Amazon's new sci-fi drama The Power, based on the bestselling novel by Naomi Alderman, takes place in a world where teenage girls suddenly develop the power to shoot volts of electricity from their fingertips.
Ria Zmitrowicz plays Roxy Monke, the illegitimate daughter of crime boss Bernie Monke – played by Eddie Marsan. Their relationship is already complicated when Roxy learns she has 'the power,' causing things to short-circuit. Total Film spoke to the pair about their complicated father-daughter relationship and what it's like to portray such in-depth characters.
Total Film: Were you familiar with the book or Naomi Alderman's work beforehand?
Ria Zmitrowicz: I was kind of familiar with it because my cousin read the book back in 2016 and she sent me a message being like, 'I've just read this amazing book and if they ever turned it into a TV show, then you should play Roxy.' So that's how I was first introduced to it. Bit of a spooky coincidence because then obviously however many years later I got an audition and I thought, 'Oh, that's that book!' So I read the book and I fell in love with it. I thought it was completely visionary. It was really thought-provoking and I just love the way that it holds the mirror up to society.
Eddie Marsan: I read the book because Amazon approached me with the interest in what I played Bernie, so read the book first and I was blown away by it. I thought it was such a fascinating study on [the concept of] power. I thought it was like, uh, kind of a kind of Trojan horse because you think it's about women gaining power, but it's not. It's about an exploration of power, the good and bad. And I love complexity like that. It's easy to act, it's really hard to act simplicity with complexity. You can look really intelligent because the writing's intelligent.
Going off that, Bernie is a very different character from Terry Donovan [a character you played on Showtime's Ray Donovan] who's a sympathetic character. Can you talk about playing someone a lot more ruthless?
EM: Yes. As an actor, you can't play. You can't perform in pejorative terms. You know, you can't play someone evil. What you have to do is play someone, and work out what they want to achieve, which is usually an aspect of being loved. Bernie wanted to be loved, but he's so dysfunctional because of past trauma that he thinks the way to be loved is to behave this way, to control things, the way he controls things. So you just try to fulfill the purpose of the character, but they're prepared to do more extreme things.
Roxy is my favorite character. She's motivated by grief and rage and both become a gift in a way. Can you talk about kind of in what went into your performance, what it was like entering, like her head space?
RZ: She's kind of got this wild energy that I had to tap into when I was playing her, which meant that I was like constantly on the go, but I think because she has a really dry sense of humor as well – that was kind of the saving grace. But I think yeah, having to tap into that anger a lot. We also worked with a movement coach called Imogen Knight, and, she helped us really visualize the power and how we released the electrical shocks.
She made us visualize that it was like a scar, which is the organ that's in the collarbone. It's kind of like a bladder. There's a scene where I release a lot of power because I'm trying to show off to my dad and show him that I've got loads of it. And, for example, once I've used it there, I probably have to sleep and rest and eat before it fills back up again. So it was just things like that, movement director, voice coach and we even had a stunt team help me with bike riding and stuff like that. So we were really spoiled in that respect.
What was it like working with such an impressive cast?
EM: I was blown away by working with Ria. I just thought she was such a courageous actress. One of the things I love about this show, and it may be because it's directed by women and written by women, and produced by women, is that there was no kind of Hollywood vanity in it. Do you know what I mean? There was none of that bs do you know?
It was just real. Ria was so open as an actress for me to play off. It was a joy. It made it so much easier for me because she was so authentic.
Did you guys have an instant connection or did you kind of work together to create such a natural-seeming bond?
RZ: We met at my audition, Eddie obviously already had the role and I was doing a chemistry test and immediately I think that we just went hell for leather at each other, didn't we? We did have a lot of chemistry straight away. And I think you can see that on the screen.
EM: I think there are two qualities you have to have. You have to be courageous and you have to lack ego. You have to be generous. It's a collaborative art form and both of us just instantly trusted each other. We just went for it. And then you can do the most abusive things, if you trust each other.
The Power is set to hit Prime Video on March 31, with all nine episodes available to stream. For more, check out our list of the best new TV shows coming your way in 2023 and beyond.