What’s it like to film those family scenes with all the child actors?I really love it. I stay away from him a little bit, because it just sounds so bonkers to me. It’s a nice dialogue in that way, without talking to each other. I don’t think we want to see anyone wearing masks. Kristen has a whole bevy of daughters to take care of. Did you all talk about how much the show would engage with the pandemic?We did talk about it. There’s so much of the show that does reference specific biblical passages or occult literature. There’s one that’s actually by a Dutch psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk, called The Body Keeps the Score. You have these confrontations with Michael Emerson on the show that intensify in the second season as he comes by asking for an exorcism. Sometimes when we do it and it starts to get really messy or gory and clearly this person who’s exorcised is being tortured, we ask him, “Is this right?” And he goes, “Yeah, this is exactly how it goes.” You’re like, “What the hell?”
But I can see, as myself or as Kristen, that going through an exorcism can be something where you’re able to let something go. So it’s open to interpretation, whatever you might think watching it. She’d just taken matters — specifically, an ice ax — into her own hands after having her family threatened by Darren Pettie’s murderous Orson LeRoux. There’s a difference in her costumes and makeup too. Katja Herbers. I’d look at the call sheet and be like, What, he’s coming? You can’t unlive the experience of bludgeoning someone with an ice ax. I’m still in touch with all those people — I had tacos with John Hickey just the other day. If you are evil, do you know that you’re evil? Because of the obstacles women face to be taken seriously, is there always a conceit within that empowerment? They get along very well with each other, and they’re great improvisers. The pandemic isn’t going to hit [on the show], which I think is a great choice. Are there things you noticed them writing toward based on what they’ve seen in the footage from the set?You’d have to ask them, but I think they do see things about whether actors work well together. It’s going to sound bubblegum or whatever, but I love these girls, and we’re going to be a fake family for life. It keeps me in the present, and their writing is so multifaceted and I can do so many things with the character they’ve written for me. Evil’s got a lot of moving parts. Tags: Then there is a question about female empowerment. It was a question of whether Mike Colter and I would have any chemistry, and we do and we’re fun to watch together. It unleashes a whole different side of her. But once we got used to what it was, there wasn’t too much of a difference. It’s all [meshes her hands together]. Well, that’s crucial, because so much of the horror comes from threats to what might happen to her kids.Which is why I hope that people who watched and find out that Kristen has murdered this guy understand why she did it. industry. Is there someone who comes in as an expert on whatever you’re depicting?Yeah, for instance, when we do an exorcism, we have a monsignor come in who actually exorcises people, which I cannot get my head around. But in playing it, I wanted to leave space for that [other interpretation]. We don’t have to worry about it being exactly 43 minutes and having exact commercial blocks. Clearly that’s going to cause some problems! But then obviously, we got canceled and I didn’t work for a year and it was not easy at all. I’m hallucinating.” But there is doubt, and she’s not in a great mental place, I’d argue. I hope a lot of mothers can relate and not write her off. That could feel like a real neurosis: What if I’m losing my mind? What’s it like to play off of him?It’s like chess. Photo: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP/Shutterstock
The first season of Evil ended on CBS with Katja Herbers’s ever-skeptical psychologist Kristen Bouchard burning her hand on a crucifix. What you see onscreen is an actual loving relationship. Maybe? I don’t know. I was like, “Wait, wasn’t it going to end that way?” And then, no, clearly not. But it didn’t matter. [Laughs.]
