For every Downton Abbey fan who longed for Lady Mary to let her bodice rip once and for all, Michelle Dockery has a series for you.
In TNT's Good Behavior, debuting at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Dockery goes sultry and a little sordid as Letty Raines, a recently paroled con artist and thief who, while burgling a hotel room, overhears a husband hiring a contract killer to murder his wife. Deciding to do some good after a lifetime of bad, she makes it her mission to derail the operation — only to become dangerously entangled with Javier (Juan Diego Botto), that very attractive hit man.
The caper, spun from the Letty Dobesh novellas by Blake Crouch, "follows a character that is essentially striving to be a better version of herself," Dockery said. "It's a unique relationship between a man and a woman, and something I certainly haven't seen before in a drama."
In a phone interview from North Carolina, where Good Behavior is shot, the mirthful Dockery, 34, displaying none of Lady Mary's famous frostiness, talked about stepping out of the Downton shadow and unleashing her inner wild child. These are edited excerpts.
How did you approach your next big role after a blockbuster like Downton Abbey?
I wasn't out to do something outrageously different "just because." I read the script and was hooked, couldn't put it down, completely fell in love with the character and the story.
Did you worry about being typecast?
It didn't happen, it seems, so I didn't have to worry. [Laughs.] I think it's the opposite, actually. You just can't get away from the fact that we were those characters in Downton Abbey. So a modern part makes more sense. Otherwise it's like Lady Mary in another period drama.
Letty seems to be less a hostage than a willing participant on a thrill ride.
Letty enjoys the reckless sense of danger that her life often involves. But it's more than that. With Javier, they sort of smash into one another and discover an understanding in that they're both loners. They live on the outskirts of society and find it difficult to live a normal life.
You've said that characters who are not necessarily likable are the most fun to play.
Like with The Sopranos or Nurse Jackie — or even Lady Mary, particularly in the last [season] — they're characters that you go through phases with. You're rooting for them but you don't always approve of their behavior. Yet you understand their predicament. It's about playing a character that is more than just one thing, as we all are. And we're seeing more and more female roles that are multifaceted, with vulnerability, humor.
There will be inevitable comparisons between Lady Mary and the more wanton Letty.
I welcome those comparisons. Those Downton characters are in people's hearts, and I'm very grateful for that. And I think some people will be shocked by Letty and that's okay.
People might be shocked most by your American accent.
It's been a real challenge with the accent. It's something that I had to get really in my bones before I played the part because I didn't want to worry while I was doing it. I was wary of spending too much time on the phone with British friends in case it would slip too much.