Rosy McEwen Talks The Alienist: Angel of Darkness Season Finale [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers for the season finale episodes.]
How’s everyone after that finale? I will freely admit I got a little misty in episode eight as John told Sara why he loved her, and later that he wanted her despite what he might forfeit, and then at the end when he told her it would not be because Violet was pregnant. It also occurred to me that nowhere in there does Sara say out loud that she loves him, too. But I’m OK if this is where we leave them, as friends. As I said last week, that’s the relationship I did not want them to lose.
I’m happy for Laszlo to get a chance to figure out who he is without the institute, and I can only imagine those conversations he and Karen will have with Freud. I didn’t see losing Marcus coming, and I was grateful Lucius got his vengeance without the over-the-top verbal, “That’s for my brother.” The silent look between him and John said it all.
I was grateful, too, that we didn’t have a bookend execution with Libby, although we can discern that will most definitely be her ending. Instead, we end with hope, three friends wishing each other well and Sara seizing her new success as a detective and paying it forward to other women by giving them jobs.
I do hope we see these characters again. Showrunner Stuart Carolan said in a TCA interview this week that there could well be another season, but they’re waiting for Caleb Carr, who’s writing a third book. Considering how much they veered from the second, I wouldn’t think the book was needed, but YMMV.
For now, enjoy the second part of my interview with Rosy McEwen, who was just astoundingly good all season.
One lingering question for me was about how Libby went undetected for so long, and whether her previous infant victims were the babies who had been reported “stillborn” and whisked away from the hospital. “I think we decided that it was a mixture,” she says.
“I think some of them are from the hospital. She had access to them and [some were] also babies [of] prostitutes or Goo-Goo’s gang. She [was opportunistic because she] is searching for something that she’s never going to find, but she has this hope that she’ll rekindle that love of the baby that she lost.”
Having Sara question Libby to find the Vanderbilt baby instead of Kreizler was by design, since so much of the story was Libby’s connection to Sara. “I think female energy is so much at the heart of the story, particularly with Sara and Libby’s protagonist/antagonist relationship [between] two women [with] huge personalities,” she says.
“And I think it was that connection, which was so essential, was a quite precious part of the story. And I don’t think anyone wanted to break that and if he’d come in and analyzed her in a way that she hadn’t been seen by Sara, [that would have done it].”
It was interesting that Libby never returned to her mother’s to avenge her treatment, and McEwen explains that the damage was already done, and Libby had moved on from her. “She’s already harmed her mom in so many ways,” she expains.
“By the point that the mom comes into this story, Libby’s on the edge of a complete nervous breakdown and she’s so [tightly wound] I don’t think she’s got space in her mind for anything else. The moment she sees her daughter, she cannot comprehend that everything she’s been searching for that she lost [is right there in front of her], and her mother falls by the wayside. She doesn’t care about her.”
In the end, in that cell, Libby finally finds her peace. And that cell was actually a respite for McEwen, too. “Libby’s death was a really hard one for us to get our head around and there were so many different options of what [we would do]…how she’s going to die and if she was going to die,” she says.
“And suicide was the main [idea] at the beginning. We thought…no one can capture Libby. She’s such a huge gale force wind, literally. How can you capture her? So suicide was the one for a while, but it just never felt quite right. It felt like that was too small for her. So, I guess the electric chair was the most natural and satisfying end.”
“I think also maybe Libby finds an ounce of peace at the every end, which she wouldn’t have if she had committed suicide. It would’ve been very dramatic and harder to watch, but this way, she gets to say she’s sorry and then she gets to sit with it and get possibly one percent of peace. Everything had been taken away from her and she had nothing left to give.”
The series marks McEwen’s first series role, and she was thrilled to discover all the ins and outs of production. “It was amazing. I really had such an incredible time and I was like a kid in a candy shop. I’ve never seen or experienced that world before,” she shares.
“And I would flit very much between being very quiet and having to be very focused. And then days I had to be moving on the street or something, I was running around…I couldn’t believe my luck. I still pinch myself.”
“I love all the stuff in the prison. I don’t know why it came to such a satisfying space…that was completely mine for the whole filming. I really lived in [that] room for three days. It felt very quite theatrical. I really got to embed myself in those moments.”
Going from the instant gratification and feedback of stage to waiting a year for a performance to be seen is a big switch, but McEwen says she still approached the character and the work the same way. “Whether you’re on set or on stage without an actual laugh or sigh from the audience, you know what it feels like for you and that’s the moment you’re searching for,” she explains.
“You say it and it comes from such a deep place in your body, and that’s all I’m trying to do as an actor is to find those moments of genuine response to how you’re feeling or to the [other] person. And that’s all I can ever try to do. You learn and grow and take it on to your next experience. The more you practice, the better you get at it.”
Photos and Video Courtesy of TNT.
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