It’s Mary Kills People Postmortem time, and this week, Charlotte Sullivan joins me to talk about Episode 4, “Raised by Wolves.” Charlotte plays Nicole, Mary’s sister, and her introduction sheds some light on their family history and what forces in their lives created Mary Harris.
Nicole’s an interesting character. We don’t get to know too much about her in this episode, but she does add some fascinating layers to this story. What was your first impression of Nicole?
I originally auditioned for Mary and really loved the script so, so much. It was delicious. Tassie [Cameron] said I was too young to play Mary, but there was a sister. The description of Nicole was vague: a tattooed, cooler version of Mary — even though Mary is quite cool. I had a vision of Nicole, and I immediately said to Tassie, “I want [tattoo] sleeves and a rockabilly look.” It’s such a rarity to get to collaborate, but I felt comfortable with Tassie and she was game. Nicole works at a salon, so [I pictured her with] hair dye all over her hands, and we worked with [makeup artist] Stephen Lynch [to create her look].
Sometimes you just have to serve the story and it’s more “paint by numbers” but [Mary Kills People] wasn’t that kind of experience. The fact that they were willing to aesthetically go in a direction that I was envisioning was really exciting. Fingers crossed that we get to do a second season and find out more of Nicole’s backstory along with Mary and Nicole’s backstory with their mother.
Nicole strikes me as a very practical and direct woman, whereas Mary overthinks things at times and feels guilt about what she’s done.
I think that’s because Mary’s a mom, and Nicole’s not a mom. That’s my instinct. Mary’s in fight or flight mode, while Nicole doesn’t have a family to feed.
Nicole also sees through the bullshit and tells it like it is. There’s a scene in Episode 4 where she says that Mary taught her how to lie. This dynamic between Mary and Nicole is so intriguing, and I wonder if we’ll get to see more of that in the final two episodes?
Honestly, I think it’s such a tease. You’re going to get hints of it but it will leave you wanting more. They love each other immensely, they have a really intense relationship, and there’s a lot of trust there because they’ve done some shady shit together. I don’t think Nicole would ever [turn on Mary]. Her family is everything and I don’t think she’d rat out her sister. I think she also wants in. It’s good to go into business with family if you can trust them.
Later in the episode, Mary and Nicole are talking about their mother how they “killed” her, but Nicole clarifies that and says they “saved” her.
Doesn’t it have a Thelma and Louise quality to it? Without giving away too much, they’re like accomplices.
They have a strong bond and this shared history. They also mention that their mom was “crazy.” We know she had been physically sick, but was she also mentally ill? And was this passed down to Nicole and Mary? Both sisters have a dark side. Mary’s struggle is that she’s enjoying the work she’s doing a bit too much.
And that lends itself to, “Am I just like my mom?” That definitely plays a part. You know what’s refreshing — and I can’t believe that this is “refreshing” — but the dialogue that Nicole and Mary have [in that scene] felt like for the first time, it was two women talking together and weren’t talking about a man. It’s a sad thing to say that it’s refreshing, but Tassie pointed it out, and she loved that we weren’t talking about men. Usually, two women [on TV] get together and talk about guys.
This series has accomplished so much in terms of breaking the mould when it comes not only to story and characters, but also in the team creating the show.
You know what’s strange? I’m in Chicago right now and I’m working with Holly Dale who directed Mary Kills People, and now she’s directing me in Chicago Fire.
I was struck by one detail in particular in “Raised by Wolves,” and I’m not sure if it has any bigger meaning or if you have any insight into it. Nicole has stayed in their childhood home, and I wonder if there’s a reason why she stayed there. Is she the guardian of these family secrets, or does she have a connection to it because of what happened there?
I think you’re really smart and I questioned that, too. That will reveal itself. First of all, I don’t think Nicole can afford to live on her own. I can’t give away too much, but there’s definitely a reason why she stayed a little bit too close. You’re definitely on to something.
When I was thinking about it, I put myself in that situation. If I grew up in a home where the bad things happened that this episode alluded to, the first chance I had to leave, I’d be out of there. And that got me thinking about Nicole’s motivations for sticking around.
There is a definitely reason why Nicole stays very close to home.
Update 8/6/22: All three seasons of Mary Kills People are now streaming on Global TV in Canada and Roku Channel in the US.
Photos Courtesy of Global TV