Amanda Collin was at a small film festival representing the Danish film A Horrible Woman when she was approached at a bar by Ridley Scott’s casting director. She was handed a script and the next day was auditioning for "Mother", the leading role in Scott’s upcoming HBO Max TV series Raised by Wolves. She soon learned she got the part and was on her way to South Africa for her first international shoot. We spoke in Copenhagen about the thrills and challenges of working with the legendary director.
You mentioned that you cried 48 hours straight after you got the role in Raised by Wolves. Tell us about why you felt such strong emotions.
It really hit me when I came from the meeting with Ridley and felt quite numb and I went to a costume test and the costume designer just opened her arms and said, ‘there she is, our Mother’ and then she gave me the biggest hug. I started crying and I did not stop for 48 hours. Then it was all of a sudden so real. I thought: ‘Oh, my God, there is no way out now.’ It is so overwhelming. I came from a really good place in my life and had everything I could wish for so when something big like this happens, it stirs up so many emotions. It happened so fast and I think I was mostly thinking about my daughter and my husband and how they would feel about it.
Ridley is a legend in the world of cinema and I can imagine meeting him for the first time would be both intimidating and thrilling. Describe that first meeting.
From the very beginning, I felt very taken care of. Kate, who did the casting, was also at the first meeting because I think she wanted to be there as we had a connection up until then. First of all, it is Ridley Scott’s and you can have your fan persona on your shoulder in a meeting like that and tell it to ‘be quiet’. But there is also the actress in me, who is meeting my director and you have to create stuff together, so it’s sort of like an arranged marriage. You are meeting a person that you have to spend a lot of time with and it’s overwhelming. I still cannot grasp what a genius he is. He is so nice and down to earth and so involving. His ideas are so crazy and so spot on and timeless and beautiful and magnificent and he still makes you believe that you thought about it first and that to me is pure genius. I had a wonderful time working with him and hope I will again.
Ridley Scott said that you got what he wanted to say in Raised by Wolves. What was it that spoke to you when you read the script?
To be honest, I got the script and had to do the audition the day after, so there was not much of a choice but to just sleep on it. I learned the lines during the night and we did the audition the next day, so there was not a lot of reflection on it. I did not put too much thought into it. I only paid attention to the two scenes that I had to do, It’s odd, but sometimes, weirdly enough things in your life builds up to scenes in your work. I became a mother two years before this, so obviously I could relate to the stuff with the kids, losing kids, and all of that. In one of the audition scenes, I did not have Mother’s eyes in, and I had just done a play at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen where I was playing a blind person. Sometimes life prepares you better than you could yourself for a part and I think that is so beautiful and why you always have to live your life as an actress.
You obviously have a good career in Denmark and have worked with many directors. Talk in more detail about being directed by Ridley Scott. What was the first day like on set in South Africa with Abubakar Salim pretending to be the androids and seeing him behind the camera?
I have done nothing like this before. We had two weeks before we started shooting in South Africa, where we did meetings with Ridley and costume tests and fight sequences with the stunt team and rehearsals. That was really helpful and we got to know each other a little bit before we started shooting and before working directly with Ridley. Abu and I clicked from Day One – it was like we were siblings or something in a previous life. That was very easy and we kind of traveled together through this journey as well. It is super scary to walk on set the first day we had to do stunts and jump out of a spaceship and fall down a pit and say lines at the same time. I turned to Abu and said: ‘I don’t even think I am speaking English. I cannot remember my lines.’ Abu said: ‘I know, man. Have you seen my stunt guy? He is just going to take over!’ We had lots of fun with that. I think I would have been dead – or had a really hard time if it was someone as experienced and famous as Matt Damon or someone like that.
So you bonded because you were both new to a Ridley Scott set?
Yes. I am not saying that we come from the same place, but our age and career and our journeys so far are somewhat similar in terms of experience. He has a great sense of humor and he is very open and you can talk to him about everything. You sense that from day one that you can be yourself and that there is no judgment. That is so important also when you have so many scenes together. Ridley is also very good at prepping you and we went thoroughly through the script. He drew every scene and if there were questions about the lines, we talked about that. He is not very psychological but rather more technical. Of course, he can answer if there is a psychological question and we pulled in Aaron a couple of times to help us with that. Preparation is very essential and he did it in a very calm and collected way – and then he is still fun as well. Who would have thought it was so much fun to work with a legend?!
Scott did not direct all 10 episodes. His son Luke Scott also directed three episodes. How would you compare him to his father?
I am not going to try to compare Luke to Ridley because I think it would be unfair to any child to be compared to your parent. Isn’t that what you try to escape from your whole life, being compared to your parent? But Luke was very wonderful to work with as well. We were very lucky with the directors following Ridley – both in terms of following his vision but also having their own take on it. They were all skilled directors with firm opinions and I think that is very important when you do a show like this because everyone needs a strong leader. They have all been very good at doing that job. It is always terrifying going from one director to the other because just when you have built a relationship and a common understanding of language without words. I think that it turned out beautifully and I learned a lot from each and every one of them. You learn a lot of yourself by giving up control. It has been a very inspiring journey for me and I am very excited to see the subtle differences in each and every episode from the different directors.
How would you describe Mother and what was the biggest challenge for you playing her?
I think the challenge was that it was about life and death in every scene. By episode nine, I was like ‘Aaron, can I just have a calm kitchen scene?’ But that is also the fun part. I don’t think there was a challenge as such. It was just full-on from day one – I just had to dive into it. I cannot remember the challenges. But I am sure that there were challenges and if you ask people who were close to me those eight months, I am sure I had ups and downs, but I don’t really recall them. It is such a beautiful role and it is a beautiful coming of age story for an android. The overall story is about family and belief and finding out what you believe in even if you were brought up to believe in something else – to find your own voice and to have perspective in life. Alongside this story, Mother has an internal thing going on, where she starts to feel things. Are these feelings real? Where do they come from? Who put them there? Can she trust whatever she is feeling? If she were human, she could at least trust what she’s feeling. But then again, many humans don’t trust what they feel either. Even though she is an android, it was very relatable for me to play. The part is very rich because when you play an android, you start over from scratch, and therefore there is so much to do in every scene. Every time you touch something, there is a focus on the touch or the lack of touch, or heat, sound, wind – all of these things that humans take for granted, are lacking for Mother and that gave a richness and added to the amount of fun I was able to have with her.
The main theme of the series is the tension between religion and science. Is this an issue that interests you?
I think Aaron is very clever in the choice of religion vs. science as it is two opposites that people know and so it is very easy to relate to the fact that they are just opposite in opinion. It could be any opposites really. The whole world knows about the issue of science and religion and then people can take from that what they want. For me, the story is also about believing in something too narrow-mindedly, it might become dangerous, because it is important to listen to your opponents’ point of view, because who is really right in this world? Who can honestly claim that they are right?