(Editor’s note: The following interview contains minor spoilers for the series finale “Mrs. Davis” – Episode 8, “The Final Intercut: So I’m Your Horse.”)
For “Mr. Davis” are played by Betty Gilpin and Elizabeth Marvel, the beginning of their work conveying an intricate mother-daughter relationship came at the end of the search for the holy grail of the Peacock limited series.
“That scene was written brilliantly but rushed over a weekend while Beth and I were poring over the outlines for episodes 3 through 8, so we’d know what was going to happen,” Gilpin said of the first scene he shot with Marvel, which was the culmination of the show’s series finale. “I’ve shot off duty before, but I’ve never done this, where you’re shooting the most important scene in the show.” Regarding work on Tara Hernandez and Damon Lindelof’s unpredictable sci-fi adventure drama, which covers humans’ relationships with both technology and religion, Marvel added, “It was just a day off for everyone, like if I never really knew what was coming.
Despite not having a complete picture of where the show was headed, about a nun’s journey to closing an all-powerful but deceptive piece of AI, Marvel knew that playing dour Celeste, securities maven and mother of Simone (Gilpin ), still meant driving with love. “The relationship between a mother and daughter is so fundamental, I always thought it would be in this story,” the actress said in conversation with Gilpin during IndieWire’s Awards Spotlight. “The problems you have with parents are so similar in a weird way to the problems we’re all struggling with with AI. Because AI doesn’t come from a neutral source, someone has to create it. And how does that affect the knock-on effect it has on everyone involved and the responsibilities to manage it? All these questions are somehow intertwined.
Feeling guilty about her contribution to a young Simone who has taken an arrow through her liver, Celeste’s heavy-handed approach with how she tries to further protect Simone, as described by Marvel, is “it’s going to block the whole universe, he will control the entire universe, including his appearance, his work, everything within his reach, is under his control, including, to the extent he can try, control the safety of his daughter.
In turn, Gilpin said that despite being a nun and trying to embrace the humble life that comes with that religious commitment, “Simone is more like her mother than she would ever admit. That in the near-dissolution of her relationship with her parents, and the man she loved, Wiley, nearly dying, realizing that loving just one doesn’t guarantee safety, or forever. That there will be a risk of losing them, or that they will betray you. That there’s always this underlying thing that may not be forever. So she found a boyfriend, who, every time she closed her eyes, was there for her no matter what, without any risk, similar to (how) Celeste set the rules and circumstances of her life, to evade the risk and vulnerability and pain.”
Simone and Celeste gaining more self-awareness during the show leads them to realize that the appeal of Ms. Davis (also the name of the AI antagonist) is that she’s “just trying to give the person in front of them all that want to please them,” said Gilpin. all aspects of “Mrs. Davis” together.
“Her proxy for Ms. Davis, that gimmick that there’s this other thing in Celeste’s ear allows Celeste and Simone to have a, in the guise of ‘Oh, that’s story A and like story B ‘ (a way of saying) ‘By the way, I love you and I’m sorry,'” Gilpin said. ‘It allows them to pass these messages to each other under the door that they probably wouldn’t be able to face face face to face just having such a bald conversation together, which is lovely.”
Watch the full Awards Spotlight conversation between Gilpin and Marvel in the video above.