April 3, 2020 Interview – Lynn Collins
You know Lynn Collins from her eclectic resume of work in top-tier films such as 2007’s The Number 23, 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and 2012’s John Carter. This, along with stints on TV series such as True Blood, Covert Affairs, and Bosch have helped the talented actress to explore new worlds and to discover new facets of herself. Recently, that creative and spiritual journey led Collins to the controversial role of Liz Rhodes in Beneath Us, a new Horror-Thriller that arrived to select theaters on March 6th, 2020.
Obviously nothing like the abhorrent character that she portrays so hauntingly in the film, the candid, kind-hearted, and conversational actress recently sat down with Cryptic Rock to provide intriguing insight and sage wisdom on such topics as her career in entertainment, the challenge of tackling Beneath Us, the seemingly endless cycle that is hatred, Tower moments, and so very much more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in acting for over two decades now. What initially inspired you to pursue a career as an actress?
Lynn Collins – I originally was training with Béla Károlyi in Houston, Texas, to be an Olympic gymnast, and I had a serious growth spurt and really got lanky really fast. If you know anything about gymnastics, that’s not good. I ended up actually really injuring myself and they told me that I was no longer viable, as far as being an Olympic athlete. They were just very honest, and I had to very quickly find an outlet for all of my competitive energy. (Laughs) You know, floor routine was my jam; it was creative energy and performance energy.
In Texas everything is competitive, so in my junior high they were already doing speech and drama tournaments. I started doing that and I started winning everything. I was like, yes, this is feeding everything I love! (Laughs) It was really just a snowball effect. The high school that I went to, Klein High School, already had graduates at Juilliard and SUNY Purchase and Carnegie Mellon—all these incredible conservatories for acting. So, I was just on this trajectory that just naturally sent me into New York City and to Juilliard at 17. I just rode the train, you know? It has a life of its own even today.
Cryptic Rock – Obviously you were destined for this.
Lynn Collins – I’m not going to lie, I have a very complicated—it’s not acting that I have a complicated relationship with. That, to me, it’s almost like shamanism; storytelling was the first sort of church when it comes to indigenous cultures, tribal cultures—what we initially were as a society. That I get 110%: it’s in my DNA, it’s in all of our DNA. Where I have been confused, and have sort of self-sabotaged in a way, is the exposure and the fame.
That aspect seems the barometer of how successful you are in our society. I really resented that, because my idea of being a great actress was that I would be such a transformational artist, such a chameleon that people wouldn’t recognize me. At the end of the day, what I was learning is that being recognized was validating that you were successful. I still don’t really know how I feel about it, you know? (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – Well, unfortunately, what people view as success is often very skewed.
Lynn Collins – My feelings of success, my feelings of living my purpose and being on my path, what I learned the hard way is that it has nothing to do with what society says success is. It has nothing to do with anybody else’s idea: it’s the internal state that you have to have and you have to work at making it consistent in yourself or it’s never going to be enough.
Cryptic Rock – Exactly. There are still people who view the best actors as being, like you said, the chameleons who constantly challenge themselves, don’t repeatedly play the same parts, and really try to push the boundaries with each new role.
Lynn Collins – It’s interesting. When you were saying that, the first actor who came to mind was Daniel Day Lewis—he has a very similar conflict to what I have. (Laughs) I’ve skipped out many times; there’s been many times where I just said, okay, that’s it, I’m done. I say I’m going to be a tarot card reader, I’m going to go have a baby and be a wife for the rest of my life. None of that works! Every time I’ve tried to leave it’s like this soul contract goes, “Uh, uh, uh, you can’t. So stop making shoes, there’s another important story you have to tell!” (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – Obviously, as we have been discussing, you have quite an intentionally diverse resume in film and television, including roles in blockbusters such as 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 2012’s John Carter, and the Prime TV series Bosch. What is the most challenging type of role for you to portray?
Lynn Collins – Liz Rhodes is really challenging, because of exactly what we were talking about. I knew when we were shooting this movie, I could already kind of see where the climate was going socially, and I was like people are not going to be able to separate Lynn Collins from Liz Rhodes. It was a challenge to go 110% and say I’m going to dive right in, and I’m going to totally disappear into this role; that’s my job. But I know it’s going to confuse people: people are going to say, “How did she do that? Is this how she feels?” People won’t be able to separate it. You don’t really see actors disappearing into things very often. That’s why when they do we throw awards at them; it’s something we really lift up, because it’s a kind of rarity.
Roles that I know are going to trigger are difficult to jump into because I know it’s a lot of responsibility. Secondly, I had just had a baby, and he was three-months-old and I was breastfeeding when I shot this movie. That was really difficult, in itself, because I’d go from literally nurturing life to calling on this shadow part of our society. Yes, I have to say, this has nothing to do with race, nothing to do with gender, but there were moments where I was like, okay, how am I going to to get to this place?
