Sally A. Edwards interviews "SEE" and "Blade Runner 2049"'s Sylvia Hoeks about her new show, beginnings, iconic antagonists, unusual inspiration for characters and fashion.
This article was published in November 2019.
Interview by Sally A. Edwards
Photography by Boaz Kroon
"Let It Happen To You"
In 2019, Apple forayed into the lucrative and highly competitive world of original content with the launch of “Apple TV+”.
Upon launch the line-up included: “The Morning Show” with Jennifer Anniston, Reece Witherspoon and Steve Carrell and “Servant” from M. Night Shyamalan starring BLAG cover alumni, Rupert Grint along with one-to-watch, Nell Tiger Free. Then “Dickenson” starring Hailee Steinfeld and “Truth Be Told” about a true crime podcaster starring Octavia Spencer. All A-class and plenty more shows were signed-off to follow.
The one that got everyone very intrigued though, is “SEE” with a major league team including those behind film franchises and TV, “Planet of The Apes”, “Hunger Games” and “Peaky Blinders”.
So far many critics have utterly panned the show and comments under trailers have viewers guffawing at the concept - and I’m putting it politely. At circa $15m per episode which includes paying to “drain a lake” in order to have an “unseen location”, the curiosity was huge. Contrarily to the initial reactions, the show went on to be renewed for another season.
So is it actually good? Well, “SEE” was shrouded in mystery other than its trailer - which on Apple TV+’s channel has had 27m views with comments switched off. So we got Sylvia to tell us about it and we can tell you her past performances have been positively received. You will have likely seen Sylvia as the critically acclaimed, Luv in “Blade Runner 2049” and as Camilla Salander in “The Girl In The Spiders Web” so you’ll know she’s bringing an arsenal of skills.
We talked about the show, beginnings, iconic antagonists, unusual inspiration for characters and fashion. We also got acting guidance for those of you wanting to launch your careers and found out what unexpected genre she’d love to be involved in.
Firstly, Sylvia tells us a little more about the story, “‘SEE’ takes place in the distant future, 600 years after a deadly virus decimated humankind. Those who survived, emerged blind. Humans have refined and enhanced their other senses, adapting and transitioning into smaller, more tightly knit communities. Then, two babies are born with the now fabled power to see. Their lives will launch a quest to find the mythical place that houses all knowledge of our civilization and a goal to remake the world learning the mistakes of our past.
But are they destined to repeat the mistakes of the past once the gift of sight is reintroduced to humanity?”
No wonder season two has just been greenlit, it seems like a complex story.
Sally: You star in “SEE” as Queen Kane, a spiritual and military political head. This sounds incredibly powerful! How would you describe her from looks to ambitions and weaknesses?
Sylvia: She’s a leader that operates by her own standards, driven by love and fear. If these two are off balance, there’s no knowing what her next move is. She’s very smart and always one step ahead of everyone but she is equally as emotional which causes her to be reckless at times.
Sally: What was a typical day like on set for “SEE”?
Sylvia: We shot on a lot of remote locations outside of Vancouver and so we’d often be filming in beautiful nature, but my palace was built in an old power plant and the set designer really did an amazing job with that location in creating the queen’s world. We had an amazing Canadian crew and a wonderful cast that very quickly became one big family. Working with Francis on the scenes was so much fun. He’s a true collaborator but has a clear view on the story he wants to tell. A typical day of Queen Kane was just so much fun as she is very fun to represent. It’s a character you can be very free with and very strong with. There’s vulnerability in her spirituality and strength in her leadership.
Sally: You’ve been acting for 14 years, prior to that you modelled whilst at school. Did the modelling spur you into acting?
Sylvia: I’ve been wanting to act from when I was eight years old when I acted in my first play at school. Being able to show my emotions and be true to a story as a young person really affected me very positively. I wanted to become an actress ever since.
Sally: How long did you study at the Maastricht Academy of Dramatic Arts?
Sylvia: Four years. During summer break of my first year I started filming and I felt I had found an essence of what I had tasted on that stage as a child. It felt like coming home.
Sally: What’s the most unexpected thing you learnt there that you still apply today?
