Rachel Keller on the para­noid feel­ing of Legion

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - JOSEPH V. AMODIO

Part of the cool look of FX’s hot new se­ries “Legion” — de­but­ing Wed­nes­day, Feb. 8 at 10 p.m. — is the dewy, de­ter­mined new face of Rachel Keller. Well, not so new to “Fargo” fans, who’ll re­mem­ber her at­ten­tion-get­ting per­for­mance as Si­mone Ger­hart in in­stal­ment two of the se­ries.

Now she’s back in her big­gest role yet, star­ring op­po­site Dan Stevens (yes, “Down­ton Abbey” fans, we’re talk­ing Matthew Craw­ley) in this ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated sci-fi sus­penser from “Fargo” showrun­ner Noah Haw­ley. Based on the Marvel comics, the story fol­lows David Haller (Stevens), a trou­bled soul di­ag­nosed as schiz­o­phrenic — but is he? Or does the gov­ern­ment just want him to think that he is? En­ter Syd (Keller), a fel­low psy­chi­atric-hospi­tal pa­tient he falls for, who be­lieves he may be more heroic (and pow­er­ful) than he re­al­izes.

Keller, 25, grad­u­ated from Carnegie Mel­lon Uni­ver­sity. She lives in Los An­ge­les with her grand­mother, and re­cently spoke by phone about the show.

Q: With all the twists and turns of this show, it had me feel­ing para­noid.

A: Just think what it’s like act­ing in it. Here’s this guy who’s not sure what’s real and what’s not real. So how do we cre­ate an ex­pe­ri­ence for the viewer that par­al­lels that? We’re build­ing some­thing com­pletely new. And if it’s a lit­tle dis­ori­ent­ing, that’s kind of ap­pro­pri­ate.

Q: There are peo­ple in this show who have cer­tain pow­ers. If you could have a su­per­power, what would it be?

A: I must’ve been a bird in some pre­vi­ous life­time. I feel like I’m called to fly­ing — the con­ve­nience and the beauty of it. That feel­ing of soar­ing would be em­pow­er­ing.

Q: Dan Stevens is pretty fas­ci­nat­ing in this.

A: He’s ex­cep­tional. He threw him­self at this work, and it’s chal­leng­ing. His role takes a level of sen­si­tiv­ity, open­ness and ta­lent, and that’s what Dan has. That’s why his char­ac­ter is com­pletely mag­netic. When Noah told me, “I think it’s gonna be Dan,” I said, “Oh­hhh, I like that. I was a to­tal fan of Down­ton.”

Q: What was your first meet­ing like?

A: Dan and I had an af­ter­noon in Santa Monica and it went on and on and on — we lost track of the time. You have to ap­pre­ci­ate when you just con­nect with some­one like that. It was like we were al­ready friends, in a way. It’s not hard to be his friend. He’s not pre­ten­tious. But there was some­thing spe­cial that hap­pened when we met. We still talk about it — dur­ing dif­fi­cult mo­ments on set ... we both re­al­ize we can rely on each other, as if we’ve known each other a while.

Q: That’s great. OK — change of sub­ject — how’s your grand­mother?

A: Well ... Grandma?! How you do­ing?! I’m home right now. She’s be­come one of my best friends. It’s been a to­tally sur­pris­ing op­por­tu­nity for both of us, now that I’ve lived with her for three years. It ex­tended longer than we thought it would. And she’s great. Here’s a woman so full of love and in­cred­i­bly non-judg­men­tal. I learn so much from her.

Q: Why did you want to live with her? I mean, I’m sure she’s swell but ... it’s an un­usual choice for some­one right out of col­lege.

A: It was the best de­ci­sion. I grad­u­ated and de­cided to come straight here. I couldn’t af­ford New York or L.A. on my own. Mov­ing in with her was in­ter­est­ing. It was a way of pro­vid­ing a place for my­self that felt safe, and maybe a bit away from L.A. There’s a sheen over the in­dus­try, that I’m sort of re­sis­tant to. Q: You grew up in St. Paul? A: I was born in L.A. My sis­ters and I were play­ing in a park­ing lot and my dad was like, “Nah, nah, nah. Let’s go give ‘em some grass.” And Min­nesota is beau­ti­ful — gor­geous sum­mers, blus­tery falls ... Q: And tough win­ters. A: Yeah. My par­ents were re­ally lov­ing, open peo­ple. I don’t re­mem­ber them ever telling me this pro­fes­sion is dif­fi­cult. They were just “Great. Done. Go for it.”

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