The Undoing’s Unsung Hero Is Lily Rabe’s Sylvia, “the Gatekeeper of

E!: Sylvia always feels like she’s about to tell a joke, even in the darkest moments. How did you achieve that? It’s so fun to watch.

LR: I’m so happy that you felt that way about her. She has to sit on her hands a lot because she wants to misbehave and push the boundary. And that’s part of what’s wonderful about her. I think that’s part of why these women are all drawn to her. She is right on the razor’s edge. And she’s very good at not pushing it too far.

That’s something with that relationship with Nicole. I certainly have friends that when you can’t say the thing you want to say, that person is sitting at the table with you and you can just give them a quick look. Or, you know, squeeze their hand under the table and you feel as though you’ve been able to say what you need to say and that you’ve been heard. I think there’s that too. 

E!: The Upper East Side is a central character. How did you tap into the minds of this high-society group of people?

LR: I was born on the Upper West Side, not the Upper East Side, very different. But growing up, I had friends who were going to schools much like the school that Noah’s character and Sylvia’s daughter go to and so I had a lot of exposure to that. Part of what’s amazing about these women, whether it was my friends’ mothers or my friends themselves, there is something about them where you never really know them. Even if you’ve spent a lot of time with them, there is this feeling of something hidden.

I think that’s why the show is so wonderful. In Susanne’s hands we were going to tell the story of these women but not do it in a way that felt stereotypical or one-dimensional. Susanne is a truth teller and she’s so curious and intrepid that we were just pulling back the layers of the place and of these people. But the thing about them is you sort of pull back the layers and you just find more layers. 

The Undoing airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

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