” she explains.
“Learning voice, I really see the difference now. When I want something, I lower my voice, but when I want something and I’m acting, I tend to raise my voice. As soon as I get in front of the mic, I drop it low and get calm and serene with it.”
She did look to some famous voices for inspiration when she landed the role, and when she played Lucy as a fembot. “I was listening to J.A.R.V.I.S. from Iron Man a bit, and looking at C3PO, especially when I did the fembot, to get an idea about AI reactions and movement, the crispness of how they speak, how specific they are,” she says.
While McDonough has done voiceover work for commercials, Lucy is her first VO character, and she’d love to continue playing her in any capacity, on screen or in voice only. “She’s so great,” she says. “I’m kind of happy doing whatever they want. I’ll do whatever Lucy wants.”
This Thursday, McDonough will join the cast and crew for a screening of the Season 2 finale at Fan Expo in Toronto. She’s not sure what to expect, but loves engaging with the fans at events and on social media and credits her sister with getting her onto Twitter.
“I had not done a single Tweet until Killjoys. My sister told me to get my name years ago [so I did] and when Killjoys started up, she told me I would need to be engaging with people. I didn’t know what to think of [cons] before I did [Fan Expo last year], but it was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had,” she recalls.
“[The fans] are very passionate, and very honest in their passion. There’s very little ego. ‘This is who I am, this is what I like, I like you, I’m going to show my appreciation.’ There’s no manipulation or coyness or fakeness. It’s just out there. It’s creative and fun. I really like our fans a lot.”
As a celebrity ambassador/advocate, she’s working with the Humane Society in Canada to support a Canadian bill intended to strengthen animal protection laws.”They need help with a bill called Bill C-246, which is important because it updates Canada’s animal cruelty laws and improves animal cruelty offenses in the Criminal Code, closing legal loopholes that let animal abusers go unpunished,” she says.
“Additionally it cracks down on dog fighting, prohibits the practice of shark finning, bans the import of dog and cat fur and requires that fur be labeled with the animal species and country of origin.”
McDonough is also at work now on Miss Odette’s Modern Handbook to Manners, a short film she hopes to expand to a web series. “Because you’re doing something very indie, low budget, you’re hoping for wonderfully talented people who are willing to exchange favors,” she laughs.
“We’re currently editing it. I think it’s going to be fun. I think it’s a cute concept. It’s a more mockumentary, instructional kind of style. The first one could easily be a short and go into festivals. We’re learning as we go [and] have other episode ideas.”
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