Jasmin Savoy Brown on relating to THE LEFTOVERS and her upcoming series WILL

Jasmin Savoy Brown photographed by James DePietro

Jasmin Savoy Brown should look familiar as she’s steadily been popping in on some of TV’s biggest shows. Small parts on BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, GREY’S ANATOMY, and GRIMM led to a longer stay on Freeform’s STITCHERS. Her most prominent role to date has been the fairly pivotal Evangeline ‘Evie’ Murphy on HBO’s THE LEFTOVERS.

The third and final season started in April with (spoilers) the surprising death of her character as the show barrels on to what will likely be an incredible powerful finale. This summer, she’ll also take on the role of William Shakespeare’s presumed “Dark Lady,” Amelia, in TNT’s historical drama WILL (premiering July 10).

I had the chance to talk with Jasmin about working on THE LEFTOVERS, what she hopes fans can take away from the finale, joining WILL, and helping people in any way that she can.

What’s it like to get that first script (of THE LEFTOVERS) and realizing, “Oh hey, maybe my character’s not gonna make it.”
I was not happy [laughs].

Was there any conversation beforehand? Or was it truly that you got the script and you saw that was what was happening?
No, I read the script and that’s how I found out.

After you’re over that first initial shock then, what goes through your head, as an actor, getting prepared to play that final scene?
I just wanted to do Evie justice. I wanted to make sure that I was out of the way and I wasn’t holding on to anything, because I enjoyed it so much I didn’t want to let go. I had to make sure that I was out of the way and just present. I really just didn’t want to mess it up.

You look at that show, and the caliber of acting, and the actors and the writing involved. What was it like to be a part of that world, even forever how long you were a part of it?
Man, it was just a total … I don’t even know the word for it. Being a part of something like that, we didn’t realize while we were shooting; we were just having fun. At the same time, I can recognize how brilliant everyone is, and I have a lot of … two or three moments. A lot of, “Am I really here, working with these people on this show?” Because you’re right, every aspect of it is just phenomenal, and to be a part of that, I still sometimes can’t believe it.

What do you think fans can take away from the show? Do you think … looking forward to the series finale, are they going to be satisfied? What do you think fan reaction will be to this end of the series here?
Wow. Okay. I think the reaction will be emotional. As odd as this sounds, I’m feeling gratefulness, because I think even though some questions won’t be answered, a lot of things will be tied up in an emotional sense. Just different people’s final scenes are just beautiful, beautifully written, and really tie together the human experience, which is what I think, at the end of the day, this show is about. I don’t think it’s about a sudden departure or sci-fi or whatever. I think it’s about the human experience and dealing with grief and love and loss, and I think they tie that up really, really well.

You point that out that it is about the human experience. Not a lot of people can relate with the sudden departure of hundreds of people or whatever, but they can relate to that feeling of loss, that feeling of grief, that feeling of guilt, those things. Was that something that you found yourself relating to as you were shooting it?
Yes, totally, I 100% related to it. That’s why I love the show so much. I’m quite familiar with grief and loss. I feel like I’ve just lost a lot of people, especially for my age, like family members and friends that were really good friends passed away when we were 13. To see that portrayed so accurately and honestly was really healing for me, and I really appreciated it, and I could definitely relate.

We talked a little bit about, obviously, the caliber of the actors, people like Regina King. She’s so powerful. What was it like working opposite her specifically, especially some of the scenes you had to do with her?
Yeah, especially the stuff on the bridge. That’s the thing about it. In thought, in theory, it’s terrifying and amazing. Regina King seems so humble and just loves acting so much, she’s so giving that in the scene I am not thinking about that at all, because she doesn’t make it about that. Getting to work with her was just a dream come true. She’s so giving, and I love her. I could praise her all day. Really, when I was casting and I was playing her daughter, I freaked out.

Jasmin Savoy Brown photographed by James DePietro

Was this just a normal script that came across your desk and one of those ones that one of your management said, “Maybe you want to go out for this?” What was joining the show like? Had you been a fan? What was it like to get involved in THE LEFTOVERS?
It wasn’t just like anything else. Actually, I didn’t get to read the script until I had already been cast, but I had a couple of pages of sides, and I thought they were just beautiful. I’d never even heard of the show when I auditioned originally, but when I read the script, I just had this incredible … I mean not the script, the sides, I had this incredible emotional reaction, and fell in love with it. By the time that I booked it, it was also just the time in my life where I really needed it [laughs], because of my struggles, working a graveyard shift and not getting any sleep, and I had no money, and so it changed my life in every perspective in terms of opportunities and artistry and everything. It really changed my life.

Do you get recognized now? Are people stopping you? Are people interacting with you on social media? What’s the fan conversation been like since your episodes have aired?
Yeah. On social media, definitely a lot more. I love the fans. People just have so many interesting theories. It was so fun reading them, like where they thought the girls went. In person, not so much. It’s happened a couple of times. I think I end up freaking out more than they do, because I can’t see myself being recognized. I’m like so excited.

I get that. I’m so excited also about WILL. I’m such a Shakespeare fan!!
Oh, you’re going to love it, then.

