Working on the new Amazon Prime Video psychological thriller “Tell Me Your Secrets” was a draining and demanding experience for Lily Rabe. It was also a very enjoyable job because of the cast.
How these two very different parts came together can be seen when “Tell Me Your Secrets” debuts Feb. 19 on the streaming service. All 10 episodes of the series created by Harriet Warner (“Call the Midwife”) will be available on the opening day.
The tough part of working on the production for Rabe (“American Horror Story”) was playing Emma, a young woman who made the monumental mistake of falling in love with a killer. After she is released from jail, Emma looks to start her life over in a sleepy – and creepy – Louisiana town.
Emma has a long career of playing complex characters and that proved very beneficial in trying to decide the best way to bring Emma to life. But, it was meeting with the creator of the series that filled in the final pieces of the character.
“So much of what made me want to play the part was not just reading the first script but sitting down with Harriet Warner who created someone that only Harriet Warner could create,” Rabe says. “She is such a singular character and Harriet is such a singular voice.
“It was sitting down with her and hearing about Emma through her lens that made me want to play the part. It would have been very difficult having only one script and not Harriet’s longer view.”
Warner built the entire series around Emma. She wanted to tell the story of a woman who had to be in witness protection and what brought her to that point in her life. The key was examining whether it is possible to truly fall in love when one person is keeping so many secrets.
As she was creating the characters for the series, Warner never judged whether her players were good or bad. She just wrote complicated and fascinating journeys for the characters and will leave it up to the viewers to judge them.
The need for knowledge that Warner gave to Rabe came out of how Emma’s search for peace is shattered when Mary (Amy Brenneman), the mother of one of the killer’s suspected victims, sends John (Hamish Linklater), a former serial predator, to find Emma. Mary is convinced Emma has more information on what happened to her daughter.
That’s where the best part of the job comes for Rabe. She and Linklater have been a couple for years and have two children together. Rabe calls being in the same project with Linklater a wonderful opportunity.
“That’s because of the level of trust we have. There is an incredible level of trust,” Rabe says. “I love working with people that I have that level of safety with, that shorthand with.”
Rabe and Linklater had years to create the foundation for the acting trust but “Tell Me Your Secrets” is such a complicated tale that Rabe knew she would need to find that similar level of trust with the other actors.
That was particularly true with co-star Enrique Murciano (“Without a Trace”) who plays Emma’s handler, Peter, in the outside world. He wants her to think of him as a friend but it becomes clear quickly he is hiding secrets. Emma says the safety and acting connection she had with Murciano was immediate.
The trust she felt with Linklater was on a very different level as he plays a character that brings great danger into her life. Linklater plays John as someone who puts on the façade of trying to get his life in order but continues to come across as the kind of person you would never invite to your house to have dinner.
Linklater – whose past work includes “Legion” and “Fargo” – approached the role as playing John as a person with an addiction problem.
“It’s a heavy duty addiction problem. He’s trying to do the right thing,” Linklater says. “It’s the audience’s responsibility to judge that character as they see fit.”
Linklater pauses, smiles and then says it is OK if the reaction is not wanting John to be a guest for dinner.
“That’s your prerogative definitely,” Linklater says.
The series also stars Elliot Fletcher, Xavier Samuel, Chiara Aurelia, Ashley Madekwe, Bryant Tardy, Marque Richardson, Katherine Willis, Richard Thomas, Emryi Crutchfield and Charles Esten.
Amazon Prime Video is a streaming service where viewers can watch movies, series and sports. Original programming includes “Tell Me Your Secrets,” “The Boys” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.”