Aside from being the child of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, Liv Tyler has carved out her own success as a Hollywood actress, and we are talking a plethora of critically-acclaimed offerings. Now she’s expanded her repertoire with The Leftovers. Debashine Thangevelo takes a closer look at her TV debut…
BEING born into stardom doesn’t mean that your successes will be over-shadowed by your family tree. And Liv Tyler has borne this out during her long acting career, which has seen the 37-year-old beauty cover the full gamut of roles from drama to action and she has also gone against the grain with her character depictions.
Talk about eclectic; she played a teenager hoping to be deflowered in gorgeous Tuscany in Stealing Beauty; starred as a daughter in Inventing the Abbotts and Armageddon; portrayed a lesbian in Dr. T & the Women; found herself the object of three guys’ affections in the black comedy One Night at McCool’s and wowed in the fantasy trilogy The Lord of the Rings. And that’s not forgetting her outings in historical offerings or blockbusters like The Incredible Hulk.
Bottom line – as an actress she has gravitas.
And this is magnified in her TV outing as Megan Abbott in Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers.
Her character is relatively taciturn in the series, which takes place in the wake of a global rapture, which caused the mystifying disappearance of 2 percent of the world’s population.
Much of the drama is contained to the residents in Mapleton, New York, a fictitious town, with Kevin Garvey, jr (Justin Theroux), the chief of police, dealing with the town and his fractured family. His wife, Laurie (Amy Brenneman), has abandoned their family and marriage to join a bizarre cult group, The Guilty Remnant.
In the current storyline, Megan has walked out on her fiancé and is seeking refuge with the cult. However, she has been emotionally conflicted about joining them.
On being part of the ongoing exodus of film stars migrating to the small screen, Tyler says: “I have been really interested in everything that’s been going on in television for the past few years. And, in the back of my mind, I was looking for something in television. This (show) was shooting in New York, where I live. And I have a son who is in third grade, so shooting at home really appealed to me. I hadn’t read the book at that point and even though there were only two scenes in the pilot script that she was in, I fell in love with this woman. I liked the whole idea that this event happens, but the story is not about the event; it’s about human beings and their journey… and pain afterwards.
“I’m always very attracted to ensemble, character-driven stories, so I liked that aspect a lot, too.”
In the opening episode, Megan became really upset with Laurie and slapped her.
Expanding on how she found enacting the scene, the actress shares: “It was really interesting because anger is not an emotion I feel very often. It takes a lot to piss me off. I was terrified about doing that scene. I didn’t know what I was going to do with what was going to happen; it’s not something that you can rehearse. And somewhere inside of me, there’s some rage in there. Either it’s been laying dormant – like a dragon in the centre of the earth – or I just didn’t even know it existed. But then I kind of got into it.”
What proved to be a real curve ball for Tyler was the fact that the fate of her character was not predetermined in the series, which surpasses the narrative of the book.
“Once we were all cast, Damon told all of us – including Justin – that our characters’ fate was undecided, which was an incredible motivation. We did the best work that we could all the time, never knowing what was going to happen to our characters.”
Obviously, given the context of the story, Tyler struggled to accept the “no make-up” rule where her character was concerned. In fact, she confessed to threatening the make-up artist about doing it herself only because she felt the “you can still be totally raw, but cover certain things”.
Another thing that took some adjustment was smoking those herbal cigarettes for the role.
As for whether The Leftovers has sparked a change in her career trajectory, Tyler shares: “I’m in a new phase of my life – it’s a whole new chapter. I feel excited because it all feels new again somehow. I feel creatively fulfilled in a way that I haven’t felt for a few years. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years or something totally bonkers, and there’s been different waves and moments. Sometimes you lose your way a little, or something changes, and all you can do is be completely authentic and true to yourself and follow your heart.
“I believe so much in fate with movies and projects and that when it’s meant to be, you find something or something finds you. I’ve been so happy just being home, being a good mum and going to work – my plate’s been perfectly full and I haven’t wanted any seconds. I would say I’m quietly ambitious. I have a tremendous amount of goals and dreams, but I believe that everything happens when it’s meant to happen.
“Sometimes there are such great lessons in the moments when you are in the waiting room.”
And that’s what makes Tyler so likeable. She stays true to her convictions and, in so doing, guarantees that the revolving door of opportunities continues to turn.
• The Leftovers airs on M-Net (DStv channel 101) on Saturdays at 9pm.