I was like, okay, let’s really think about this. We hate when we are threatened; when we feel like something we really love is threatened, we hate. That’s what builds that entire emotional system, is a feeling of being threatened. I thought, okay, this is it: this is why the wall is being built, because so many Americans feel threatened by undocumented people coming into this country. What are they going to lose? “You’re threatening my economy, you’re threatening my safety. You’re threatening my house, you’re threatening my status.” Right? Let’s explore it. Let’s rip it open, and let’s see what is the extreme of hatred.
Cryptic Rock – You truly gave a phenomenal performance at being absolutely abhorrent. (Laughs) Which sounds awful, but that is exactly what the character called for.
Lynn Collins – I went through reviews where it was, “It was so farcical; her performance was farcical.” Some reviews were like “And that’s amazing,” and some reviews were kind of snitty about it. For me, yeah, I wanted to show the most gaudy, the most awful, the absolute extreme of it, and she’s white and she’s a female. Some people find me attractive, some people don’t, but most of the fans who see it do. I wanted that juxtaposition for them. They’ve associated me with the Princess of Mars or as part-native silverfox (Laughs), and it was like this—can you see this? Can you look at this archetype—is it still beautiful? Can I break the spell as I show this part of our society? It’s an interesting experiment.
Cryptic Rock – Well, most people these days do not get subtlety.
Lynn Collins – I don’t! (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) So, it’s understandable why you would have to take the role to the extreme to drive the point home. You really did that with Liz: she is beautiful on the outside but a horrible person on the inside.
Lynn Collins – Mmmhmm. Who knows what happened to her to make her so threatened, for her to be so threatened that she would do these awful things. People don’t wound others unless they’re wounded. So, here is this walking, wounded, bleeding, hate-filled, broken individual; that’s what she is. Inevitably, hatred leads to loss and that’s what happens to her; she loses everything. The one thing we think she does love, she loses.
Cryptic Rock – Very true. What has the reaction been, thus far, to the film but also to you? Are people backing away from you at premieres? (Laughs)
Lynn Collins — (Laughs) I really try very hard to keep a low profile in public, which goes back to the complicated relationship I have with fame and exposure. I have a child and I’m very protective over him. It’s been interesting. On social media there’s been a few people that I had to block because they couldn’t separate it. One person was like, “You look like a bitch who would do this. Eat shit!”
If you can’t understand that this is a performance, then you can’t be on my team. It’s interesting to me, though, because at the same time I almost hesitated to block. I was like, see, this triggered him and there’s pain there. The idea is that as actors, as artists, we open it up so that the pus can come out. That’s what the cathartic experience of storytelling can be in its most healing, high, vibrational form. In some ways, yes, I want this to be a catharsis for people, but on the other hand it almost started feeling to me a tad bit irresponsible.
I can’t be on the other end of that boy’s phone and say, “Hey sweetie, I know—it was really triggering, wasn’t it?” I can’t even watch it myself; I haven’t watched this movie and I’m not going to watch this movie. It’s very triggering! This is a study of hatred in America—let’s talk about it. I’m not my fans’ and the public’s therapist, so I have to step back. I hope and pray for people who do get triggered by the material that they do find a safe and comforting place to work through what it brought up in them.
For some people it’s going to bring up shame, because regardless of our skin color, the other—that which is not us—is triggering in society right now. We’re all working on what it means. You take that picture of the blue marble, planet Earth, and that’s the macro view. Here we all are on this planet, there’s nowhere else to go. We’re in it together: black, white, Asian, girl, boy, binary, nonbinary—all of us. We’re all together. There’s no separating the human race.
Yet, as you drill into that vision, you go closer and closer into the marble, into the neighborhoods. Where my parents were raised, in Mississippi, the micro is very divided. I think these new generations that are being born are the ones who are going to go, “Hey, we actually have to pay attention to this macro version, because our planet is changing.” No matter the reasons why it is changing, the planet is changing, and there’s a lot of us on this planet right now. We have to extend our hand—over borders, through borders, through cultures. That’s the inevitable future of the human race—it’s all going to mix, the borders will dissolve.
It will grow into something that may be unrecognizable to us today, but there are dreamers in all generations that are alive on the planet right now who see it—who see that world, that new Earth. It used to be called a fantasy, but now it’s like that’s the only way this works. The Earth is going to be fine, but is humanity going to survive? The only way we will is if we come together and all the bullshit gets dropped. It’s going to take a few more generations, but each generation is a more evolved version of the species. I have great hope, great hope because of what I’m seeing in the children of today.
Cryptic Rock – Well, that’s wonderful because many of us lose hope on a daily basis! (Laughs)
Lynn Collins – I know, we all do! Because right now it’s like a big, huge pimple has been busted open—now at least we see the inside. Yeah, it’s not pretty, it’s really gross, but at least it’s out. Now we can view from the inside out and start making changes. In the meantime, it’s going to be chaotic to make those changes. We’re talking about generation after generation of societal belief systems that were created to hold all of us prisoner. Who knows how many decades it will take, but it’s begun and you can’t stop it. The people who will try to stop it, it’s going to be real tough for them, because it’s something much bigger than any one generation. Much bigger.
