The Nevers’ Amy Manson Explores the ‘Madness’ of Maladie
Amy Manson discusses the resilience and terrifying power of her character Maladie in the new HBO sci-fi series The Nevers, debuting April 11.
Set in Victorian London, The Nevers explores a world where few individuals — mostly women — awaken supernatural abilities, ranging from visions to annihilating power. However, these gifts leave them vulnerable to a white male-run society determined to eliminate their kind. Under the guidance and protection of seer Amalia True (Laura Donnelly) and steampunk inventor Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), the Touched form a collective to protect each other. But not all Touched ones find a benevolent way to process society’s persecution of them.
Amy Manson portrays Maladie in the upcoming HBO sci-fi series, a Touched one who has chosen to live underground, form a street gang and wreak murderous havoc. In an exclusive interview with CBR, Manson shared her approach to Maladie’s madness, how the show breaks away from X-Men-like comparisons and its powerful belief in community action.
CBR: You’ve worked on several acclaimed fantasy television shows like Being Human, Once Upon a Time and Torchwood. How was your time on The Nevers compared to your prior experience in the genre?
For me, I think this is literally one of the best scripts I’ve ever read in my life. And one of the best characters that I think I will ever play in real life. And, also, starting it off as an ensemble from day one whereas I’ve come into shows in Season 2, or consequently after that, so it’s nice just to start with, you know, a bunch of good humans. You know, we’re all scared as everyone else about how the show is going to be received, but yes, it’s been such a pleasure.
You portray Maladie on The Nevers, a formerly committed woman who’s turned into an underground gang leader and is described as possibly mad and is dealing with a power she doesn’t quite understand. What would you like audiences to know about Maladie’s character that really struck a chord with you?
You’ll find out within the first few episodes why Maladie’s on the rampage and why she’s doing what she’s doing. And I hope people will love her for that. You know, there’s a lot of similarities to what’s going on in the world at the moment with Maladie and Victorian England — trying to tear down the patriarchy, in a way. You’ll understand why.
What surprised you about Maladie as you were bringing her to life?
Yeah, I think just the weight of what she’s gone through and the resilience it takes and is involved in that. She could have chosen so many other paths as her journey in life, and she didn’t. She chose this one. And I take my hat off to her in that respect, you know. And she does it in a way that’s cheeky and fun and trickery. And, you know, all the above. I’m not saying she keeps light a heavy subject, but it will all make sense. And, you know, the team that she’s got around her is fun to watch. And it was fun to be a part of at the same time.
There are some gorgeous fight sequences in the series, so I was curious about what your experience was like coordinating those fight scenes?
Yeah, actually Laura [Donnelly] and I are quite heavily loaded — our characters — with stunt routines. And we worked with Rowly Irlam, the stunt co-ordinator, and he’s just all about health and satfey, which was phenomenal. So we felt like we were in a cocoon, but we also felt like we were able to explore. For me, the challenge came with speaking the way Maladie speaks and doing that on top of the movement and making that real. Maladie’s just a live-wire. There are no rules with Maladie. And it’s understand that as a person, then understanding her dialogue, and then putting on top of all that, all the stunt routines, which was so much fun.
Laura is a great sparring partner. A lot of what you see in the first couple of episodes was actually Laura and me. And then down the line, Maladie’s stunt double [Chloé Bruce] comes into play beacuse of some technical issues. But, it was a joy to just kind of dive right in. And the stunt guys were great because they gave us a lot of time to get fit as well. So it was a nice experience for me. I’ve done it once before on a film, but this was really great to know what we were aiming for — the caliber and style of what we were doing as well was really galvanizing.
Maladie’s look is so wild and interesting. The Nevers has the same costume designer who worked on Game of Thrones, The Crown — Michele Clapton. And the costumes are so beautiful. I was curious if you had any input into Maladie’s look? And what was the process of getting into her wardrobe?
I was lucky to watch the first few episodes the other day. So I watched it with my best friend whom I’m with and that’s the first thing she said. She was like, “The costumes are phenomenal.” Michele has done such a good job. We had a different costume designer for the first episode [Jane Petrie}, and then Michele took over. They’re friends but when Michele took over, she wanted to stamp her own authority on it, so you’ll see a difference with Maladie’s costume from Episode 1 compared to the rest of the season.
And I went in a lot [into wardrobe] — the same with Maladie’s hair and makeup. Normally you go in for TV shows, maybe once or twice? I went in maybe six, seven times for her look. You know, it looks as though it’s all messed up and far out, but it was all thought out by Michele. Honestly, even the size of my armpits were measure out like every week!
