Hands down, one of the best surprises of The Alienist: Angel of Darkness is that the serial killer this season has been front and center alongside the cast as a fully-formed character. We’ve watched Libby Hatch devolve from a prim, mild-mannered nurse to a woman in a rage hell-bent on recreating a lost bond and desperately searching for some kind of genuine emotional tether in an increasingly cruel world.
British actress Rosy McEwen has expertly crafted such a rich, multi-layered performance that, weirdly enough, has been an actual joy to watch. I say weirdly because joy is an emotion that Libby rarely traffics in.
When she does, it’s fleeting and leaves extraordinary sadness and confusion in its wake. I had the pleasure of speaking with McEwen by phone this morning, and we chatted about taking on such an exquisite character in her very first television role.
McEwen is a graduate of the Bristol Old Vic drama school and has appeared onstage in plays as varied as Julius Caesar and The Cherry Orchard and at the Royal Shakespeare Company. The Alienist came her way via her agent, and it took four auditions and the support of showrunner Stuart Carolan and director David Caffrey to get buy-in that the series would take a gamble on an unknown. It paid off.
“When the role came along, I [thought this isn’t me], so I went in quite blasé on my first round, which I think is sometimes the best way because you can overthink it and [instead] you just are. And then I got called back and a more detailed character brief about Libby. And I was like, ‘Oh shit, oh my God, she’s everything,'” she laughs.
“And it’s so rare to have a female character that has such a story. I don’t even think [she’s] three-dimensional because she’s four, five, six. You get to see every aspect and facet of everything she feels. And that was just such a joy. I think I went in about four times to read for Libby. I had Stuart Carolan and David Caffrey who were on my side. I think they really had to fight for me.”
“And for my final audition, Stuart basically panic wrote this gorgeous scene in a day and I had to go in and film it. And it, it [wasn’t] actually in the show, but it’s just a scene of Libby basically losing her mind for about four pages. And I think that convinced them in the end. And I’m so grateful for Stuart really was the main one. He just was pushing and fighting for me.”
Block shooting episodes two at a time, and sometimes sequentially, sometimes not, meant going back and forth between calm, collected Libby and the version who’s abandoned all pretense. “Occasionally you just do a massive jump. They were writing the scripts [as we were shooting] as well,” she explains. “So it was all changing as we were going, which was terrifying.”
“Because Stuart and me were so close and I felt very attached to Libby, and he could see that, he was always willing to [ask], ‘Is this right for you? Do you think this is where you should end up?’ And I would always get my opinion. I definitely was able to give him my ideas on Libby. And he was so kind to take everyone’s opinion on board, which is quite rare, I think.”
One of the things that’s so compelling about Libby is that McEwen makes us care about her, and she worked hard to do that. “She’s such a gift as a role. I’m very keen for people to sympathize with her, because she’s such a big part of the story,” she shares.
“You find out actually what’s going on and then her character evolves so much. I felt it’s so important that the audience sort of be on her side, [because otherwise] it just becomes a cat and mouse story and then there’s no weight to it.”
“She’s not a psychopath [who] doesn’t feel emotion [or show it] behind the eyes. She has had a traumatic childhood, but the way that I approached it was I had to go right back to the basic human instinct, which she feels, which will transpire in the final two episodes. You will find out.”
“Basically the only way that I could get on board with everything she was doing was going back to the roots of what she feels, which is essentially a need to be loved, which is an innate human feeling that we all have. And going back to that basic need, from there, I could build everything on top of that.”
“So that goes back to her trauma. The fact that she’s missed out on being loved, that that’s all she ever craved. She’s been embodied by so much trauma and confusion as she’s growing up, but it translates in such an odd way. And in a very dramatic way.”
“[She has all this] vulnerability [and] when love comes into the story, it cracks her facade. So little things like when they have the meal and Sara [talks about her father], she’s very rarely felt that connection or had someone reach out to her on that level.”
“Anything to do with someone reaching out or loving her or showing her affection or this normal happy life just breaks her. And I think that was such a fun thing for me to play because she snaps from unfazed and murderer, even though she’s literally doing what she thinks is the best way to get what she wants, so quickly to lost, broken little girl, really.”
“Even when she’s that timid, unsure creature, it’s all real, she’s never pretending to be anyone else other than what she is. She’s never been fake or sly, she’s just confused and deeply troubled and traumatized. So a lot of her actions have blinded her, it’s just her way of translating her emotions. And it’s just been very convoluted [due] to her experiences.”
Tune in after the finale for more of our conversation!
The Alienist: Angel of Darkness airs its season finale Sunday at 9 pm ET on TNT Drama. I’ll be back later with a preview. Season 1 and Season 2 so far are now streaming on TNT Drama. Click here for my previews.
