Actress Abbey Lee on Lovecraft Country and ’90s Fashion

I got to see the first couple of episodes of Lovecraft Country before it premiered, which was such a tease. It’s a fantastic show. I can see how the original book and script would be a real page-turner. What were your initial thoughts when you read it?

I mean, there’s a lot going on in it, right? And there is so much that gets revealed in each episode. It’s a real twist like that. It’s so interesting because I signed on to do this project without reading all of the scripts. The way these high-end jobs go, a lot of the time you don’t actually get access to the script before agreeing to do it. When you’ve got people like HBO and Misha Green and Monkeypaw and Bad Robot asking you to do something, it’s like, jump? Okay, how high? There are some creative people who you just put all of your faith into and that’s enough. 

As I started reading the script, I mean, I had never read anything like it. I had never read anything so multifaceted. Just the twists that it has, the way that Misha and the other writers were able to take historical events and blend them into these current-day characters but not have these characters actually in those real events was insane to me. And there are so many elements. You have fantasy; you have family; you have horror; you have thriller; you have special-effects work and magic. The script has everything. There’s nothing missing. 

Jordan Peele is an executive producer and a thriller mastermind. I have to imagine he was a big selling point for the project. 

Oh absolutely! He is so prolific in our time. He completely combusted everyone’s minds when he came out with Get Out, you know? He has really tested audiences to take in cinema differently. And what an honor to get to be, in part, accepted [by him]. I’m not sure how the casting process goes, but with these big ones, everyone has to sign off, and to know that he signed off on me working on something that had his name on it is an honor. 

Your character, Christina Braithwhite, is shrouded in a lot of mystery. You can’t really tell if she is good or bad. What were the conversations you had with creator Misha Green prior to filming? 

Well, I think one of the main themes—well, there are a lot of themes it touches on—but I think one of the main themes it touches on is this idea of good and bad and what is actually good and what is actually bad. And isn’t it true that the terror and the beauty of life is that our morals are not objective? There is really no right and wrong. Christina, on the one hand, is seemingly this kind of manipulative and aggressive woman who plays monopoly with the lives of these Black people and uses her privilege to get what she wants, and at the same time, she is also similar to them in the sense that she has been brought up in the patriarchal community and world during the 1950s.

And she, like all of the other characters, is trying to liberate herself from that, free herself from her own oppressions, get love, get respect, and find a way to feel like she belongs. The way in which she gets those things is questionable, but her intentions are very human. A lot of the time I would query Misha on why is Christina is doing this when she feels like this? How can she do this to this person when she says she cares for them? I would get all wound up trying to understand these things in doing my character work. One of the things Misha said a lot about Christina is she wants you to have what you want. She wants to have what she wants. She’s about that. Whatever goes, goes. And there is something very liberating in that, and Misha really gave me permission to run with this idea of Christina, on one hand, being so hungry for power and at the same time not really giving a fuck. It was such a provocative role to take on because of that. It was so much fun, but it was also infuriating because there was so much about this woman where I was like she is void of a conscience! She just does whatever she wants!