Jason Segel recently confessed to Rolling Stone that Simone, his character Peter's love interest in the new deliciously surrealist AMC series Dispatches From Elsewhere, was not originally written as a transgender character. This is, until he met captivating Hollywood newcomer, Eve Lindley.
"The only other time this has happened was when Russell Brand came in to read for [Forgetting Sarah] Marshall. I'd originally written his part to be a straight-laced British author, like a Hugh Grant type. Then Russell came in, and gave me something entirely better," Segel told RS. "I felt the same way about Eve when she auditioned -- Simone was not written as a trans character. She made Simone so much richer, more complicated, gave her so much more depth. It changed the whole project. The love story that emerges between Peter and Simone is...it's one of the things I'm most proud of with the show. And that's all due to her. But I didn't want to make her gender identity her defining characteristic. It isn't that way for Peter, or Fredwyn, or Janice, so why should it be for her?"
Fredwyn (Andre Benjamin) and Janice (Sally Field) round out the cast of characters consisting of four strangers brought together by a mysterious game of sorts that has catapulted them into a strange and exciting adventure. Assigned as a team by the unknown orchestrators of the game, the unlikely allies at first seem to have little in common--beyond a general dissatisfaction with their own lives and longing for purpose. Rivaling underground organizations, a missing young woman, a string of cryptic clues, and most of all, promises of personal fulfillment further entrench the four into the thickening plot. (The award-winning cast also includes Richard E. Grant as the head of Jejune Institute, one of the mysterious orgs). And Dispatches gets weird. Delightfully weird. Like, breakdancing Sasquatches weird.
The Advocate recently got a chance to chat with Lindley about her groundbreaking new role as a romantic lead in the major television series.
"Simone sort of comes off as your classic cool, artsy girl," says Lindley. "She's a bit of a mess, but she's always got a great outfit on, so it all seems to work out. It might be easy to dismiss her as a basic manic pixie dream girl, but after knowing her for 10 episodes, you see how much she has going on beneath the surface. You may realize that she actually wants to come off as a manic pixie dream girl. Life is easier when you have an archetype. A strong archetype will distract from whoever the hell you are at your core. I thought that was cool. I liked that she had a public self and a personal self. I find that to be very human and quite realistic."
Though Segel rewrote the character of Simone to suit Lindley's trans identity, it is certainly not a story arc for her character. Simone, like her three other teammates, is feeling lost in life. Rather than focusing on the characters' differences, Dispatches begins to reveal that they may have more in common than they initially realized. "I think we as humans all struggle with what might be missing from our lives," she says. "The unknown of what could be is a haunting thought, and it's one that I struggle with on the daily."
Universal issues like fear, anxiety, hopelessness, and depression are touched on in Dispatches, which Lindley says is as important as ever--though she admits speaking about mental health publicly is something she is still learning to balance.
"This is something I struggle with quite a lot," says the 27-year-old actress. "Mental health seems to be on everyone's mind lately...and it's a life-long struggle of mine. I go back and forth between wanting to talk about it and wanting to keep it private. I don't know where I'll end up, and I don't know how much of a responsibility I have to be vocal about it. As actors, we want to be chameleons, so it feels like the less we share about ourselves, the better. As humans, we want to make each other feel less alone, and so sharing seems important. It's tough and I am still on the fence about it."
Before landing the role of Simone, Lindley first caught the attention of audiences (and critics) in 2016's All We Had costarring and directed by Katie Holmes, and since has had several notable parts on other popular TV series including Mr. Robot, Outsiders, and Tales of the City. Noticing a common theme of being an outsider in these projects, we asked Lindley her thoughts on that.
"I mean, in short--I am a chronic outsider," she says frankly. "I am an outsider in the industry. I am an outsider in my family. I'm an outsider in the queer community. It's taken me a while to be okay with that. But I like being an outsider. It gets lonely at times, but there's always other chronic outsiders who's work you can read or watch or listen to. Then you remember that being an outsider looking in is actually pretty great. You can really survey the scene. Case the joint, if you will."
Lindley says working with her incredibly talented castmates "has been a dream. Jason cast the show so perfectly. Watching legends do their work is such a gift to a young actor. I'm so grateful to learn from each and every one of them. I'm especially excited about my friendship with Sally. She is so full of knowledge and she takes me out to dinners and lets me pick her brain. It's literally a dream come true."
"You'll have to stay tuned," she adds, on whether or not she ever sees herself working more behind the scenes. "Working with someone like Jason was a real gift because he writes his own content and in doing that, he made a space for himself in the industry. I was deeply inspired by his ability to do that. I feel like he did for me when he wrote Simone...and it makes me want to do it for someone else. Pay it forward, you know?"
For now anyway, the Brooklyn-based beauty seems content focusing on her craft.
"My deepest hope as an actress and storyteller is just to keep on keeping-on. I want to go on working forever, she says. "I want to top myself with each role and I want to impress people. I have been so fortunate in my work in that the right role always seems to find me. I am able to take little pieces of these women I portray and keep them with me and learn and adapt with their guidance. I hope that I can continue to do that."
Lindley's performance in Dispatches is sure to charm mainstream audiences as much as her character charms Peter in the series (and her to-die-for dimples don't hurt), but she says she also hopes Simone inspires LGBTQ viewers as well.
"I want any LGBTQ+ person who pays attention to me to know that they are the writer of their own story," she concludes. "They can decide how queer they want their life to be. They can decide who they spend time with. They can decide to lean towards fear or to lean towards love. Life is hard. Everyone told me, 'it gets better.' I don't know when it actually gets better, so I can't say that. I can say that you will get better. You may always feel like an outsider, but you can grow to enjoy that part of you. You can learn to like yourself and forgive yourself and forgive the people who taught you not to like yourself. Sometimes it seems to take a bit longer, and that's okay too. There's no roadmap, but you are in the driver's seat and you get to decide."
Dispatches From Elswhere is currently streaming on AMC. Check out the official trailer below.