"When you watch her, you’re kind of like What drives you?” actor and artist Poppy Liu says of their character Greta, the sartorially gifted assistant/housekeeper to Rachel Weisz’s brilliant and codependent Mantle twins in the new Dead Ringers series. The wild and often unhinged Elliot and her more reserved sister Beverly play out games of codependency in their sterile Manhattan flat while Greta lingers almost out of frame continually observing their rarified world. It’s not clear until several episodes into the Prime Video series what Greta’s motives are, but even as she’s at the margins of many of the scenes, it’s impossible not to notice her front-row voyeurism. And that act of looking is part of Greta’s contribution to the series that is queer to the core.
“For her, I think it’s art, it’s observation. It’s like performance. One thing that feels really queer about this show is this performative element of it,” says Liu. “Even just aesthetically, how every day she remakes herself. Her hair is different every single time you see her. She looks like a different person.”
“That’s deeply queer to be like, every day, I can remake myself. And every day, I’m a different version of myself. Life is a performance. How I show up to it as a performance,” adds the Hacks and iCarly star.
“There are no fixed rules. I’m really fluid. And you really see that in this character, just how she shows up in the world,” says Liu, who is nonbinary and queer.
Courtesy Prime Video
Created by playwright Alice Birch, Dead Ringers is loosely based on David Cronenberg’s 1988 psychosexual thriller of the same name that starred Jeremy Irons as twin gynecologists who share everything including a medical practice and lovers. With Weisz — who wowed audiences (queer women in particular) with back-to-back queer roles in Disobedience (2017) and The Favourite (2018) — in the central role, the series was bound to have plenty of LGBTQ+ appeal. But there’s no shortage of women-loving-women characters, including Beverly, who falls in love with Britne Oldford’s Genevieve, an actress and a patient of theirs that Elliot procures for her sister. If that weren’t enough, Jennifer Ehle plays Rebecca, a wealthy benefactor and lesbian in the vein of Kathe Sackler, whose pharmaceutical family is responsible for the opioid epidemic. Beyond the show’s overtly LGBTQ+ characters, queerness is baked into every frame.
“The description for Greta, actually, is that she’s asexual,” Liu says. “It’s not explicitly there, but it was a big touchstone for me to hold on to, which makes a lot of sense for her.”
Dead Ringers’ prescient story follows Beverly and Elliot as they seek funding for — and with a financial assist from Rebecca — launch high-tech birthing centers that offer wealthy people who can become pregnant newfangled options for experiencing birth. At the same time, Beverly attempts a normal loving relationship with Genevieve while Elliot, on her own for the first time, spins out with jealousy. All the while, Greta watches and later begins to collect detritus, tissue samples, and more from the Mantle home for reasons revealed near the close of the series. In viewing the series, Greta is a completely new kind of character — a Gucci-clad housekeeper with a mysterious agenda. But Liu initially passed on the part.
“When I first read just the description, because the character was written [as] an Asian kind-of home caretaker role — being a diasporic Chinese person, I feel wary of being an immigrant person of color playing a service role.”
Eventually, Liu was convinced that Greta was a new kind of character and became fascinated with her presence in the Mantle twins’ lives. Greta’s wardrobe became key to that difference. And Liu worked with costume designer Keri Langerman on setting Greta apart by dressing her to the nines even as she’s invisible to the Mantles on occasions like Beverly’s latest miscarriage (part of the twins birthing experiments) or the morning after Genevieve’s first sleepover.
“She’s using her own superpower of being an immigrant person in a service role to be like, ‘I am invisible in this very elitist world of the Mantle twins,” Liu says. “Me, their housekeeper, I can just go by unnoticed. I run their daily lives. She turned the invisibility of that service rule into a superpower.”
Of course, the series that centers on birth is also rife with mothers — new mothers, would-be mothers like Beverly, absent mothers, and more. And the whole mother piece of the show is part of what makes Dead Ringers stand out as a queer series, Liu explains.
“I think it’s deeply queer to have so many unresolved mommy issues. That’s one of the driving themes is deep mommy issues,” says Liu, who gave birth in 2022. They note that the subject of mommy issues is a frequent topic with friends.
“We’re never not processing our our inherited traumas. We’re never not processing our relationship to our parents. We’re never not processing intergenerational stuff,” Liu says.
And speaking of mommies, Weisz’s queer roles cemented her status as a “mommy” for many queer women on social media, especially following her role as a plotting duchess who sported leather riding gear or corseted cleavage in The Favourite. Liu concurs that Weisz’s dual roles in Dead Ringers help make the show unequivocally queer.
“Rachel Weisz is a queer icon. She’s very capital ‘M’ mother in many ways,” Liu says, noting the show’s potential appeal to the mommy issues crowd. “I feel like the queer community has never not been a Rachel Weisz stan. It’s exciting to see the [online] response of ‘It’s Rachel Weisz, times two — mommies!’