Laurie Blake Returns to Watchmen… and She's Not Wearing a Costume Anymore
In Episode 3 of HBO's Watchmen, “She Was Killed by Space Junk,” Jean Smart (Fargo, Legion) makes her debut as Laurie Blake, formerly Laurie Juspeczyk, a.k.a. Silk Spectre, one of the main characters from the original graphic novel. Her arrival in this third week of the nine-episode season isn’t just a terrific way to connect the new show to the Watchmen world of 35 years ago, but Smart is also flat-out amazing as this older, more world-weary version of Blake, who has changed quite a bit in the years since the squid attack. Or has she?I spoke to Smart about the return of Agent Blake, how she feels about Doctor Manhattan and Nite Owl these days, what her dynamic is with Regina King’s Sister Night, and more.
From Masked Adventurer to FBI Agent
When we last saw Laurie in the graphic novel, she and Dan Dreiberg (Nite Owl) had assumed false identities in an attempt to live under the radar. But in the years since, Laurie has somehow become an FBI agent while Dan has wound up in prison — as symbolized by the owl Laurie now keeps in a cage. And not only is she working for the bureau, but she’s part of the anti-vigilante taskforce. She is now hunting that which she used to be.
“It's very complicated, which is one of the things that makes her kind of interesting to play,” says Smart. “I don't know whether she has negative feelings about being a vigilante because of her parents or whether she has just negative feelings about her parents. So anything that they encouraged her to do she now thinks is sort of abhorrent. But she obviously has serious issues with her mother. Classic psychiatrist's couch stuff!”
Of course, Laurie’s parents were the Comedian and the original Silk Spectre, vigilantes from the first era of costumed adventures who also happened to be periodically caught up in an abusive and toxic relationship. And indeed, materials released by HBO on their in-universe “Peteypedia” website reveal that at some point between the comic and the show Laurie actual returned to life as a vigilante, calling herself the Comedienne, after her dad. It’s a weird family she comes from.“It's funny because she almost blames her mother more than [her father] for certain things,” she says. “But I think the whole relationship with her father and her mother, she finds incredibly bizarre and unhealthy. I think people who have those kind of painful early years, they don't ever get over it completely. And I think she thinks that she's very much in control, and she's not maybe as much as she would like to think she is.”
Laurie was essentially brought up by her mom to be a superhero like her parents before her. It was the only life she knew when we first meet her in the Watchmen comic.
“I don't know if she regrets [the vigilante life] because I think she kind of enjoyed it for a while,” says the actress. “She has that big painting in her house [of the heroes from her era]. She kind of liked being a minor celebrity, and misses some of that and the excitement and everything. And the men in her life, now they're gone. And so I think she kind of misses a lot of it. She had fun, but she was so young. And her route to the FBI is a journey that hasn't really been completely explored yet in the show. Towards the end of the first season, we find out why specifically she ended up with the FBI.”
Doctor Manhattan, Nite Owl and a Joke
This week’s episode is framed with a scene where Laurie is in a Doctor Manhattan phone booth — because that’s a thing now — recording a message which will be beamed to Mars for the super-man. Whether or not the Doc will actually hear it, or cares, is up for debate, but certainly in the case of Laurie one would think she at least has a better shot at being heard than most, having been in a relationship with Manhattan (a.k.a. Jon Osterman) years earlier.“It's such a bizarre joke that she's telling,” Smart says of the message. “And she's giving him a hard time kind of, and she's also trying to make him laugh. And here she is, she's this person we see who's very independent and seems to be in control all the time. But we see that she's drawn to these booths so that she can talk to this man she's been in love with but who she hasn't seen in 30 years. I think even she would have to admit that that's kind of unhealthy and bizarre, especially when she admits that she doesn't even know if he's ever going to hear it. But I can see how that would be very appealing to have something like that.”
Smart says that Laurie “never kind of got over” Doctor Manhattan, but she also understands why the character might fixate on figures from her past.
“I think the older you get, I have found that I think about some of those people in my past a lot more now,” she says. “You wonder what they're like now. And I had two long-term kind of boyfriends in high school, and I just found out from a friend of mine who went to the high school reunion last month that one of them died. She sent me a picture and I was so sad because he died.”
As for Nite Owl, Watchmen creator/showrunner Damon Lindelof has said that the character will not be appearing this season. As a result, Smart doesn’t have quite as much of a handle on where Laurie and Dan left things off when he went to prison.
Laurie makes a call to an old friend.
“Her relationship with [Dan/Nite Owl] isn't as clear to me,” says Smart. “But I do think obviously she cares about him a lot. I have a feeling that that character may show up later.”
So who’s Laurie’s true love?
“Right now I would say Jon,” she says. “But I think that may change if we get a second season. I don't know!”
Agent Blake, Meet Sister Night
There are a lot of sparks in this episode between Agent Blake and Regina King’s Angela Abar, a.k.a. Sister Night. While ostensibly the pair are both investigating the same murder, there are multitudes at work here as Abar is also covering up an element of that crime (her possibly guilty grandfather) while Blake is well aware of Abar’s supposedly secret identity as a masked police officer. It’s a complicated relationship from the start.
“I call it begrudging respect,” laughs Smart. “At first of course she's viewing her as a murder suspect. But I think that starts to change fairly soon and I think she realizes that she doesn't know nearly as much as she thought she did. I think she figured that she had this thing all figured out and she was going to solve this case really quickly. And then especially that scene in the mausoleum where she thinks she's intimidating Angela, and she suddenly realizes, ‘Well that didn't work at all.’”
That would be the moment when Angela pours her coffee out into a hole in the ground in response to what was intended to be an intimidating speech from Laurie. But even before that, when a member of the terrorist group the Seventh Kavalry staged an attempted bombing during a funeral earlier that day, Laurie miscalculated and shot the man. This triggered the failsafe on his bomb vest, and it fell to Angela to save the day. One gets the impression it’s a rare moment for Laurie to make a mistake like that.
Agent Blake meets Angela Abar.
“I don't think that happens to her very often and I think it took a lot for her to apologize [to Angela],” says Smart.
Interestingly enough, after her missteps of that day, Laurie winds up in bed with the younger, impressionable FBI agent who is accompanying her on this assignment. He’s also a masked adventurer fanboy (though he doesn’t like the term), and… well, he apparently wears a mask himself when they’re in bed together.
“It was such a demoralizing day and such an exhausting day and she practically got blown up,” says Smart. “I think she had a moment of such vulnerability that she just needed some human contact. And she knew that he was totally sort of enamored with her, or her image and everything, that she could kind of control the situation.
“It's nice to be worshiped a little bit,” laughs the actress.
For more on HBO’s Watchmen, check out these five burning questions that were answered by Peteypedia, read our interview with Jeremy Irons about the return of Adrian Veidt, and dig into all the Easter eggs in the show.
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