In 2018, the TV series Lodge 49 released in the US, and managed to charm critics and general audiences alike. Written by Jim Gavin, the show is a complex delight that is guaranteed to make you laugh, cry, and leave you contemplating strange alchemical philosophies in your spare time. After four years, Lodge 49 is finally coming to the UK – exclusively for BT TV customers – and to mark the big occasion, The Digital Fix spoke with actor Sonya Cassidy about her time working on the show.
Lodge 49 tells the story of the spiritually lost Dud (Wyatt Russell), who stumbles upon a fraternal order that changes his fate for good. Dud finds a new meaning to life at the Lodge, surrounded by friends and enticing alchemy mysteries left by the order’s founder Harwood Merrill. Cassidy plays the role of Liz, Dud’s twin sister, who also has worries of her own as she struggles with debt, all while working at a low-paying job in the Hooters-reminiscent bar named Shamrocks.
Cassidy is no stranger to TV, having appeared in shows such as The Last Kingdom, and the hit sci-fi series Humans. However, in our interview, the star shares why she would love to return to play the character, Liz. Cassidy also dished on what Lodge 49 season 3 would have looked like if it got made, American accents, and reveals to The Digital Fix a Last Kingdom update that fans won’t want to miss.
The Digital Fix: Lodge 49 is really beloved but also really hard to explain in a pitch. What gravitated you to this project in the first place?
Sonya Cassidy: Thank you, I share the same thing. It’s brilliant; actually, Lodge 49 doesn’t easily fit into a convenient box, and I think that’s quite rare for shows. Even just reading the slide that I was sent for the audition, which was basically a scene in Shamrocks with Liz being like, ‘why would you want to work here?’ You know, moments of truth and service.
And another one was just a very simple scene of Liz and Dud sat on the sofa watching telly. And it starts with them, as we see a lot in the show, kind of talking about what they’re watching. And then it descends into quite an intense argument between the two of them about money and debt and like much bigger existential problems.
I couldn’t believe that in the space of a few pages, I went from genuinely laughing out loud to being so moved. And I was like, ‘Oh, God, this writing is exceptional’. I love this character. As much as she is this very wonderful American So-Cal girl, there was something about Liz that I just connected with from the get-go. So I sent off those audition tapes, and when I got a recall, I ordered Jim Gavin’s (our writer), short story collection Middlemen, which is fantastic. Just to kind of get more of a feel for him.
And I was like, ‘I really liked this guy. I love how he writes’. And then I read the scripts, and I was like, ‘Oh, God, I want to play her. I just loved the world. I loved Liz.’ Again, I love that she didn’t fit into a kind of nice, neat box of womanhood. Yeah. Are you enjoying the show, by the way?
Funny business: Best comedy movies
I am! Very much. And it’s really interesting that you brought up not fitting into a box, because the thing that I love about Liz is there’s one moment in the show where she didn’t want to hold a baby. I feel like that’s so rare to see women who just don’t want to be around children in media, you know?
Yeah! And it’s not making a big deal of it. It’s not on the nose. She’s not trying to be some kind of radical feminist in that way. It’s just, this is another type of womanhood, and that’s okay. You know?
So, I heard that you’re a black belt in Taekwondo?
That is true. Yeah, that is true.
In Lodge 49, we see Liz go through some crazy moments. Like she is jousting in a trolley, then she is pulling her couch with her teeth. Since you have experience with martial arts, I wanted to know if you did all your own stunts?
So, I had a couple of really amazing stunt doubles, who would do a lot of the heavy lifting. But yeah, Jim [Gavin] really enjoyed throwing me curve balls to see if I would run with it. And I was always game for trying. But I am also the first to go, ‘actually, if this is too dangerous, I will leave it to the professionals’. But, yeah, there was Dumpster diving, and dragging the couch.
I remember there was a take where I did, in fact, pull the couch myself with my teeth, which I was very pleased about. Yeah, a lot of it was done by myself. The falling through the glass coffee table, though, in season 1, I have to say, was left to a very brilliant professional. Because I would have copped that up in a monumental fashion.
