[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers through the Season 1 finale of Dispatches From Elsewhere, “The Boy.”]
AMC’s Dispatches From Elsewhere may or may not have been your cup of tea, but one thing that was undeniable was how unique, individual, and heartfelt a show it was. Created by and starring Jason Segel, the series brought together four strangers for the purposes of playing an immersive game on the streets of Philadelphia, but quickly became about far more than just whatever was going on with “the Jejune Institute.”
For one thing, it featured a beautiful and groundbreaking love story, as the shy and hesitant Peter (Segel) grew closer and closer with Simone (Eve Lindley). Previously featured in shows including Outsiders and Mr. Robot, Lindley explains that Simone was always written to be a trans woman, but the way in which the show took on that aspect of the character made the role a life-changing experience for her.
Dispatches won’t just be remembered for Peter and Simone’s romance, though. The final episode of the season (potentially the series — it’s unknown at this time if it will ever return for a second installment) broke the fourth wall in a fresh new way that added a whole new layer of reality to the story. But while the finale’s choices are deeply entwined with Segel’s personal journey, they make a lot of sense when you consider The Wizard of Oz an influence, something Lindley tapped into immediately.
Below, we explore the aspects of Dispatches that make the show such a special one, the brilliance of the recent Netflix documentary Disclosure, and dig into why by the end, Lindley felt she was playing two different versions of Simone.
What was your experience coming to the show, in terms of the audition process?
So yeah, for me, it was just a regular audition, that I went into and I’m like, I guess I’m like kind of alone in this, but I’ve always sort of loved auditioning. I think it’s really fun — it’s like a no pressure way to meet people. But I think as soon as I read the script, it was something that I really loved and I really understood it and I really wanted to be a part of it. There’s so much intricacies to it. So I really liked that.
Did you get just the first script, and then later got more episodes?
I got the first script for my callback with Jason, which went pretty well. And then, I didn’t get the rest of the scripts until a little bit later. They started to send them to me, like when we were closer to filming, but for a few months they just had the first script so I read it frontwards and backwards and did all of the work.
The first script is such an interesting one to start with, just because you come into it with the expectation of, “Oh, this is going to be Peter’s story.” And then very deliberately at the end of the episode, it makes it clear, no, this is not just Peter’s story. And then it sets up that Simone is going to be featured next.
Yeah, which is something that I sort of really loved upon my first reading. You see it a lot nowadays. It’s sort of like the Trojan horse of the show when it’s like one character sort of gets you all of these other characters, you know? And I thought that was exciting. And I loved that everybody got to be the lead for their own episode.
In terms of the process of discovering Simone as a character, what was your focus? What did you put into it?
Well, I put a lot of myself into her. Just from the moment that I read the script, I felt like I knew this girl and I felt like I completely identified with her. For me, a lot of it was about sort of allowing the parts of my personality that really mesh with her to just sort of come forward. Being method is never like part of my process, but like when I was down there in Philly, I was like full Simone, like all the time — just the things that I was doing, like she was seeping into my life. I love her, so it’s kind of nice.
So one of the reasons I really wanted to speak with you is because I am fascinated by the final episode on a number of levels. And to start off, I want to know what was your reaction to reading the episode for the first time?
Oh, I was so excited. Literally, the first meeting I had with Jason after I got cast… I’m sort of a nosy person and I want to know everything and want to bite the metaphorical apple just to see how everything is going to go. So I immediately asked him like, how is this going to end? Like what’s going to happen? I want to know everything. I want to know every episode and where we go and what we do. And so I knew about it going in. I think I was one of the first cast members to really know about that last episode, and I couldn’t wait to read it. I was really eager to see how it was all going to pan out.
For me, one of the most exciting things is that there was this other character, there was this Simone 2.0, and I felt like she was a spiritual kind of sister to the first Simone, but she’s very different. She’s on the other end of whatever journey Simone is on, whatever life lessons that the first Simone has to learn and is learning through the course of the season. The second girl feels like she’s already learned them. And yeah, I just really enjoyed playing that character. She was a little more relaxed. She was a little more cool. I kind of wish that I could be a little more like the second Simone and a little less like the first Simone.
Yeah, it’s almost like a flash-forward to Simone’s future.
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think there’s this sort of melting away of like the pretense, and it’s almost sort of like what happened to our four characters when they realized that Clara is real, but is not real in the way that they thought she was. And I don’t know, it all really made sense to me. It all really fell into place and it did feel like a bit of an epilogue for her, which was really, really awesome and rewarding.
To back up a little bit — in your first meeting with Jason, he explained to you what the ending was, but how did he explain it? I totally understand if you can’t remember verbatim, but how did he describe it to you?
I certainly don’t remember the exact words he used, but I think he told me a lot about his journey and I don’t want to divulge any of the secrets, but in the show, he’s open about his sobriety journey and all of that. So I think we talked about that first and then he eased me into the fact that that was a big presence in the show. And that was one of the major themes of the last episode. And I love the idea of people sort of picking apart themselves and their lives and taking an honest look at who they are. I was fully, fully supportive of all of that.
