‘Who are you?’ That was my first question to Britt Lower during our conversation. Anyone who watched her incredible work on Apple TV+’s mind-bending hit series Severance will understand why. My answer to my own question ‘Who is Britt Lower?’ She’s a revelation.
Lower’s thought-provoking work on the Ben Stiller directed series is the type of performance that permanently plants her in the minds of viewers. Severance is a complex look at corporate drudgery where people’s memories are strictly and surgically divided between work and personal life. Essentially they become two people (innies and outies). The innie is the side of you who only knows their work existence, the outie lives the personal life. It is a challenging premise, but Lower is up to the task.
From confusing first minutes right up to the heart-racing closing seconds, as Helly, Lower delivers a riveting performance with scattered moments of dark humor. Among an impressive ensemble that includes heavy hitters like Adam Scott (who Joey just interviewed here), Patricia Arquette, John Turturro, Zach Cherry and Christopher Walken, Britt not only holds her own, she leads the pack with an emotionally impactful performance that literally shows two different sides of her character.
Awards Radar sat down to speak with Lower about her career, working with Stiller and that cast, her thoughts about the Severance experiment and more. When I asked Lower about working with Stiller she responded:
“He’s so kind and passionate about the work. I think when people think of Ben, they think of some of the like, goofy or silly or roles that he’s played that are so hysterically funny. But, he’s a really serious guy. He’s a true artist. I consider him one of the greatest directors of our time. Having seen Escape at Dannemora where he worked with Jessica Lee Gagné who’s also our DP for this project, I could see that throughline there of the cinematography and the visuals. Ben’s just a very cinematic director, and a great guy.”
Lower discussed who her character is and what drives her: “Helly blazes through and really starts to raise those questions of who are we? What are we doing here? And what are the ethical implications of being kept somewhere against one’s well. I really admired the writing in that everyone’s journey is so specific to them, especially Dylan, Zack Cherry‘s character and his connection to his family. You come to understand the value system that each character is operating from and what matters most. For Helly, she really wants to know who she is at core, and who her family is on the outside. Then, of course, the big reveal at the end.”
On working with the incredible ensemble, it is safe to say Lower was blown away by the cast list as much as viewers were. She had this to say, “ I was grateful for the first part (during COVID), when we weren’t acting together, we would have our masks on. And that was probably a good thing, because my jaw was dropped most of the time. And I was like, ‘I’m working with these legends. I can’t believe this is happening.’ She continued, “Everyone was so generous, and just working at the top of their game and is really just so passionate about the work that they were doing. It’s a treasure to get to watch.”
Lower did not always share the set with the full cast, giving her a different perspective when sitting down to watch the series – almost making her an innie when watching her own series. “Since a lot of our tracks on the show are very separate, it’s been so nice to watch the show come out, because I feel like I’m also an audience member getting to see my friends work for the first time and see how the show comes together as a whole. I think it’s a really beautiful piece of art. I feel lucky that I’m a part of it,” explained Lower.
When it came to those intense closing minutes of season one, Lower was like all fans – at the edge of her seat, “I remember watching it myself for the first time and my heart was pounding so much. I could feel it. I put my hand over my heart. I was like, I can feel my heart leaping.”
If after Severance you are searching for more of Lower’s work, she has a surprisingly long filmography. More surprising was the fact that during our interview she was currently living out a childhood lifelong dream to perform in a traditional circus. As she explained, there was a good reason, “I am currently developing my short film Circus Person into a longer format. As part of why I’m here with the circus is getting to know the circus community and really understanding it from the inside.” Like Helly, it looks like there are really two sides to Britt Lower.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our conversation and what I learned about Britt. Be sure to watch the full video interview (above). We cover much more about her work on Severance, the start of her career, Christmas plays at home, chickens on the set, that ‘bonkers’ set and much more. Be warned, there are some spoilers.
Severance is streaming exclusively on Apple TV+.