But no, I’m always game for trying that stuff. But I would never push it to a point where it was actually dangerous. But I was also very gentle with that jousting scene you mentioned. I did not injure my co-star with shopping trolleys [laughs].
Liz is the twin of Dud in the show, who is played by Wyatt Russell. You and Wyatt had great chemistry on screen. What was it like working with him?
A joy. Truly. As luck would have it, he was filming in London, and so we were able to meet because I live in London. Usually, we were able to meet for what’s called a chemistry read. And I’d never met Wyatt before.
Obviously, I knew of him, and I thought he was great, but we just sat down and got on with it. And when we first sat down, it was like, ‘Oh, here’s Liz and Dud’. It was just so easy acting together. And that is such a lovely moment as an actor; there’s something unspoken there. And that felt really important for that sibling relationship.
These characters have gone through so much together, and they deal with it in a very different way. I kind of imagined them like entangled particles, you know? They could be on other sides of the universe. But there’s something there between them. Really, Dud is all Liz has. She has the guys she works with, she has her brother, and she has her debt in season one. So yeah, finding that chemistry was, thankfully, very easy.
Things that go bump in the night: Best horror movies
I’m a huge fan of the horror movie The Thing, so I have to ask. Did you ever meet Wyatt’s dad, Kurt Russell?
Oh! Unfortunately, I didn’t. I think Kurt did come to set one day, but I wasn’t working that day. Apparently, he was just beaming with pride for his son – as, of course, you would. And I heard he just really enjoyed watching him do his thing.
Yeah, Wyatt is so incredibly grounded and down to earth. And I have to say what I’m so proud of with the show, and I hope it comes across, well certainly from how it’s been received over here in the US, is that I think you feel like you are a part of the Lodge when you watch it.
Because when we were filming it, there was such a bond between all of us as much as Liz’s storyline is kind of her own contained thing. There was a real sense of togetherness and working very hard to kind of bring people in and help them kind of escape for a time. And Wyatt was at the helm of that, and he was a great leader of our Lodge, our sovereign protector.
Nice. I’m sure he’ll be very happy with that title.
Many fans also know you from your work on the TV series The Last Kingdom. Your character didn’t die in season 5. So, can we expect to see you in the upcoming sequel movie, Seven Kings Must Die?
It’s with a heavy heart that I say no. Because of a scheduling conflict. I had a blast on The Last Kingdom. I was a big fan of the show anyway, so it was really fun to kind of join those guys in beautiful Budapest. And I really liked that character, I really enjoy playing Eadgifu, but my time playing her it was for season five.
Alas, but yeah, someone else will be picking up that baton. So I’m glad that at least her story will continue. In another world, I’d have happily done it. But unfortunately, I couldn’t.
I’m sure many fans will be sad to hear that, but it makes sense.
It’s fun to mix things up. Yeah.
We actually joked about this before we started this interview – your flawless accent on Lodge 49. In the show, you’re playing an American. And I wanted to know, what did you do to get into that mindset as a Brit? Did you prep for the cultural differences before you went on to set?
So, I did a lot of American plays when I graduated from drama school, on the West End, and also I’ve always loved accents. I’ve always had a pretty good ear for them. I’m fascinated by them. They are so much more than sounds. I will never learn any lines before I’ve nailed the accent because how Liz would sound with my accent would just be wrong. There’s a very British way of being that I don’t feel elsewhere in Europe, but I’m profoundly aware of how incredibly British I am [laughs].
In America I’m like ‘Oh, hello, sorry’. It’s kind of laughably absurd, but um, yes, it just wouldn’t sound right. And so I made sure that I had that, but I also grew up watching a lot of American telly. I think as young folks growing up in the UK, all the best television was American stuff. And so, I think it was just kind of being absorbed.
Heart-wrenching: Best drama movies
But as an actor, I had not been to LA. I’ve not done the LA thing. You know, if I was working in the UK, I’m working, and I’m doing the job. And if I wasn’t working in my 20s, I was broke, and could not afford to go to another expensive city to be among hundreds of others looking for work.