That’s wonderful. On the other side of things, when people have talked to you about the ending, how do you explain it to them? What’s your feeling about what actually happens at the end?
The Wizard of Oz is a huge inspiration, I think, for the overall story. When I learned that, I actually wore braids to my very first callback with Jason, because when I read the script, I was like, “Oh, four people going on a journey. It’s The Wizard of Oz. Got it.”
I grew up loving The Wizard of Oz. I have images of it in my apartment that I’m looking at right now. And I think, for me, the ending is just like, we’re going to Kansas. We’re shifting into the real world. We’re dropping the Technicolor over-the-top nature of [the show].
It’s sort of classic TV to be a little over the top, like women wearing far-too-elegant outfits to go out for dinner — in real life, everyone’s in flats, everyone’s sort of a little more practical. So things like that, little things where we became a practical and real world and the acting changes and there’s hopefully something a little more subtle about the way that we’re interacting with each other. I really feel like I played two characters in that Wizard of Oz way, where you’re the Tin Man and the farmhand.
One thing about the last episode that’s really interesting is in Episode 9 it feels like Peter and Simone get their happy ending, which is really lovely, but then the relationship between Jason and Simone is a very different one in the finale.
Yeah. I actually asked Jason when we were getting ready to make the final episode. I was like, there’s nothing in this script that really indicates that this is a romantic relationship to me. There’s like one scene between the two of us that ended up getting cut. And that one would have had the most romantic connection between the two characters. So when that got cut it really, for me kind of made the Simone 2.0 character almost like this combination of many women who have helped him along the way. It’s not specifically romantic, but she almost becomes like this uber-woman of all of the women who had been tapped for him, you know?
Of course. I was actually watching the documentary Disclosure last night–
Oh, it’s so good.
It is! I really love the way how, to illustrate the issues of trans representation over the years, all it needs to do is show a clip from Law and Order. And you’re like, “Oh yeah, this is not great.”
Yeah. I mean, I literally texted Jason recently and I was like, “Hey, you should watch this documentary. I know you didn’t set out to change the way that trans people’s stories are told, but you kind of accidentally did and this documentary just spelled out everything that I grew up with and everything that I saw and all the times that I identified with the character.”
And [the trans character] was dead or she was made fun of, or a bunch of men vomited after they kissed her, whatever the case may be. [Dispatches] is just, I mean, it’s still kind of wild to me. I’m still sort of waiting to wake up because not only did he write the role and the love story between Simone and Peter, but he even allowed the trans-ness to exist in the Jason Segel story, which I thought was really ballsy and really, really smart and really just on the right side of history. I think he’s a really good man and a really smart man.
If I recall correctly, the first time Simone actually ever refers to herself as trans is in Episode 8, which is just a really strong choice because it needs to be talked about, it needs to be discussed, but the fact that it’s not the first thing that’s discussed about her, or even the 15th thing…
Exactly, it’s not until Episode 8, and she says it. No one else is whispering about it. No one else is trying to figure it out. She just is. I think, in the initial pilot script, [the description on the page] says “This is Simone, she’s this many years old, this is what she looks like, and she’s trans, but that won’t be talked about again.” Something like that. And so we were like going on with the shooting and everything. And like when we were gearing up to do Episode 8, it was like, this is the opportunity to say it. This is the part where it makes sense to say it.
It’s like, okay, you all get a pat on the back for letting her exist without this sort of qualifier. But now the next step is to allow that thing to be there realistically and allow that thing to cause understandable conflict and allow that thing to inform these characters and how they move forward. Dating as a trans woman is not easy, and I think Simone knows that. There was something really empowering about the moment when she says it, when she says, “No, they’re thinking, what are you doing with that trans woman?” It’s just so wonderful for me. I just really loved the way that we all kind of put that episode together.
It also makes Episode 9 so cathartic.
Yes, exactly. Like after all of that stuff has gone down, Episode 9 comes and you find out that they’re still having their happy ending and they’re still together and he’s able to understand her life and her journey and not judge her for it. Yeah. Yeah.
So, looking forward, what have you taken from Dispatches that you’re planning to use and grow with?
I had been working for a while and I had been doing my thing and I really enjoyed being on random little shows and, randomly somebody would be like, “Hey, aren’t you on Mr. Robot?” or whatever. That was always really fun. But I think Dispatches, for me, was about finally believing that it was possible for me to have a seat at the table. And even if the future is very uncertain and even if the seat that I was occupying isn’t there when we come out of this or if somebody else is sitting there when we come out of this, that’s fine. I feel like I got to be there and do the thing that I always wanted to do. So, I’m really satisfied and I’m really proud and I feel very lucky.
Do you have anything that’s in the works right now?
Yeah. I have a movie that is still going to happen, which is exciting. It’s sort of a smaller part but it’s a good one. It’s a funny one. I’m eager to get there, but I know we have to be safe. And so I’m trying to be patient and trying to examine all the other things happening in the world better. It’s so disheartening and upsetting and disgusting and it’s just a really odd transitional time that I think we can come out on the other side of it, hopefully better than we were before.
Dispatches From Elsewhere is available now on AMC.