Severance's Dichen Lachman Talks About That Major Ms. Casey Twist [Interview]

Apple TV+'s "Severance" is full of mystery, a sci-fi show that makes the mundanity of office life into something truly mind-bogglingly horrific. The show's premise — that some people chose to have their minds "severed" so their working-life selves know nothing of their outside selves and vice-versa — gives a whole new meaning to work-life balance.

Much of the show's story revolves around Mark (Adam Scott), a man who decides to get severed in an attempt to cope with the loss of his wife. There are several other severed characters, however, including Dichen Lachman's Ms. Casey, the employee in charge of the wellness room at the mysterious Lumon Industries.

/Film had the chance to talk with Lachman about her role on the show, including how she approached portraying Ms. Casey as we learn more about her throughout the season, including that surprise twist at the end of the seventh episode.

Read on for that conversation, though be warned! This interview will not spoil anything from this Thursday's season 1 finale, but it does contain major spoilers for everything through the penultimate episode.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

'When I started reading those scripts, I could not put them down'

There's a twist that happens close to the end of the season where we find out that Ms. Casey is actually a severed version of Mark's wife, who Mark thinks died in a car crash. When did you know that backstory for Ms. Casey?

I'm pretty sure I didn't know until after I was cast. I had a meeting with [executive producer and director Ben Stiller] on Skype. It was a very tricky character, as you can imagine, and I had no script [while auditioning]. I had very little information, so I was shooting in the dark a little bit.

My conversation with Ben was extraordinary, because he's so specific about what he wanted in this world, and trying to navigate around the fine line playing this character, not giving too much away, where it sat energetically. It was really interesting, but I didn't really read anything or know anything about it until months later when I was in London [shooting "Jurassic World Dominion"], and they finally figured out that I'd be able to do it in terms of my availability.

Then the scripts came in. When I started reading those scripts, I could not put them down. I was burning through those pages, and I have to say, it's very rare to sit down and read it and just be completely captivated by the world and these amazing, amazing characters.

Did knowing Ms. Casey was a severed version of Mark's wife inform your performance?

I had this song, it was a Lana Del Ray song. Maybe it's corny, but I would listen to it and I'd think about their relationship. Not that it was that important, because throughout the show, Ms. Casey never realizes that. But just to create some background of a memory of something, that maybe even if she's not aware, creating why she might be drawn to Mark, even if she has no idea. She doesn't understand why she thinks he's nice, and why she enjoyed spending all that time with them. But it blew my mind and it made me extremely excited. And I hope when, let's manifest that there is a season 2, that I get to do a lot more. [Editor's note: "Severance" was officially given a second season order earlier today.]

'I imagined her like a child, or like a doe, like an animal being born into the world'

One thing I thought was interesting about Ms. Casey is when we first see her, it's almost like she has a film over her, or there's sort of an extra barrier between her and the world. How did you approach portraying that?

I was thinking about how new she was in the world. You know, she says in the script, "My life has been 107 hours long." And because we know she goes down onto the testing floor, and we know she's had a terrible accident, there's something missing from her that the others don't quite have. And I imagined her like a child, or like a doe, like an animal being born into the world and just learning to walk and absorbing everything around them. To some degree she has to do what she's told. She's very literal.

There's actually a line missing. We shot it. It never made the cut, but she asks Mark where people come from, because she doesn't know. That informed that very naive, new to the world space that she was in. At the same time, she's longing for these relationships, which she doesn't get an opportunity to have down there.

One of the things that really informs Ms. Casey is her look. Did you have any input into what the character's look was and did you use her clothes and hair as inspiration for how you portrayed her?

Because of everything that was going on, I was trapped in this place and couldn't leave, I did all these different looks. I bought wigs off Amazon. I put on wigs, different wigs, tried stuff. And I made a PDF, almost like a head of the hair department would do on a set when you are doing prep, but all of that because of COVID was not possible for me being far away. [Ben and writer Dan Erickson] actually gravitated towards what my instincts really felt, which was what you ended up seeing in the show.

And then the photograph, which Mark puts together, my husband took the photo while we were in L.A. and I had this horrible wig, which was a test wig, and I just shoved a hat on and I was like, "Oh, maybe this will work," because we were working under extraordinary circumstances. But the photo worked out really well.

'I feel so blessed that I get to play in this space where the storytelling is allegorical of our time'

Did you have a particular scene or moment you were filming that just really sticks out to you as like, "Oh, that's the core of this character" or a moment that just really stuck out in your mind for whatever reason?

I love that scene in the hallway when she's looking for [Helly and Mark]. And she's like, "You're not hurt." Because her job is to protect Helly. She was told, "Go and make sure Helly doesn't kill herself, and try and calm her down." And then they disappear. And for her it's awful. And so she sees them, and they're okay, and it's such a relief, but then she starts having these new emotions for her. When she says, "You're not hurt." And then says, "I'm glad. And I forgive you." That's a new feeling for her.

She starts having these human moments, and that was the most fun thing to play with. To discover in the scene who she is, and her finding her soul and her humanity in these interactions, which were outside of the wellness room, which is just very much scripted. She's evolving.

I feel so blessed that I get to play in this space where the storytelling is allegorical of our time, or another time, or a possible time if we're not careful. All these things we invent with good intention, like giving people the ability to walk again, or see again, or hear again — I mean, these are all wonderful intentions, but sometimes we go too far. And I think it's an interesting playground to touch on those topics and get people thinking about that stuff.

I'm so excited about this show, and I really hope many people get to see it, because it's very rare that so much detail and time goes into everything.

Season 1 of "Severance" is available on Apple TV+, with the finale premiering on April 7, 2022.