I don’t know much about it. I’ve seen the trailers. I haven’t watched anything yet. What is WILL? What will we really see explored in this show?
I think that’s another show about humanity, in a different sense. It’s about William Shakespeare who everyone knows. We know him as a polished playwright William Shakespeare. We don’t know him as a 20 something, undeveloped kid who’s making his way to be who he’ll be remembered as. That’s really what it’s about. We get to see him dealing with his family and friendship and loss and love and lust, and developing these plays and getting rejected.

I think that’s a really interesting story, because personally, I love to hear those stories about how people that I love and admire, actors, singers, whatever, how they were rejected a lot in the beginning. I love knowing that. It gives me a sense of, “Oh okay,” that I’m doing okay. I find that inspiring. That’s what this is about. Of course, it uses old English language, but it’s paired with modern music and modern themes, but really the themes of Shakespeare are just always forever modern. It’s a really cool combination of the two, and it’s really fun and really sexy.

You get to play a real person. What kind of research goes into playing Amelia? Did you know of her? Were you aware of the Dark Lady before getting involved?
I’d read some of Shakespeare’s sonnets in high school, and a few years back, but I didn’t know much about her, until after I was … actually in the auditions I started doing some research online, and there was a little bit available, but then once I was cast, I started reading a book about her life. This man, John Hudson, was very interested in Amelia and the Dark Lady, and he did all of this research about her life.

Then also her poetry is available online, so I went and downloaded her first book of poems that she published, and drew from those, and then just did research. Actually, some of her family members were painters, and some of their paintings, the Venetian paintings, are in different museums in London, so I went and looked at those paintings. It was really cool to do all of that research and draw from these real text and real things, because I’ve never had the opportunity to do that before.

Jasmin Savoy Brown photographed by James DePietro

WILL is set in the 16th century, obviously, but why do you think, like you said, there are themes that we’re going to relate to. What is it about this, that current, modern audiences are going to fall in love with?
I think we can relate to it, because it’s Shakespeare, and he’s known for his themes being forever modern. The language may be different, but we all know what it’s like to lose someone we love, or to fall in love, or to be angry, or jealous. I think that’s what’s relatable about it, it’s just that it’s forever relatable. Also I think the cast and the writing, the whole thing. I love it, obviously, but I think the cast is very enticing, because it’s people from all over the world. I’m the one American, we have someone from India, we have someone from Russia, Ireland, England, Wales, people from everywhere, and to see all of those faces, all of those stories and history of these voices on screen together, telling a story collectively. I think we need that right now as our state of the world and our state of politics is so polarizing, and we’re all being pulled in different directions. To see everyone come together just to tell a story, I think, will be very healing and enjoyable.

What I’m excited about it, too is that it just seems like it’s a bunch of new faces we haven’t seen, and people we’re going to grow with as we watch the show, which I like that aspect of it.
That’s so true. That’s really cool to think about.

It sounds like you keep yourself very busy. What else are you working on besides WILL? I’m assuming you guys are done shooting season one. What else have you been doing, or are you working on?
Yeah, right now I’m working on LOVE, the Judd Apatow show on Netflix, which has been super fun and exactly what I wanted to do coming off of WILL. I haven’t done improv comedy yet for a TV or film, so that’s been really fun. I’m in class, studying, and taking voice, and I’m traveling. I’m just keeping myself very busy.

I like that you’re doing a little bit of everything here and there. It doesn’t sound like you’re trying to go after one genre … You’re not only doing comedy, you’re not only doing drama, you really are just doing it all. Was there a goal like setting out as you’re an actor, as you’re starting out? Did you find yourself drawn to drama or comedy? Or was it just a general sense of, “I wanna be doing this, I wanna be acting?”
Just a general sense. I go through phases, I think. I’ll tell myself that I love drama the most. Then, I get a comedy script, and I fall in love with it. I really just want to do it all and not limit myself. My biggest goal of all is Broadway. Someday, I would love to be opening a show on Broadway. I love musicals, musical theater more than anything.

You can do so much in a stage show. There’s just so much that can happen. There’s nothing like it.
There’s not, and the energy of having the audience there to share the moment is magical, and it is very a big thing.

Obviously, you’re very supportive of your charity that you work with. Was that something that you just found when you got to L.A.? How did you get involved in Peace Over Violence?
I think I just had told a friend that I wanted to volunteer and I looked into it and I thought it was just an incredible company. I come from a city where I don’t know if there’s a high amount of domestic violence, but there’s a high amount of drug use, which relates the domestic violence. I was just very familiar with drugs and domestic violence and the effect it has on people. I have a place in my heart for those people, and for healing and support and love. I was very drawn to that organization. At the end of the day, I just really love people and whatever that looks like, whether that looks like, volunteering or hanging out or babysitting, as long as I’m with people, I’m helping them, I’m happy.

THE LEFTOVERS is currently airing Sunday nights on HBO.
WILL premieres on TNT on July 10.
LOVE Season 3 will be available on Netflix sometime next year.
Peace Over Violence can be found here.

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