So, I feel that I’ve had this incredible introduction into life and work in LA, that I hold very close to my heart because I’ve met some amazing people on this job. And Lodge 49 was the kind of the links lingering in the sand of jobs, it felt very special when we were doing it.
And it was a joy to interact with fans over here, who were also very touched by it. And great to know that the American accent still flies. So yeah, but really sorry [laughs]. The short answer is with accents I just kind of listened to it and drill it and drill it until I’m not thinking about it anymore.
I’ve read that Lodge 49 was originally planned to be four seasons. Obviously, there are only two, though. Can you give us an idea of what Lodge 49 season 3 would have looked like if it had come out?
So, each season would have been based on earth, fire, air, and water. The first two seasons are water and fire. The third season would have been earth. So, I’m not sure when this will be coming out, and hopefully, people can watch the first two seasons from the get-go.
But if this isn’t a spoiler, at the end of season two, it had been set up out of fire to enter the earth. And, as I’m sure you’re aware, that kind of incredible, absurd, magical realm of the show, that is all the kind of alchemical mystical elements, the sort of magic in the mundane, if you will, with the Lodge and its history is something that we would have drawn upon.
Almost to the extent of perhaps, being in a kind of period drama. With our characters around the time of Harwood Fritz Merrill, and the kind of dawn of these early lodges, essentially. And, and also how it flipped for Merrill’s journey, and how that led to the lodge in Long Beach as we know it now.
But I have to say, I, none of us quite know. That’s all still in Jim’s head. And I would love to know how it ends. And I don’t know, I can’t speak for the rest of the wonderful cast, of course, but I know that Wyatt and I will always be open to continue telling the story should that ever happen.
Who knows in telly right now? What I love about the show, and one of its many strengths are, I think, is its timeless quality. And it was really interesting to see people find the show, throughout the last two years. I think it was not only a kind of magical escapism but provided real solace for people. And it’s just filled with gorgeous SoCal sunshine, which I think, whether you’re watching it in America, or in Britain, or Europe or anywhere, it just, yeah, the doors are open, and you’re welcomed in. And I think that’s a really lovely thing in television. It’s a mark of a good show; you feel a part of our Lodge, in a sense.
Epic saga: Best TV series
I have to ask before we go as well; you said in a past interview that you could see yourself acting every single day of your life. So you must have a dream role, right?
Gosh, that’s really interesting! Maybe lots of other actors do? I have to say I don’t have one role. I just love playing all types of people. That’s the dream – to be doing it till I’m a little old lady shuffling on and off stage, or on an offset. As long as they’ll have me. And bringing to life, lots of different stories and having the chance to use things that I kind of acquired through life.
You curiously view the world and go ‘oh god, that thing that that person just did,’ or ‘the way that person speaks or how they present this is so interesting’. I kind of Magpie store them for when the right character comes along. I’m sorry if that’s kind of a dull answer, but all the parts, basically, all the roles!
That’s the joy, I think. It’s a lovely challenge as well with the script, you’re kind of given the answer, and in creating that character, you need to ask the questions to get you there and delve into what makes that person think and do the things they do. And also, then what do you as an actor choose to do to make the most interesting choices.
But in a shameless plug for our show, what I will say is to bring Liz Dudley to life again, at any point in her life, I would adore. She’s far cooler than I will ever be. And I really, really liked her. I really respected her. And I like that she wasn’t easy. She was at once, kind of lovable and hilarious, and also kind of a piece of work, and frustrating and profoundly human.
I think for all the magic in our show; I think people – wherever you’re from and whatever your circumstances are – if you’ve ever known what it is to struggle, to be in debt, to just worry about making ends meet, it is here too.
Knowing where you’re going in your life, what your relationships are like with family and friends, somehow, Jim has managed to get all of that into this show. And in a really beautifully subtle way, that just quietly sits with your heart. And to share the space with those actors again and bring those characters to life would be a joy. But yeah, otherwise, I love playing various period dramas, Viking dramas, American shows – yeah, love it.
Lodge 49 premieres on AMC (BT TV) on July 31 at 9 pm.