In the upcoming Peacock original series Mrs. Davis, Betty Gilpin marshals her talents to play Simone, a nun on a mission to stop the world’s most powerful and beloved artificial intelligence, with only her faith and determination to guide her. It’s a potent central role in a wild and ambitious new series from creators Damon Lindelof and Tara Hernandez, and for Gilpin, it feels like one she was born to play.
“This job asks 100% of me and I immediately was like, ‘I’ve been waiting my whole life for this,’” Gilpin told The Hollywood Reporter at the show’s Los Angeles premiere last week. “It feels like a thousand genres in one and so it was like a cat toy for my brain, really.”
Anyone who’s seen trailers teasing the new show understands what Gilpin’s talking about. Mrs. Davis looks like a wild combination of sci-fi, comedy, drama, and a few other things that might be unclassifiable, and it all centers on Simone. According to Lindelof, who worked with Gilpin on The Hunt, the actress was their first choice for the role, even when they weren’t sure they’d be able to land her.
“When we first started talking about Simone, Betty was on the very early list but she was unavailable, I think, because she’d just had her daughter,” Lindelof said. “That was a bummer but we moved on, and then when we wrote the pilot and set it up at Peacock, everyone started asking, ‘Who is Simone going to be?’ We kept saying that it was a Betty Gilpin-type if we could get her. The question became, ‘Well, has anyone asked her?’ So I emailed her and said, ‘Look, we won’t get our feelings hurt but this thing is perfect for you. Would you be willing to read the script?’”
Gilpin was willing, and by the end of the first meeting with Lindelof and Hernandez, the two creators were thinking of how they could script the show in a way that was even more tailored to their chosen star. For Gilpin herself, whose past work includes everything from Nurse Jackie to GLOW to The Tomorrow War, it always felt like a chance to embody more depth than any other character she’d taken on before.
“I feel like I either play these hardened, sarcastic, sardonic or wry characters or characters who have their arms wide open and are vulnerable and hopeful. This character really is both,” Gilpin said. “She may have started as the first kind but her faith really changed her as a person. We see a lot of flashbacks to what she was like before she was a person of faith. For myself, not being a person of faith, it was an experiment to figure out what it would be like if I really believe in something this deeply and I found that really joyful.”