Carmen Ejogo’s career keeps the actress incredibly busy these days, so watching TV proves to be a little more difficult than she’d like.
In just this year alone, Ejogo appeared in sci-fi–horror prequel Alien: Covenant and horror film It Comes at Night, as well as the drama Roman J. Israel, Esq. with Denzel Washington. She also has a few high-profile projects coming up, including the third season of True Detective and the highly anticipated sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, in which she reprises her role as Seraphina Picquery, the president of the Magical Congress of the United States of America.
Ejogo also currently stars in season 2 of The Girlfriend Experience, which reaches its conclusion this weekend. The new season departs from the first by telling two separate stories about women in the GFE business. In one story, Ejogo plays Bria, a woman placed into witness protection to escape an abusive relationship with a former client, a gangster she is willing to testify against. The escort life, however, continues to beckon her, and she starts a cat-and-mouse game with those who are trying to control her.
Rotten Tomatoes caught up with the British actress to talk about her work on the show and to find out what she likes to watch when – and if — she has any downtime.
I’m not a massive TV watcher, but I’ve been watching a lot of Eric André and his talk show [on Adult Swim]. His show is a favorite of mine. I’ve been going back to watching old episodes.
(Photo by HBO)
I’ve been binge-watching and revisiting some shows. For me right now, revisiting True Detective season 1 and 2 to remind myself of how great that show was and what we may achieve in season 3.
There are so many shows I like to watch. I know I want to watch The Handmaid’s Tale. That’s next in the queue, things I need to get around to. And Godless, I should check that out. I keep hearing from good sources that it’s great, so, I definitely need to tune into that for sure.
In addition to what I already mentioned, I’m watching and waiting for new seasons of: Grand Designs, I’m Dying Up Here, Chef’s Table, Insecure, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Atlanta, Peaky Blinders, and black-ish. And movies! Lady Bird — that’s one on my list for sure. I haven’t seen Lady Macbeth, but I’m meaning to — should be phenomenal.
Kit Bowen for Rotten Tomatoes: Your story line in The Girlfriend Experience is so intriguing — what can we expect from the finale?
Carmen Ejogo: Yeah, it gets even more intriguing, trust me. I hope that what other people have picked up on is this notion or concept of agency and complicity: How much is Bria in control or how much is she affected by those around her? That kind of comes to a head by the end of the episodes, and I think it, for me, was a satisfying way to end her journey, even the plays that have been influencing and manipulating her world. I am quite satisfied with the way she ultimately comes out. It’s still complicated and still very much down to one point of view as to whether she comes back whether or not, or whether it is even that simple. I don’t know if it really ever is that simple. There is still some real complexity, but I feel good about where she ended up.
The show is ultimately about sex and power. Were you a little apprehensive about exposing yourself in ways that you maybe never have before onscreen?
Ejogo: Yes, sure. As somebody that has been in this industry for many years, to see the potential of bringing sex to the screen has always been there, as a female actress. I’ve always avoided it, frankly, because it never felt like it was going to be handled in a way that was really nuanced and interesting. I think working with [writer/director] Amy Seimetz made it clear to me that it was going to be all of those things because she is really rad, and she is really interesting as a woman in herself. She is not scared of both sides of the coin when it comes to sex and women and men. So, this felt, for the first time, like the right story to bring to the screen.
I have to go into every job I do with a sense of fearlessness and willingness to take chances and to walk through the space blindly at times and have faith. To be able to have that kind of comfort level, you really have to trust the people you are working with and the filmmaker. It was a real gift to be working with the director who also wrote the piece and who also happens to be a woman, a really cool woman. All those things combined made it feel like it was a trip worth taking.
It is handled in a way that makes sense to the story. It’s very candid, in a way, but also beautiful in the way it’s approached.
Ejogo: I agree and I really am proud of this project. I think you can go back to the viewer and watch it several times, and I suspect that it will be viewed sort of in a new direction every time. And not all material offers that kind of depth of intrigue and doesn’t stand up to that kind of interrogation. This piece really does. So I’m very proud of it. I love the character of Bria, I really do.
We’re also very much looking forward to Fantastic Beasts 2. Is there anything you can tell us about the upcoming sequel and your role in it?
Ejogo: I feel like the worst interviewee when people ask me questions about Fantastic Beasts, because I never have anything to offer. I will be shot if I said anything. [laughs] There’s nothing I can ever divulge.
How about a general feeling about it for yourself?
Ejogo: To be part of the world in any capacity is exciting for me, as it is for you. Being part of the process of filming is so — every person’s dream to imagine what it must be like to have the ideal acting job! Because you’re literally on these fantastic sets, in the most stunning outfits I’ve ever worn. You’re been handled by the best hair and makeup people. The entire character has been realized by an incredibly impeccable group of artists around you and you have to show up and do your bit. It’s just like the dream gig, so I am always happy to show up as Seraphina in whatever capacity I can. I am just very grateful that I get to show up in No. 2.
The Girlfriend Experience’s season 2 finale airs Sunday, December 24, on Starz.