Cryptic Rock – Speaking of people that would like to stop change, have you witnessed anyone see the movie and react pro-Liz Rhodes?
Lynn Collins – (Laughs) No! But you know what? I know there are some of those people. I know there are, and that’s okay too. If you are identifying with that level of hatred, and you leave being like “Woohoo! That woman really got those Mexicans!,” you won’t have that view for very long. I truly believe there are the good wills and the bad wills within each of us; we each have the demon and the angel. I believe that people who are in so much pain that hating another to that level is acceptable to them, I believe that life will offer up what I call Tower moments—which is when there’s such a propagation of hatred and fear and negative energy that life will literally crumble so that they have to restart.
It happened to me, not necessarily under hate circumstances, but that Tower moment happens to every human being when they are fully on a path that will lead them to the dark side. You can either listen to the moment, you can use the moment to rebuild or to open your heart, or you can keep going and you’re going to have to do it in another lifetime. (Laughs) That’s just my belief, but I really believe that there are Tower moments when people are feeding hate and darkness in their soul. We are offered mercy at every turn, and I really believe that.
There probably are people who cheered her on, and they will have moments in their life that will make them wake up. Whether that be that it’s an undocumented worker that saves their life or helps them out, or their child falls in love with a Latino—whatever it is! (Laughs) It’s coming for all of us! We can’t harbor darkness in our hearts anymore without it creating excruciating pain and outward circumstances that bring us to our knees.
Cryptic Rock – That is a very hopeful and positive view. (Laughs) I would love to adopt such a positive view of life. When watching Beneath Us, the scariest thing was knowing that there are people who will also see the film and they will root for your character Liz. My mind was just stuck on thinking about who is that person, and what has made them believe that treating another human being like this is okay? I’m sure there are people like that out there.
Lynn Collins – Then we have to flip the coin, right? You get to that place and you go, “Oh god, those motherfuckers who are watching this, who are agreeing with her, who are cheering this on,” and then you go into the hatred, right? “That one who doesn’t have that compassionate heart like me, that other.” Other belief systems, that other group, right? Here we go again! We’re divided again!
The point of the movie, for me, is exactly what this conversation does; it goes ping, pong, ping, pong. Ultimately, it will always send us back to our own threat of the other—that makes us hate. Our job is to get rid of what is creating this belief system that we’re threatened, because are we really threatened? Is that really true?
It’s our job to create our own sense of safety and security: we cannot rely on the government, we cannot rely on mommy and daddy when we become adults. We have to create our sense of safety and security in a changing world, and that is a huge task. There’s no books written on how to do it, there’s no real doctrine in any religion that teaches you how to do it necessarily. How can you feel so safe and secure in who you are if you’re okay with everybody being who they are on their journey? It’s tricky, it’s the path to enlightenment. Maybe some of us get there, who knows? (Laughs) The movie is pushing the button!
Cryptic Rock – It definitely is and it’s opening the dialogue which, hopefully, will be an impetus for change. On that note, the very last question. If you are a fan of either (or both) genres, do you have any favorite Horror and/or Sci-Fi films?
Lynn Collins — I’m deeply into Sci-Fi. That’s why doing John Carter was this massive, pinnacle moment in my life. The John Carter book series is basically what Spielberg and Lucas read when they were little boys, and that’s so much of what our modern day stories, their mythology, is based on—these Edgar Burroughs books that were written in the 1900s.
In some ways I believe that Sci-Fi is the most important genre, because we’re creating our future based on what we’re watching. I really believe that: that what we think about commands, in effect, our future. So, I think Sci-Fi is really important, because it makes us reach and expand our vision of what the future can be. I am not a fan of Horror, but Sci-Fi, it’s my jam!
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) What are some of your favorite Sci-Fi movies?
Lynn Collins – Can we consider Contact (1997) Sci-Fi? That movie changed my life! What they did so well, in the book and in the movie, the whole story, we realize that contact would be with an energy, with a being, with a species that’s so highly vamped beyond us. What that movie showed is, yes, they will be more advanced but also benevolent and loving. And the beats, the sounds that it made, I was like ah, it touches my soul.
What else? Anything with Ripley, right? That first iconic Sigourney Weaver as the bad-ass woman in space in those tighty-whities. That was a whole thing for me, trying to figure out who I was growing up female. It’s a darker version of what space is. (Laughs) Still, to see a woman tackling a beast, a representative of the great unknown.
My family were huge Trekkies, super dorksville. That was something we were watching weekly, and not just watching it—ripping the story apart and talking about the different planets and what they’re going to be like. (Laughs) My father read a ton of Sci-Fi, and so did my oldest sister.
It’s fascinating how, first of all, there is intelligent life out there—at least, I believe that there is. They’re totally watching us and being like, “We can’t make full contact with this species because they’re a hot fucking mess.” (Laughs)