Awards Radar sat down to speak with one of the actresses in Apple TV+’s Severance, Jen Tullock, earlier this week. Tullock described the series as ” a workplace thriller about the life-work balance taken to the extreme, but that’s the elevator pitch. What I tell my loved ones is that it’s a drama about American ennui and loneliness and what it means to have so much pain that you can’t contain it for all of the hours of the day.” The first season is about Mark (Adam Scott), an employee of tech giant Lumon industries. Out of grief over losing his wife, the former history professor voluntarily goes through the “severance” medical procedure that separates his work and home life memories. He essentially becomes two people. When Mark and other severed employees are out of the severed floor, they are referred to as “outies.” If the employees are on the severed floor, they are called “innies.” Tullock’s character Devon Hale is Mark’s pregnant sister and wife to self-help author Ricken Hale (Michael Chernus).
Tullock shared that she loves Devon like a friend. She said, ” The thing I adore most about her (Devon) is that she’s a person who garners intel by listening instead of asking. And so, a lot of the moments we see through her vantage point in the season are quiet. It was enjoyable to find the nuance of someone whose primary experience is happening internally. However, she is a gregarious person who shares a sense of humor with her brother. I think she tends to get very quiet around the men in her life because she loves them so much. She gently leads them through their lives quietly instead of in a didactic or loud way.” Tullock commented that Devon is probably a gentler, more patient soul than her.
FAVORITE PART OF FILMING
We discussed that her favorite aspect of filming the first season was collaborating with talented creatives. Tullock spoke about how working with Ben Stiller was a dream because she has been a fan of his from childhood. She was also impressed with his ability to build worlds as a director. After watching the true-crime drama Escape at Dannemora, she wanted to work with Stiller. Tullock went on to say,” I knew how good the story was. I knew what Dan Erickson (the series creator) had created and how special it was. Working with Adam Scott, Patricia Arquette, and Michael Chernus was a treat. We shot it at the height of COVID. Because we didn’t necessarily have the physical proximity to one another we would’ve wanted, we had to compensate emotionally and psychologically on set. And so that’s a special bond that only actors who shot things during COVID can understand.”
COLLABORATING WITH ADAM SCOTT
The conversation moved to discuss what it was like working so closely with Adam Scott because they were playing siblings. She said, ” I love Adam. He’s such a kind person and incredibly emotionally intelligent. When you have those two in equal measure, it’s hard not to connect with your major collaborator. I’m close to my brother. He is my closest friend and the person who knows the most about me. So, it wasn’t a far jump to get to wanting to recreate that sort of care. The great thing about Adam in this role was that we all know him for his lightning-sharp wit. We all know what a skilled comedian he is, but meeting him in this vulnerable and tender place as Mark was special. Most of our moments together, even the lighter ones, are so loving. I loved getting to explore and build that experience with him. I feel like most lived-in love isn’t made loudly. It’s expressed the most in micro-moments that we have daily.” Tullock and Scott found that they built an intimate sibling bond in the quiet moments, like in the dinner party scene where everything falls apart. Devon and Mark touch each other’s arms to check in with one another.
DEVON & RICKEN
We also discussed Devon’s relationship with her husband, Ricken. Tullock commented that their marriage is very much based on the idea that opposites attract. She continued, ” I think Devon helps tether him (Ricken) back to earth. He helps elevate her a bit to the clouds when she might otherwise be bogged down by pragmatism or a sense of doom. I always joke that she’s the person who knows too much because she’s clocking the behavior of everyone. I think she’s the keeper of the emotional minutes. She sometimes can absorb a little too much of other people’s pain. Ricken allows her to have this big jovial, larger-than-life thirst for being alive. They’re able to meet halfway on that. There’s such a genuine friendship and love between them even though they’re completely different.”
PLAYING WITH GENRE
Severance is very much a science fiction thriller, but there are a lot of comedic elements to the series. Tullock started her career in the comedic sphere. She commented that comedy is her “favorite way to communicate.” Tullock states, ” It was cool to pivot between such gifted comedians like Michael and Adam. There were moments where we were getting to riff a little and find the show’s levity. Then we would pivot right back to exploring complicated truths in these relationships. Primarily exploring with Michael and Adam, but also Patricia as well. She can do anything. So, that was so much fun. The great thing about having two directors like Ben and Aoife McArdle that you trust is that you know they’ll move the chess pieces around if you’re too far one way (too serious or too funny). That’s the cool thing about Devon and Mark. We got to show up and goof around with each other to let people feel the warmth of a relationship that wasn’t scary.”
Tullock shared that the finale was her favorite Severance Season One Episode. She said, “I think it’s a masterpiece. I believe how Ben and Dan were able to weave the various heroes’ stories seamlessly in and out of one another was compelling. Selfishly, I loved it because we finally got to see the boiling point of Devon’s whole arc come to fruition. I think she’s been carrying all this tension for Mark’s pain and walking on eggshells around it. Finally, when everything comes to light, she talks to Mark. It was such a joy to watch Adam’s performance in that scene. The tender sibling relationship we built together was so special to me. So even though I knew what was happening in the scene, getting to watch him in that episode was extraordinary. I think he’s one of the greatest actors we have alive. “In the finale, Devon finally meets Innie Mark, who reveals some of the horrific things happening on the severed floor of Lumon Industries.
Luckily for us, Severance has been renewed for a second season. Tullock and the rest of the cast will soon start filming. We asked the actress what she was most looking forward to exploring in the second season. Tullock shared, “We get to come back and keep telling the story. I think the brilliance of Dan is that he has always been mapping out a multi-season story, which continues to expand the universe of Lumon and Severance at large. I’m excited to see what happens now that Devon has the information she has (after meeting Innie Mark). Now she and Mark are in cahoots.” Tullock ended the interview by discussing how she would love to have some scenes with Tramell Tillman. He plays Seth Milchick, the supervisor on the severed floor. She said, “I think Milchick is such a fascinating character. As a fan, I have been completely preoccupied with him.”
What are your predictions for Severance Season Two? Do you have a favorite episode of season one? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.