What are the scariest moments to film on your end? There’s the plagues in the Bible. Her mind might think that she’s totally fine, but her body’s going to tell her that she’s not. Over a Zoom call, Herbers talked about leaving room for the audience to guess about Kristen’s darker turn, bonding with Kristen’s many daughters, and her journey from Holland to American TV. The crew was always masked, and that felt distant at times. While filming, I read a lot of psychology books because it makes me feel smart and like I can pretend that I know what I’m talking about. She’s also more in touch with her sexuality. Do you think about at what point she might really believe something supernatural is happening?She’s like an elastic band, she keeps snapping back to science. Then the idea of her slowly losing her sanity, that was the most scary thing for me to play. And then, as in the first season, we did get a lot of Broadway actors who came in for an episode. Were you looking to do work in America specifically, before that show came along?I was doing theater in Germany at the time, and I’d always wanted to go to America, because I can pretend to be American with my fake accent and I wanted to put it to use. But I do like that the show is in the moment before and that danger is there. [Laughs.] So I added a little something-something. It was probably also going to be the case on the show that the two characters connected with each other, but maybe more so because we do have that. He literally said, “I’m going to kill your children.” I think Kristen would do it again, if in the same situation. And I guess a way to do that is to look attractive? I always thought it was a shame actors are limited by their language, so I learned languages and thought it was important to learn many accents so I could pretend to be all these people. The show, now on Paramount+, picks up with a version of Kristen who just may have verged into the darkness. But even if Kristen can justify killing him as an act of self-defense, her actions are still haunting her, and as season two starts up, some other demonic forces might be, too. I was wondering what it was like having that be your entry into the U.S. You don’t see a little chuckle from the guy holding the boom or whatever. We were in Santa Fe, in the desert, and that just made for a big connection. She might think that she’s entirely fine and did the right thing after killing LeRoux, but is she? I was like, Wow, what’s the fuss? As the show goes on, Kristen’s confronted with more and more evidence of demonic activity, but she’s still clinging to whatever explanations she can. She still doesn’t wear a lot, but I think she is more interested in power and her sexual power, and being able to manipulate a guy. We’re constantly trying to outsmart the other people, and I think it’s different now, this season, because Kristen has killed someone. That’s a lot to take, so luckily, as Herbers pointed out to Vulture, Kristen can let off more steam by saying “fuck,” instead of “darn” or whatever other network-TV-acceptable phrases she might’ve used before, now that the show has moved to streaming. Obviously, you always know it’s not real, but you can envision it being so, and that’s pretty scary. You have a lot of guest actors. I grew up watching American TV and film, and my parents are musicians who always traveled to America and all over the world. She doesn’t regret killing this person. As the season begins, it gets into the question of whether Kristen might have become evil or demonic after killing Orson LeRoux. In the first few episodes of this season of Evil there’s a little reference to COVID spreading in China, in the background on the news. I read their scripts and I interpret it and they watch dailies and they see what I do with it. I can understand it from that therapeutic way of looking at it. She’s wearing more of it this season.I wore almost no makeup in the first season. And also, I can say “fuck!” A lot of the situations Kristen finds herself in do warrant a “fuck.” I went back and did some ADR for some of the earlier episodes where I didn’t have to say “darn it” and could just say “fuck it.”
Looking back on your career, you started out in American TV on the show Manhattan, which had a great cast of people like John Benjamin Hickey and Rachel Brosnahan, but unfortunately didn’t get much of an audience. I think our show is more fit for streaming. It’s been used for Kristen this year. She’s still on the job, investigating potentially supernatural occurrences with Mike Colter’s priest and Aasif Mandvi’s tech expert, but she’s also experiencing a new set of hallucinations involving a djinn, exploring more of her sexuality, and trying to work through the aftershocks of, you know, murder in therapy. We heard when we were around the 11th episode that it was going to happen. On a basic level, we weren’t allowed to have a lot of extras in the scenes. She’s happy he’s no longer a threat to her children, and in the way that she talks about it to her psychiatrist, she almost seems to flirt with him as she tells him that she’s killed a person. We’re all so tired of it. Some of the things we had to downscale. You destroy yourself and at the end of it you’re all clean. I guess you could interpret that as being pretty evil. Coming back to film the second season, did you talk with creators Michelle and Robert King about what Kristen’s arc for the season would be?They leave me very free to interpret their writing and how I want to play it. What was your reaction to the news that Evil would be moving to Paramount+ for this season?I’m very excited about it. There might be a point where she can’t explain it away, and then she’ll just find a way to say, “No, I need new medication. Some people take mushrooms and vomit in a field, and it’s like that. I guess it just made me spoiled because I thought, This is working in America!, and it became the only work I wanted to do, TV I wanted to watch myself. On the flip side of that, is there a way you get your head around the psychological perspective Kristen has?There’s nobody I talked to, except that I’ve been in therapy myself and I studied psychology for a bit. It’s nice to get to act in front of a community of people and receive some kind of response, like theater. Hollywood is so easy. I imagine some of the ones that involve CGI are less so.Well, the stuff with the elevator was pretty real [in the fourth episode], because I was sort of stuck, and that’s not necessarily a place you want to find yourself in. How did you approach playing that?I never thought of myself as evil, or that I’d gone to the dark side, but as Kristen is a psychologist, she has a way of explaining it away as the aftereffect of murder. I went into those scenes just thinking, “Well, I could kill you.” What’s great about this season is that I’m shattered from within by what I did, but also extremely empowered by what I did. They did tell me an arc, and then it ended up not being the arc when I read episode ten. So I went to America and tried it, and Manhattan was my fourth audition. How did filming during COVID affect your process?I’m humbled and proud that we got to film 13 episodes during the pandemic. It shoots in New York. I’m still very grateful to have been on that show, and all those people are still my friends.