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We discuss how actresses like Courtney Cox and Kathy Bates were able to portray strong women as villains

In an interview with Digital Trends, the actors talk about making a bad family in the new Apple TV series.

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Over the past two decades, there had been no shortage of rotten heroes in popular media. In films ranging from “Bad Santa” starring Billy Bob Thornton to “Bad Teacher” starring Cameron Diaz, viewers have taken pleasure in the villains’ bad behavior against victims who, let’s be honest, often deserve it.

The new Apple TV+ series Bad Sisters, premiering in 2022, is the newest entry in this trend. It stars some of Ireland’s most gifted actresses in a darkly humorous tale of four sisters who struggle to defend their emotionally mistreated sibling from her repulsive husband. Anne-Marie Duff (Shameless, Sex Education), Claes Bang (The Square, The Northman), Sarah Greene (Normal People, The Dublin Murders), and Eva Birthistle (The Last Kingdom, Behind Her Eyes) discuss the brilliance of creator and co-star Sharon Horgan’s writing, the difficulties of creating a believable family dynamic, and the allure of playing unpleasant characters in an interview with Digital Trends.

What We’re Seeing in Technology Today Exactly what was it about Bad Sisters that made you want to be a part of it?

Sharon Horgan’s writing, says Sarah Greene. She has broken from her customary style with Bad Sisters. I don’t know that she’s ever truly delved into the murder mystery/thriller subgenre. Plus, I got to play with a fantastic female cast who I’ve admired for years.

I’m going to quote Anne-Marie Duff: Those scripts were out of this world, and I read them. We’d be complete moron if we said no. For the most part, it was an obvious choice.

The Birthistle, or Eva Birthistle: Absolutely, it was all Sharon’s writing. A no would be an insane response from me. To make that choice was a breeze.

Mr. Claes Bang: Yeah. When I initially picked up Bad Sisters, I was sure I’d never come across a book or movie anything like it before. That was a rather unique experience, in my opinion. The item as a whole was built in a way that was completely unique.

As you say, I agree. The show hooks you right away with the graphic depiction of a postmortem erection.

Duff: [Ridicule] Including something like that in your act is a surefire way to draw a crowd.

Anne-

When we think of Marie, we think of powerful roles like Fiona Gallagher on the original Shameless and Queen Elizabeth I. Your Bad Sisters character, Grace, is the antithesis of this. Her defenses are easily breached, and she is extremely delicate. Just tell me why you’re so interested in her.

Duff: When I have the opportunity, I always seek out new experiences. How stifled does Grace seem to you? Who she is, exactly, is unknown to us. That was very interesting to me. This individual we meet bases their identity on the appraisal of others. Exactly what is the deal with that, then? What happened to get her there? To what end did her life take her to a place where she was incarcerated?

This tale of coercion captivated me, as well. While physical abuse is common, coercive relationships, which can be just as harmful, are much less common. Seeing how far this individual could be lowered and stripped down fascinated me.

Grace is quite shy and easily intimidated. Translucent, how do you play it? That was the hardest part for me. She hasn’t lost her strength entirely, but it’s stashed away and she has no idea where to look for it.

Eva, Ursula, your character, initially seems to have everything under control, but as the story progresses, we learn that this is not the case. So, how does one go about portraying a figure whose dual nature is only gradually revealed?

Birthistle: Not sure if I’ve ever portrayed somebody quite like her before. I remember saying to Sharon, “Oh, I don’t really know who she is,” when Ursula was introduced to me by Sharon. After reading a few more screenplays and discussing it with Sharon, I came to see her as a woman who is having a tough time in life and wondering if she made the right choices. A genuine softness permeates her personality.

This kind of slow disclosure is great for building suspense and keeping the audience interested. Each character’s history and motivations are revealed to be more nuanced and multifaceted as the series develops, in my opinion. Being able to explore those nuances as an actor is a fascinating challenge.

Claes, You’ve never played a more unlikeable character than John Paul. It’s saying a lot considering you played Dracula not too long ago and murdered Ethan Hawke in The Northman. Why do you always seem to root for the bad guy?

Well, I guess I share this tendency with other actors to portray the bad guys and nastiness because there is so much more to play with, so Bang. Somewhat greater leeway is available. There’s a sick thrill in getting to abuse other people like this. No idea why it is the case. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I don’t do it and actively avoid doing it in the actual world.

The character is important, but so is the story itself, right? The scripts are fantastic, and the story is well-developed throughout.

I’m sorry, Sarah, but out of all your sisters, Bibi is the baddest. If you’ve read the book and seen you perform as her, what was it about her that drew you to the role?

Greene: Okay, so I was wary of her because she doesn’t seem to have a filter. Her timing is often off when she tells it like it is or calls people out. And at first, it was difficult to read for me. She came out as a little harsh and rude to me. Playing her, though, was a breath of fresh air and a welcome release from the norm. Compared to me, she is drastically different.

Sometimes it’s tough to capture a genuine family dynamic on film, but I think you all did a fantastic job of it in Bad Sisters. How did you get the cast to feel so comfortable around one another?

It’s not common for a television show to have rehearsal time, so Duff: Well, we did. We were able to exchange behind-the-scenes insights and look back a little bit in an effort to establish a common past. During filming, we didn’t give it a constant emphasis.

For this marriage to work, the viewer must believe that the sisters’ connection is so broken that they will do anything to save their sister.

Bang: Anne-Marie and I both wished for inclusion of material that shed light on the first spark that brought these folks together. For us, that was a crucial point to make. Duff: Yeah, we would plant times where I would find him very hilarious if he made a joke, just to show that it wasn’t all just terrible conduct. The crowd finally had a little moment of relief.

All of us here at Birthistle are siblings, so we’re quite familiar with the complexities of families with several members. Thus, I believe that we simply relived those dynamics and experiences and transferred them to Sharon’s work. Among other things, we discussed the unique dynamics that exist between each sister.

All the sisters don’t get along, Greene. Some people are far more convenient to visit than others. When interacting with one another, the sisters spoke in varying tones. The way Ursula interacts with Bibi is different from the way Bibi interacts with Eva.

Birthistle: It’s the simple things like shared mannerisms and expressions that make the whole family seem like a unit.

Apple TV+ subscribers may now watch the first two episodes of Bad Sisters. Episode premieres occur weekly on Fridays.