Oh wow [Laughs].
[Laughs] You know? And the why, and the cause… She was very open to your suggestions. like you’ll see this belt Maladie made in the asylum, and she still wears that when she comes out. But you’ll understand what it means and what it says. And that was all coming from Michele. She’s just so meticulous. But I did fight a lot for Maladie to be barefoot throughout the whole thing, but I think it came down to a lot of locations we were filming that it was just too dangerous to do. It was a lot easier just to throw on some shoes and whatnot. So the first episode I get to be bare feet, and then the next is just kind of boots and different outfits and you’ll understand why Maladie likes to change outfits so much as it goes on.
Why was it important for you to have her be barefoot as much as possible and safe on set for her character?
Maladie’s always kind of… There’s a lot of performance there. And you’ll understand why as it goes on. But I think it’s like… She lives underground. She’s got diseases. I mean, it’s clear on her face, you know? There’s all this there, that she just wouldn’t care. She kind of lives off of the pain. She wouldn’t feel it. It wouldn’t matter to her.
Rather, it’s not being earthy, grounding, kind of soulful thing. It’s just like, “Fuck, you.” She’s not even though about that. And then you’ll find out why she’s wearing certain elements of clothing through the series and where she’s got them from.
The series has two former producers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer Douglas Petrie and Jane Espenson as writers. And on thing about the series, Buffy, is at its end it focuses on the theme that everyone is stronger together than we are apart, especially women. And that seems to be kind of a theme throughout The Nevers. So from your perspective, do you see that theme being a main part of the storyline? And what do you hope audiences take away from the series?
Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s 100%, showing a feminine united front. And it shows two factions that are Touched, and they eventually come together, or do they? It’s kind of about figuring out why it’s certain women — and some men — that have been given these special abilities. But because they’re almost like out-ed by society, because of these abilities they end up merging. So they end up kind of, you know, merging their talents on their Terms, as they call them. So you understand why they build the relationships they do.
And because the show starts with all these women figuring out why… It’s not even why. It’s like, what is this that they’d got? Is it a disease? And society thinks that it is. And then they join forces and it’s almost like it’s a new breed, a new race of existence.
The Nevers has been compared to The X-Men because its storyline is similar in the sense that both are about individuals who are super-powered and the story uses those powers to discuss deeper issues like racism, xenophobia and sexism. What do you think The Nevers does differently than The X-Men that used superpowers to discuss the struggle of marginalized people?
It’s watching those women figure out what this means and what the difficulties are. And it’s okay not to know, and it’s okay for you to not be okay with this, and to work it out. Even in the first episode, there’s something horrid that happens with a woman and her family. To me, it was almost like… My brother came out a few years ago. For him, he had an easy journey. But for me, it was one of those moments of being ousted by family. That’s a big deal. And understanding that it doesn’t start off like The X-Men — like these are young kids with special abilities put into school to nurture, for the to understand. They’re given guidance.
In this, there’s no guidance at all. It’s every man for themselves. And some factions of the Touched don’t understand. Or, they’re using it in untoward ways. And I think that’s the understanding of exploring what’s at stake. It’s milder superpowers as well. It’s not as though somebody can like disappear or anything like that. It’s these women figuring out as a united force together, basically. but honestly, there are just so many strains! [Laughs.]
[Laughs]. I know…
Even when we’re filming, we were like, “Stop it! How big is this whole show? And universe?! A lot of us have been told where it’s going to go, but we’ve only done up to the first six episodes. So it’s one of those where it’s like, we’ve only read up to that too. So we don’t know.
What is one thing that you hope audiences will take away from The Nevers?
Unity. That we’re better off together. And that it’s okay not to be okay. And that we should be able to talk about mental health or struggles. And it’s just so timely, it’s so of now, you know? What these woman are going through, alone within their own headspace, being rejected by society. Especially in Victorian England, where it was the patriarchy that, you know, was in charge. And it;s hard to exist as a woman, let alone with these abnormalities that you’ve been given. And a life that you’ve not chosen to have, inflicted upon you. They don’t see it like that obviously, but at the same time, I think that’s what’s gonna make it so different.
The Nevers stars Laura Donnelly, Olivia Williams, James Norton, Tom Riley, Ann Skelly, Ben Chaplin, Pip Torrens, Zachary Momoh, Amy Manson, Nick Frost, Rochelle Neil, Eleanor Tomlinson and Denis O’Hare. The series premieres April 11 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
Original article at CBR.
This article has been reproduced for archive purposes.