Based on the best-selling series of books by Lemony Snicket, aka Daniel Handler, the third and final season of the Netflix original series A Series of Unfortunate Events follows the Baudelaire orphans – Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes) and Sunny (Presley Smith) – as they continue to try to defeat their evil uncle Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) on his mission to get his hands on their inheritance. While also on a search for the truth about their parents’ mysterious death, the Baudelaires find themselves crossing paths with pregnant cab driver Kit Snicket (Allison Williams), who seems to have answers about the clandestine organization V.F.D., along with the Sugar Bowl and its great power.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Allison Williams (Get Out, HBO’s Girls) talked about the honor and privilege of getting to play such an important role in the show’s final season, why Kit Snicket was so much fun to play, keeping the audience guessing, playing real vs. fantastical characters, having so much to explore in such a short amount of time, the wild experience of working with Neil Patrick Harris in full character, and how she felt about her character’s fate. She also talked about The Perfection (which will stream on Netflix in 2019) and why it’s best to see the film while knowing as little about it as possible, as well as the type of projects she’s looking to develop. Be aware that there are spoilers discussed.
Collider: Kit Snicket is such a very fun, bad-ass character. Was she just a blast to play?
ALLISON WILLIAMS: Oh, my god, she was so much fun to play. It was such a blast because she is so unlike anyone that I’ve played before, and singular, in general. Especially because there are fans of the show, I really wanted to do her justice. There’s nothing worse than disappointing a bunch of fans.
What does it mean to you, to get to play such a pivotal part in this story, in the final season?
WILLIAMS: It was a huge honor and such a privilege to be able to play Kit. She plays a huge role in the story and in the Baudelaires’ lives, and I just wanted to make sure that I got it right, for that exact reason. At first glance, you see her and you think, “I don’t really get what role this character’s gonna end up playing in the show and with the Baudelaires.” It’s not obvious, at first glance. You have the feeling that she’s there on purpose and that she’s there with a purpose, but you’re not quite sure what it is. That’s deliberate because it mirrors what the Baudelaires must be thinking about, “Who is this lady, and why is she interacting with us?” I also just wanted to make sure that I didn’t break the reality of it. I wanted the viewers to feel like she had always been there, rather than being this sudden, new character. I wanted her to feel like Jacques and Lemony, and like a Snicket, in every way.
It’s funny because, if you broke this down on paper and tried to describe this character, she’s the mysterious pregnant woman who drives a cab.
WILLIAMS: And who goes sprinting through the forest holding a sugar bowl. Yes, all of it is just wild. That’s who she is. I think it’s cool that she’s such an individual and such an enigma, in so many ways. I also like that we know her brothers, so it sends this message of, “Oh, you thought her brothers were curious? Wait til you meet their sister.”
When you’re on a series that clearly has good guys, with these Baudelaire children, and bad guys, with Olaf, is it fun to get to be the character that keeps you guessing because you’re not sure of her motives and intentions?
WILLIAMS: Yes, of course. I actually think Get Out probably helped with that. The first time you see her, you’re like, “I genuinely don’t know what this woman is doing, alone in the forest, with Mr. Poe.” That made it really, really fun. The element of playing a good guy was very appealing to me.
Your last TV series, Girls, was very real and very naturalistic, and A Series of Unfortunate Events is so fun and fantastical. As an actor, what do you most enjoy about getting to play a character that is very real and that feels like you could cross paths with in the street, and what do you enjoy about getting to play a character that really can only exist in a fantasy world?
WILLIAMS: First of all, it was so fun to be in such a heightened world. I wish we could’ve brought every fan of the show to the set because the set was magnificent. They were unbelievable. They built everything inside. So, the first incredible treat was to be able to play in this world of make believe, but for real because it was all there. There was an actual carnival inside, so that was amazing. But also, the tone of the show, the way everyone talks, and the unknown era that it exists in, that’s sometime in the past but we’re not exactly sure when, all made it really fun because it was totally outside of anything that I had done before. It was such a fun challenge and adventure to take on, especially tonally. It’s not, at all, naturalistic. I’m saying words like, “A self-sustaining hot air mobile home,” which is not a line that ever had occasion to come out of my mouth on Girls.
At the same time, is there a different kind of fun that comes with playing a character who anybody could know because she’s so real?
WILLIAMS: Yes, totally. It changes the pressure because you’re trying to play everything as real as possible. With someone like Kit, you’re inventing someone, so you’re creating a whole new barometer for what is normal, but you’re also playing someone that the viewers feel like they know and there’s that added pressure, as well. So, while it was so fun to play Marnie, and to play her real enough that people could have real feelings about her and to feel real annoyance with her, it’s also fun to play someone as heightened as Kit was. It was a real blast to imagine sprinting through a forest with skis that you made out of tree bark, carrying a porcelain bowl. All of it was just so much fun.
