Actress Dawn Olivieri recently returned to House of Lies on Showtime with Don Cheadle for a second season of wild management consultant drama and comedy.
In House of Lies, Dawn Olivieri plays the wild but smart and savvy Monica Talbot, a top management consultant and highly competitive ex-wife of Don Cheadle’s Marty Kaan. Although Monica has remained competitive with Marty in the show’s second season, Olivieri had to adjust to a new on-set relationship with actress Ronete Levenson, who plays Tessa, Monica’s unexpected love-interest.
When House of Lies returns on March 17 with the episode “Liability”, Olivieri will be dealing with a version of Monica who unravels when her son Roscoe moves out of the house.
The Deadbolt recently caught up with Dawn Olivieri for an exclusive chat about the new direction Monica has taken this season, what it was like to kiss a girl, her character’s emotional state, and working with series star Don Cheadle.
THE DEADBOLT: So, with Monica’s sexual exploration this season, what did you think of the direction?
DAWN OLIVIERI: When I read it, I was like, “Oh, okay!” I was excited. I was excited, as an actress, to play in that world with Monica. With TV, you don’t know what’s coming next. When you get a script and it says she has a girlfriend, you think, “Are we really doing this?”
You’re having those thoughts and the character is also having those thoughts, “Am I really doing this?” It’s fun to have that parallel to the character as she goes through it as well. I love it. I love my job, so I’m pretty much up for anything Monica’s down for.
THE DEADBOLT: What’s it like to kiss a girl? Was that weird for you?
OLIVIERI: No, I’ve kissed a girl before. It’s not my first rodeo. But what was different was, having the experience that Monica had, doing it in a way that wasn’t necessarily out one night on drugs. It was like sitting in the kitchen and just being exhausted with the guys she was seeing then having this person in front on her, this entity, that believes in her, that values her. It was a different circumstance.
THE DEADBOLT: Did you feel that the show needed a bit more of Monica’s less psychotic personal side?
OLIVIERI: Oh, no! Personally, that’s all I want to play. It was more Don [Cheadle]. Even in the script, in the breakdown when I got it, when we first see Monica in the very first episode, her entrance was described as “Monica, but a new Monica. Monica, brighter than we’ve ever seen her. More like Dawn Olivieri in real life.”
So they really went after a piece of me that I’m experiencing right now. Not the girlfriend part but the spiritual, all-embracing part. It was fun for me to play her that way because it was me. It was more me floating around there.
THE DEADBOLT: How do you see Monica as compared to Jerimiah’s comment about her being a “hungry ghost?”
OLIVIERI: I can actually relate to that, even as myself. That exotic belief, that need to be ingratiated and never really getting what you need or what you’re striving for. To be honest, that pretty much describes the majority of western culture. That’s our downfall right there. We’re all one big hungry ghost. The metaphor fits perfectly. Anybody who subscribes to society as that right now may be able to relate to that.
THE DEADBOLT: Do you think Tessa’s more of a diversion for Monica from dealing sobriety and being a mother?
OLIVIERI: I don’t think it’s a diversion. I’d like to think of her as more of a stepping stone, a stepping stool even. I mean, she’s holding Monica up to a place where she wants to be seen. That place where’s she altruistic, right, winning, but winning in a real self sense. I think Tessa was there at the right time and saying the right things.
Monica hears what she’s working for. Everybody wants to hear, “You’re doing a great job and you can do this. This is who you are now. This is the only person I know.” When you’re in that reality with that person, you become their reality. You don’t have to remember who you were before, and you can lose that. It’s the good and the bad. Maybe she sees it as some of the bad but it’s helping Monica be a better person. There’s no right or wrong there.
THE DEADBOLT: What was it like having Matt Damon on the set this season?
OLIVIERI: I was excited but I never got to be on-set with him. I should’ve just gone to set just for the hell of it, to see him and watch him work. I was like, “why didn’t I do that?” I don’t think in terms of big stars. They’re just people to me. Their work is their work, but I wish I had gone. It was a great episode.
THE DEADBOLT: We know how Monica gets along with Marty in the show, but how do you and Don get along in real life?
OLIVIERI: It’s great. We have the same thing that Marty and Monica have. We have that spark. We have that thing where we can look across the room and we know what we’re thinking. We have the same perspective.
Maybe that’s why I was cast as Monica. Maybe Don felt that. It’s absolutely something I felt from the cast and working with him. But you never know if it’s just you feeling that way. There’s absolutely always an undercurrent with us, which is so much fun in a scene and great in real life. I really like who he is as a person.
THE DEADBOLT: Is Monica more like you last season, or this season?
OLIVIERI: Monica at the beginning of this season is more familiar to me as I exist at this point in my life. But that’s not to say those other elements of Monica are not pieces of me that are dormant, or pieces of me that I don’t call on, they’re all me. But at the beginning of this season I felt that when I walked on set, I just kept going.
THE DEADBOLT: What can we expect from Monica for the rest of the season?
OLIVIERI: Well, I definitely want to make a note that episode nine is one of my favorites. It’s a very cathartic moment for Monica. I feel there’s a scene in there where she finally figures out exactly who she is and what it means for her to be herself.
House of Lies airs Sunday nights at 10pm ET/PT.