Sylvia: “Let it happen to you”; be open and in the moment. Of course you’re trained to study scripts and do a good amount of preparation but when on stage or on set, “let it happen to you.”
Sally: You speak four languages, have you applied all these to your acting?
Sylvia: Yes I have and hopefully always will. I love acting in different languages. It creates more space between emotions and words. I love exploring that space.
Sally: You played Luv in Blade Runner 2049 and the press loved your performance. What was it like acting the villain?
Sylvia: I was so grateful Denis Villeneuve and the producers gave me the opportunity to embody Luv. I hadn’t done any work like that prior and so they were very trusting and I’m unbelievably grateful to them for that. Luv gave me so much as an actress and a person. I always tend to look for the dark in the “good guys” and the light in the “bad ones “ as I don’t believe in good or bad people. I’m interested to see what’s behind that darkness and where their hopes and fears lie. Queen Kane in that sense has been a wonderful source of light and dark as well. :-)
Sally: Who do you think is the most iconic antagonist and why?
Sylvia: My favorite movie character of all time is Isabelle Huppert’s main character in “The Piano Teacher” by Michael Haneke. She is looking for pain as she is looking to live. Love is never something she has gotten used to as she wasn’t given much and so she hurts herself to feel and to experience ..until this means destroying herself. The light and dark in this character is so very beautifully performed. As an audience it leaves you with so many questions and so many different emotions. It’s exactly I feel what a character should do; make an audience feel and reflect. Just marvelous. “The Joker” to me is the most interesting bad guy of all. The dark and light in that character knows boundless depths. Very intriguing.
Sally: What unexpected genre would you love to act in, which part and why?
Sylvia: I haven’t done comedy drama in a while and I love it so much. I’d love to work with a director like Noah Baumbach or on a show like “Succession”.
It is comedy in a way I don’t see it often. It’s not on the nose but so smart and nuanced. It’s all about timing and fantastic writing. I love that.
Sally: For those who desire to act, what is the process in a nutshell to getting on screen?
Sylvia: I believe in doing what you love. There has to be a tremendous amount of love for storytelling. As it won’t always be easy, the love will pull you through. Try and audition at schools that will really teach you the craft. I learned so much in theatre school. If you want to learn through working on set that is great too but remember to always challenge yourself in learning new things. I believe you’re never done learning and learning to me is so wonderful. It can make me so happy to learn from the masters I admire. Its energizing. It makes me happy. It’s like getting a key to a new world full of possibilities.
Sally: Are there any other aspects of film you’d like to be involved in?
Sylvia: I’m working on co-producing my own mini series at the moment about the life of Sylvia Kristel, the lead actress in “Emmanuelle”, the soft erotic movies back in the day. She was the embodiment of female sexuality and her life was so intriguing and so rich in conflict. A woman I feel people should know about. It’s energizing and fulfilling to be a part of the project from the start. To create this story from the get go. I’d love to pursue that more in the future.
Sally: What unusual things have inspired you for your roles?
Sylvia: I get inspired by many different things. Sometimes I’ll hear a song on the radio and it will be the basis of a character. Sometimes I base a character on a poem or a book. Sometimes on one picture. Sometimes partially on people around me. The feeling of finding that click, that source is an exciting place to be at as an actor. Everything is possible.
Sally: You attend many fashion shows, how do they inspire you for your work?
Sylvia: I’ve always loved fashion because of it’s power to transform. I feel that costumes are a big part of a character. It’s a language that is so clear for an audience. It’s everything I don’t need to act. It’s there.
Sally: What’s next for you?
Sylvia: I’m filming a movie called “Plan A” about a group of Jewish young people after the Second World War that were called the partisans; who tried to take revenge on the Germans by trying to poison the water system in Germany. It’s a beautiful and very sad story that I feel is so important to tell.
This story is showing part of what happened in the Second World War and we should never ever forget this, especially in this time where strange things are happening and a lot of recklessness rules the world. I play opposite August Diehl who I look up to as an actor and it’s wonderful to work with him. The Paz brothers are directing and it’s a joy working with them.