“Letty is the sort of character that feels like she can do anything,” Michelle Dockery says. “She’s fearless like that.” Look at the roles the British actress has on the horizon, and it’s clear she and her Good Behavior alter ego have that in common.
After six seasons as Lady Mary on Downton Abbey, Dockery signed on to play Letty — a recovering addict and unrepentant thief who hooks up with a hitman (Juan Diego Botto’s Javier) while hoping to someday give her son, Jacob (Nyles Julian Steele), a “normal life.” She remembers the TNT drama’s creator, Chad Hodge, and director of its 2016 pilot, Charlotte Sieling, wrote a manifesto. “I always have it in my dressing room in my trailer just to remind myself of some things,” she says. “One of the first things Charlotte said to Chad was, ‘I think we’re creating poetic noir.’ And he said, ‘What’s that?’ And she said, ‘I don’t know. We’ll figure it out.’ That’s what they achieved. They’ve created this genre which is very different, and we have brilliant directors who really get the style of it and the tone. It’s very specific.”
In Season 2’s second episode, airing Sunday, Javier tells Letty he’s going on his annual solo camping trip to mourn the little brother whose accidental death his father still blames him for. In reality, as Letty learns in the exclusive sneak peek above, Javier has taken another job to help pay for her son’s private school. She’ll spend most of the episode trying to keep Javier from being alone with his mark. “She’s doing it for the good of Javier and her son, because if he continues to carry out these jobs then he’s not holding up his end of the bargain [of being there to help raise Jacob]. The danger [of the FBI catching Javier] only increases with each job that he does,” she says. “And, of course, they’re aware now that somebody is trying to kill Javier, and they don’t know who that is.”
This season, even more than the first, has a “Bonnie and Clyde feel to it,” Dockery says. That’s fitting, considering Dockery’s next role is one that won Bonnie and Clyde‘s Faye Dunaway her Oscar. She’ll star as ruthless television executive Diana Christensen in the first stage adaptation of the 1976 film Network, opposite Bryan Cranston as mad-as-hell anchorman Howard Beale, which runs Nov. 4 through March 24 at London’s National Theatre. “I love the film, it’s a classic, and the adaptation is brilliant — so much of it is [Paddy] Chayefsky’s original dialogue that [playwright] Lee Hall has done a brilliant job at working it for the stage,” Dockery says. “And it is incredibly current, this sense of unrest and unease. There’s a lot of angry people out there, and I think it’s something that has come at the right time.”
She’d been eying a return to the stage, where she began her career, for a long time and jumped at the chance to act with Cranston, whom she’d previously only met once, at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. “He’s such a lovely man, and, of course, someone who I’ve loved since Breaking Bad,” Dockery says. “So it’s an honor to work with him.”
Come Nov. 22, she’ll be back on the small screen in Godless, the Netflix limited series from writer/director Scott Frank and executive producers Steven Soderbergh and Casey Silver. The seven-part drama is an authentic Western, centered on a town run mainly by women. Dockery stars as outsider Alice Fletcher, a widow who finds herself in the middle of a brewing showdown between a wounded outlaw (Unbroken‘s Jack O’Connell) who shows up at her ranch in the middle of night and his former gang, led by his revenge-seeking father figure (Jeff Daniels).
Dockery never dreamed she’d get to be in a Western — “Of course it’s something that you’d love to do, but they’re incredibly rare, especially for a Brit,” she says with a laugh — let alone one that tells a new kind of story. “Those towns, where it was solely women and children because the men had died in a mining accident, were common during that time,” she says. “Along with all of the conventions of a Western — the bad guys and the good guys — there is this story running through it of just the people and how they lived in the town, and a sense of loneliness, that everyone essentially is alone, and the relationships that develop between people, and just daily life in the West in the 1880s. It’s something that I’ve never really seen before on television. It is a truly beautiful masterpiece, I think, and I’m very proud of it.”
The project has been over a decade in the making. “Initially it was a film script, that Scott Frank has been working on for 10, 15 years,” she says. “So I feel really fortunate to be part of it. We all feel like that, because it could’ve happened years ago [with a different cast]. It could’ve happened at any different time.”
That leads us to our final question: Will patience pay off for Downton Abbey fans, who are hoping to see Lady Mary return for that proposed movie? “That’s always the last question!” Dockery says with another laugh. “I remain hopeful. It’s just difficult to get together 18 strong cast members. I think it’ll all be about timing, so we’ll see.”
Good Behavior airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on TNT.
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