You’ve previously talked about how you had to keep your casting on this show a secret for awhile, and that you even had to lie about who you were playing on this show. Is there an added layer of fun and excitement when you’re playing a role that’s that secretive, or is it just really hard to keep a secret like that?
WILLIAMS: It’s hard, especially because the people I was keeping it from were, for the most part, kids. It also felt mean, but they got it, and because they’re fans of the series, they were in on it. They were like, “Oh, okay, don’t spoil it.” They liked the idea of it being a surprise and they were enthusiastic about that, so that made it easier. They didn’t ask too much. I would ask them, “Who do you think I’m playing?,” and they would say either Beatrice or Kit because those were the two major female characters that had yet to enter the world.
With a show like this, you never know what you’re going to actually get to do, until you’re there and doing it. Kit Snicket is a bad-ass secret agent, but you also get to explore her softer side, as a loving sister and a mother. What was it like to get to play all of those aspects in the same character, in such a short span of time?
WILLIAMS: It was so fun. When I got the show, all I read was that last episode of Season 2, and then I got to read the first couple episodes of Season 3, but it’s not like I knew everything that was gonna happen before it happened. That made it a fun adventure. I’d read the books, so I knew how it ended in the books, but I didn’t know how they were gonna end it in the show. I did know it was gonna be some kind of hybrid between the books, the Beatrice letters, and the imagination of the writers to fill in the gaps left by the books because I think the viewers were owed explanations for a few things.
I also love the fact that, through Kit Snicket, we get to learn about a different side of Olaf because we get to see their past together. What was it like to work with Neil Patrick Harris, in full character?
WILLIAMS: It was wild. I got to see him going into hair and make-up, and I felt a little bit like a little kid at Disney World. If I saw the real him, it would make me less scared of him. I got to interact with him a couple of times on set, where he’d be half in character and half out of character. He really was so welcoming. It’s intimidating, coming onto a show in its third season, especially when it has such a rabid fan base, as this one does, and he made me feel very, very welcome. I like him so much, as a person, in real life, but it was very hard to interact with him when he was in character ‘cause he looked like such an awful guy. To know that he isn’t made it a little bit tricky. I don’t think little Presley [Smith], who plays Sunny, has ever seen him not in costume. She looks at him and says, “Olaf.” She doesn’t know that his name is Neil, and that he’s very nice, likes kids, and has some of his own, which I think is funny.
Is it ever a challenge to not crack up, when you’re acting in scenes with all of that going on?
WILLIAMS: Constantly, especially because all of it is so heightened and funny. I laughed the hardest when I was with Louis [Hynes], Melina [Weissman], and Presley. Presley is so funny, and she made us laugh, all the time. I have this one video of her rolling her eyes during a scene, that makes me cry with laughter, to this day, when I see it.
You also have The Perfection, which is supposed to be released through Netflix this year, and that sounds like such an interesting film because it’s such a very different story for the horror-thriller genre. What was the appeal of that project for you, and what most excites you about getting it out there for audiences?
WILLIAMS: I can’t tell you much about that because any description of it involves spoilers. What I will say is that Get Out was really fun, and the thriller genre allows you to throw it all out and be really bold. The genre allows for more experimentation, and that’s freeing. It broadens the different types of ideas and projects that were appealing to me. So, when I read the script for The Perfection, I had very similar feelings to the feelings that I had when I read Get Out. That was a pretty strong indication to me that I should do it. It’s very different. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’m extremely proud of it. It’s a wild ride, and I’m very excited for people to see it. I also don’t want to say anything more ‘cause, like Get Out, it’s best viewed cold.
You had to become familiar with the cello, which is an instrument that’s not easy and that we don’t get to see much of. Did you know what it takes to play the cello?
WILLIAMS: I had no idea. I knew it was hard. I played a little guitar for Girls, so I knew that string instruments were not my forte to begin with, but the cello is hard on a level that I truly could not have comprehended. I have so much respect for cellists. They make it look so easy. Just sitting with the cello and having it not fall on you is challenging, let alone the bowing and fingering, and everything. It’s really hard, and I had to get at least pretty good at it pretty quickly, so it gave me a newfound appreciation for the real masters out there.
Do you know what you’re going to do next? Are you currently working on something now, or are you trying to figure out what that next thing is?
WILLIAMS: I am. I feel like I’m in a permanent state of reading, thinking, and looking. I’m developing stuff, and I’m thinking about doing other projects. I have a couple of things, but nothing that I can tell you about, unfortunately, resulting in a very boring answer to your question.