DOLLHOUSE INTERVIEW Dichen Lachman

You’re best known in Australia and quite well-known in Britain for being in Neighbours, but Dollhouse is probably your first exposure to a US audience – has that been a big change of pace for you?
“Yeah, it is – Neighbours is actually a lot faster! It’s on every day of the week for 25 minutes an episode, so we were shooting 25 pages a day, whereas on Dollhouse we may shoot eight. The difference is not so much in pace I guess, but the size of the production is so much larger, and there’s obviously more money being poured into an American network show. So in that sense, it’s different. And also working with people who have so much film and TV experience, whereas in Australia it’s more limited. Most of the people I worked with had been on Neighbours for most of their careers. They’d been working on a well-oiled machine for the last 15, 20 years and just had their thing going, whereas in America everyone’s moving around and shifting and have worked on a million different things, and they just have a different set of experiences.”

Has there been a big difference in how SF fans who know you through Dollhouse respond to you compared to soap opera fans?
“Sci-fi fans and Neighbours fans are very different! I always remember that Neighbours fans would say, ‘What happens with this? What happens to Susan and Karl?’ or ‘What are you doing next?’. Sci-fi fans appreciate their spoilers a bit more.”

A lot of fans feel that Sierra didn’t get enough screen time in season one – is that going to change for season two?
“Hopefully! The first three episodes for me have been quite light, but I think people can look forward to seeing more Sierra and more Victor. I think they’ll go into our back stories a bit more, and Victor and Sierra’s relationship. I don’t know what’s going to happen with it but I think it’s definitely going to be present. I’m looking forward to it – I love working, I love being on set and would have loved to have been on set more last season, but I look forward to doing that this season. Fingers crossed!”

Do you know anything that’s in store for Sierra this season at all?
“I think she’s going to become more aware. Obviously the relationship with Victor will be dealt with more, and I think people can look forward to seeing her getting some of her power back. Not all, but some of it – last season she was tortured a lot and I think it’s going to be interesting to see her being quite strong. But that’s as far as I know!”

Are there any aspects of her character or history you’d really like to see explored in more depth?
“I’d love to see more of her origins. I’d also love to play lots of different characters and be challenged with inhabiting these people our writers have created. It’s always exciting to get a script and read a completely different person on the page, and find interesting and creative ways to inhabit them. It’s always something I look forward to. I trust them, I think they’re all amazing and I look forward to seeing what they come up with.”

Looking at the show more generally, are there any big points we should be looking out for in season two?
“Paul Ballard will have more of a presence within the Dollhouse, that’s going to be quite interesting, to have Tahmoh being inside, because it changes the chemistry of it a little. Obviously the premise of the show is that the Dolls are becoming more aware so I think they’re going to focus on that a lot. And then there’s also the day-to-day engagements. I think people are going to be really pleased with the new season – every episode’s been fantastic, everyone’s excited about it and I hear it looks amazing. I think it’s something that people should really look forward to.”

The first season came in for a lot of criticism because the format meant that the stories often felt quite exploitative, and Sierra’s development meant that she was quite close to that. Since you play the character, how would you yourself respond to Dollhouse’s critics? Do you think they’ll find season two more palatable?
“I think there are always issues in the world that are difficult to deal with, and one of the ways to confront them, and display just how wrong and exploitative people can be to each other is to communicate that in a dramatic form. It’s usually done in theatre, but now it’s coming into film and television, and I think there are issues that people don’t like to talk about. The show is definitely saying that these things are wrong, and if anything I think it might reinforce to people just how important choice is and how important an individual is in this world, and that their voice should be heard. I think if people are finding it hard to watch for those reasons then maybe it’d be good to see the positive in the fact that the show is saying how wrong it is, and we have that conscience in the show. Boyd is that conscience, Paul Ballard is that conscience, saying that these people are people and you’re essentially raping and murdering them by taking away who they are. Joss is like that – it’s why he writes the shows he does and why people love his shows, because they deal with hard issues and he parodies the climate we’re living in. It’s an outlet, and people respond to that.”

Is Nolan going to be back, and if so, please tell us that something awful happens to him!
“As I say, I think people can look forward to Sierra getting her power back in some way, shape or form, and I think Nolan is going to be a key part in that occurring, without giving too much away. I think that’s important, and I think that the people watching the show – especially the people who find that stuff difficult to watch – I think it’s important for them to have a sense of closure. I think that’s definitely going to occur at some point. You can look forward to that! It is such a difficult subject. There are people all over the world suffering in obviously not literally the same predicament, but… Somaly Mam is this woman who works in Cambodia who was a sex slave, and she now works constantly to try and rescue girls who have been forced into brothels against their will and basically kept prisoners in these houses where they’re exploited on a daily basis – girls not even of the age of 12. It’s a really important issue and I think that it’s important that people get a sense of closure, and that he gets his just deserts, because it’s so relevant, and such a sad situation.”

Dollhouse season two begins with a double bill tonight on Sci-Fi at 10pm.