Annalise Basso has appeared in numerous film and television projects from a young age including Captain Fantastic, Oculus and the short lived but excellent Constantine. Her latest role as LJ Folger aboard TNT’s Snowpiercer sees her manipulate, possess and obsess over power this, whilst hiding secrets her parents are more than prepared to indulge. Annalise recently took time out to talk to Martin Carr about her involvement in this epic adaptation and her love of Jane Austen movies…
With regards to Snowpiercer what drew you to the project initially?
Like almost every other project it started with going in for an audition, but with this the original project was a lot different to the one I ended up doing. Yet despite these creative changes the world of Snowpiercer remained both really exciting and hugely intriguing for me.
What research did you do prior to the shooting?
I watched a lot of documentaries on Netflix around murder mysteries which included Making a Murderer, because getting into the mind of a serial killer is not something that comes naturally. A lot of time went into researching their psyches, but beyond LJ’s murderous side, I wanted to explore the psychological effects of being held in captivity over long periods of time. Purely because everyone is being held captive within Snowpiercer. I looked at animals being held in confined spaces and looked into how their behavioural problems might be a result of that. To an extent I also tried to put myself in her shoes and imagine how it would feel for me personally. Not being able to go outside or get a breath of fresh air is something that might drive me crazy, I think.
You just touched briefly on the casting process but what was the experience actually like?
I auditioned May of 2017 and then a month later they confirmed the part was mine. That is pretty typical for a show when there are so many other moving parts. The audition itself was just me in a room with a couple of people.
You only had a brief time with Scott Derrickson before Graeme Manson came on a show runner, how did their creative approaches differ?
When you have two different creative heads tackling the same subject material, just the fact that they are two different people, means you will have two totally different projects. I think having the opportunity to be part of that original pilot as well as Snowpiercer 2.0 gave me the chance to be absorbed in both worlds. Which in turn allowed me to see this show from two different perspectives. Being able to watch the movie as well also created a completely different experience to the show, because with the latter you get to explore various social classes and numerous other characters. The same applies to our original pilot which is a completely different version than the one which is being aired right now.
What conversations did you have with Graeme Manson about LJ initially?
We talked about making LJ not just an instigator but providing her with an opportunity to be humanised where possible. Not that I think there is any redemption to be had from chopping off arms and other extremities, but those characters are the ones you need to find empathy for in some way. Coming up in the next few episodes I hope there is reason enough for people to start feeling a little sorry for her.
Do you think LJ is a good or a bad person?
I think that after being on Snowpiercer for that long, good and bad as a concept ceases to exist. Once you are reduced to the basics of survival at all costs right and wrong or good and evil no longer apply. It is just people trying to survive and I think LJ is not even doing that, she is hanging on by a thread.
Leading on from that to what extent do you think she is a product of her upbringing?
I would say that her parents obviously play a role but part of that comes down to LJ’s psychosis, because she put her father’s eye out at seven so she clearly had issues from birth. However, having a mother like Lila Folger and no strong father figure to look up to she is also the product of many bad parental decisions. Choices which are inadvertently influenced by Snowpiercer itself which takes on this surrogate role within that family unit. A role which makes it both guardian and bully, as Snowpiercer is simultaneously protecting her from an outside world whilst taking away any freedom she might have.
Considering her actions so far and looking at the broader picture in terms of storyline, who responsible do you think LJ is for the impending class war?
I don’t think LJ cares about class but is more concerned with power. Even though those things aren’t mutually exclusive, she just wants to assert her power in this train and remind herself of that control in a way which puts everyone at risk. She is a nihilist and only cares about herself which means she should be held accountable for her actions. If the identity of Wilford is shattered then LJ definitely has a part to play in that.
What are your key considerations when you sign up for a project?
In terms of the character I like to find flawed people because they are often more complex than just being heroes or villains. I also look for a story which people can relate to and get lost in, which is something Snowpiercer is hopefully doing right now by providing this world audiences can escape into and get lost in.
If you had to board Snowpiercer yourself but could only take three personal items with you, what would they be and why?
I would definitely have to bring The Chronicles of Narnia just because that book is everything to me. It is magical, hopeful and everything I would need on Snowpiercer. Then I would bring The Odyssey as well because I have never read it and it’s a big book, so by the time you finish it you can just start again. Then finally I would bring Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley as it is something I have watched a hundred times in quarantine. The way the end scene was shot where Elizabeth and Darcy kiss and are locked in time is just magical.
Can you describe for me your perfect Sunday afternoon?
A perfect Sunday afternoon where I am right now would be horseback riding and having a picnic on this ranch with my mom and sister. Then coming back and having Pride and Prejudice on in the background while we make dinner together. We have been doing that pretty much every day and I wouldn’t give it up for the world.
Snowpiercer is currently airing every Sunday night on TNT in the US and is available to stream on Netflix everywhere else.
Many thanks to Annalise Basso for taking the time for this interview.