Dichen Lachman is a veteran of network sci-fi shows with cult followings but Netflixs new show Altered Carbon is her first foray into big-budget streaming television.
Lachman, whos appeared on Joss Whedons Dollhouse, ABCs Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Syfys Being Human and The CWs The 100, credits her physical appearance for being cast multiple times in the genre. I think that because I have such a different look, I dont really fit into one category, she says. So this [sci-fi] genre is a great place for someone like me to inhabit. Im half Asian, half Australian and I think the future is a lot of mixed-race people.
I have a future vibe about me.
I have a future vibe about me.
Altered Carbon, which reportedly cost $6-7 million per episode, is based on Richard K. Morgans 2002 novel and helmed by showrunner Laeta Kalogridis (Avatar). Its set in a futuristic noir world similar to Blade Runner but instead of replicants, human consciousness can be downloaded into different bodies, enabling the wealthy to essentially live forever. Joel Kinnaman (The Killing, House of Cards) stars as Takeshi Kovacs, an elite soldier placed in an unfamiliar body and tasked with solving a murder. Lachman plays his sister, Reileen.
While sci-fi was familiar terrain for her, Lachman says Netflix was a totally different landscape in terms of television. Network TV and Netflix, in my experience, have been so different in terms of scale, she says. I was lucky I got to ride horses [in The 100], but often youre limited in how much you can do. With Altered Carbon, they wanted us to do everything. I trained for three months learning how to use a sword and choreography [for fight scenes]. It was scary and exciting at the same time; I had never trained so hard for a role physically.
We were trying to achieve something that really hasnt been done on television before not at this level.
And training wasnt the only challenge. For all my big scenes with Joel [Kinnaman], I was incredibly sick, she says. Reileen is one of the most powerful people in the universe and I didnt feel that way at all; I felt like curling up in bed and sleeping for a week.
Reileens power places her in good company with Lachmans previous roles (a vampire royal in Being Human, a superhuman cult leader in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a warlord-esque character in The 100).
I dont know why that keeps happening, because I feel like Im such an awkward, dorky person, she says, laughing. People joke that I have Resting Bitch Face [that] if Im not smiling, I look fierce. But no matter how dark my characters get, I want people to have empathy for them. Ive had the opportunity to play women who have a lot of intention and are very clear about what they want.
For all the sword-wielding action Lachman does onscreen, however, her heart lies in a surprising genre. I love period dramas; I feel like Maggie Smith is my alter ego, she says. Because of the way I look, I dont often get to do period pieces in the 20s or the 30s or further back, because those stories are not being told.
Maybe one day Ill find one.
Altered Carbon Premieres Friday on Netflix