Images courtesy of TNT.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Tyler Hynes Talks Through His Eight-Film Hallmark Holiday Library
Things you realize when you have to re-record your shows on a new DVR – just how many Hallmark movies your people have done. Fan favorite – and one of ours – Tyler Hynes has done eight Christmas movies for Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries since 2018. Alongside…
Spencer Creaghan Talks About Creating SurrealEstate’s Signature Sound
SurrealEstate is winding down its second season, with two episodes left, and just as in Season 1, Spencer Creaghan’s music continues to be a character unto itself. And every week, he shares tidbits with the fans via his s social media channels, something he started to help give them an…
Andrew Walker Talks Christmas Island and the Magical Hallmark Community
[Warning: Spoilers for Christmas Island.] Now that the Screen Actors Guild strike has been resolved, we’re able to resume regularly scheduled programming and interview our favorites and yours. Up first, earlier today, I spoke with Andrew Walker about Christmas Island, which premiered last weekend and encores tonight and through the…
George Olson and Danishka Esterhazy Talk SurrealEstate “I Put a Spell on You”
[Warning: Spoilers for the episode.] Tonight’s fun new SurrealEstate found Luke caught up in an especially bewitching woman, Kay, played by Tara Yelland, Susan trapped in her house, and Zooey learning the ropes. In the next part of my conversation with showrunner George R. Olson and producing director Danishka Esterhazy,…
Danishka Esterhazy Talks SurrealEstate: “The Butler Didn’t”
[Warning: General spoilers for the episode]. Tonight’s new SurrealEstate, “The Butler Didn’t,” follows the team as they investigate the years-earlier mysterious death of a woman whose ghost now reenacts her hanging by dropping over the banister from the second floor to terrify anyone on the landing or at the bottom…
Scott McCord and Elizabeth Saunders Talk the From Season 2 finale
[Warning: Spoilers for the season finale.] How’s everyone doing after that finale? While we wait and wonder and hope for a third season announcement, soon, here’s what Scott McCord and Elizabeth Saunders had to say about their parts of the finale, and where they hope they get to go next….
Scott McCord and Elizabeth Saunders Talk From Season 2 + A Season Finale Preview
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] It all comes down this, #FROMily. As Sunday’s episode wraps up Season 2, we begin with the aftermath of the terrifying onset of seemingly simultaneous attacks on Julie, Marielle, and Randall, which accelerate the “We gotta get out of this place” of it all. Sara comes…
Alison Sweeney Talks About What’s Next for Hannah and Mike After Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery
[Warning: Spoilers for Carrot Cake Murder.] Everybody OK after that Hannah Swensen Mystery twist? Thankfully, our favorite crime-solving couple is still on speaking term, even if they’re on a break (hopefully not that kind of break). Most importantly, we already know this isn’t the last film in the series. No…
Counting Down to From Season 2
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] We’re just shy of two weeks away from Season 2 of last spring’s obsession, From, which premieres at 9 pm/8c, Sunday, April 23rd, on MGM+ (formerly EPIX). If you never picked it up last year, now’s your chance, and you can do it for free, catching…
Thank Me Later: Will Trent
[Warning: spoilers ahead.] I’m on record as loving and losing shows over at ABC so I’m usually very reticent to pick something up on the network until it’s been renewed, and I seriously hope I’m not jinxing it, but I took a chance on the deeply odd and very sweet…
What They Said: Three Revealing Conversations from Survivor’s Remorse “Closure”
WARNING: Spoilers for Survivor’s Remorse “Closure” The latest episode of Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse featured conversations that showed characters really digging deep into their thoughts, emotions and motivations.
Two Takes: The Catch “The Knock-Off”
Who can you trust? If this episode of The Catch was any indication, the answer is just about nobody. Betrayal was running rampant as Felicity (Shivani Ghai) arose from the dead to seduce-con Margot, Gretchen (Maria Thayer, Gotham, The Mindy Project) played gold-hearted Alice 2.0 before swindling Ethan, Tessa jumped…
What They Said: Top 3 Quotable Moments from Preacher “El Valero”
Both Quincannon and Jesse refuse to give up on what they each think is rightfully theirs. While Jesse is struggling to face the consequences of his actions, Quincannon has laid his past demons to rest and is hellbent on moving forward and putting Annville on the map again. Despite a…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Supergirl “Worlds Finest”
Oh, Supergirl. That ending was cold. But I can’t hate on you because the latest episode has quickly become one of my favorites.
What They Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Black Sails “XXIII”
The dialogue in “XXIII” is phenomenal. It’s always a fun ride when Black Sails carries its viewers along without giving them the chance to catch their breath. When an episode moves at this unforgiving pace, there is no chance for a breather nor is there a respite from the information…
What Lucifer Said: Favorite quotes from Supernatural “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Supernatural episodes are almost always funny but thanks to the dialogue and a certain man speaking said dialogue, I laughed a lot during “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” You know, when I wasn’t busy fearing for Sam’s life or wondering what in the world was going on with Dean and…
What They Said: The Flash, “Legends Of Today” and Arrow, “Legends Of Yesterday”
Two nights of Arrow +Â The Flash = what more could we ask for?! I don’t know what it is about blending these shows, but I canâ€™t help but feel that every time they come together, they somehow become greater than the sum of their parts. And thatâ€™s saying a lot…
What they Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Graceland “Little Bo Bleep”
Shoot outs. Fake outs. And long-awaited revelations. “Little Bo Bleep” was a jam-packed episode that wrapped up some loose ends and totally frayed others. Â It finally gave us one Sarkissian in jail and pulled back the curtain on Briggs’ master plan, but it also set up Jakes for a world…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Poldark “Part 4”
â€œWhat have I told you, I don’t require my wife to crochet and sip tea, but I do require her to remember she’s not a beast of burden.â€ No, Iâ€™m not talking about The Rolling Stones! I have to admit though, just for a second, the lyrics popped into my…
3 Moments of Goodness from Brooklyn Nine-Nine “Johnny and Dora”
The most satisfying part of this season’s finale has to the Jake and Amy kiss. Well, they kiss three times but the last one is the best one — and it means something. The Charles and Rosa dynamic was also great. I love how she’s convinced he doesn’t know anything…