Flack interview - Anna Paquin (Robyn)

We caught up with Anna Paquin about playing the morally ambiguous Robyn and executive producing Flack.

Flack interview - Anna Paquin (Robyn)

How would you describe Robyn?

One of her great talents is her ability to be all things to all people. She certainly wears many different masks - not just two! But that's what we all do. People wear different faces in different aspects of their lives. People appear in the way they think the person they're interacting wants them to appear. It's not unusual, but Robyn is on a whole other level of skill.

That capacity is very useful in her job as a PR executive, isn't it?

Yes. She needs to be different for different clients. She's able to be a chameleon and blend into the background whatever the situation. Her job is not to be fazed by anything. She's like a paramedic. In an emergency, she's not allowed to go, "Oh my God" or panic. She just has to get on with saving someone. What Robyn does may seem trivial, but to her client it's the most important thing that's ever happened. It's absolutely vital to them that the messes they have made get cleaned up.

Is it important that the drama takes these situations seriously, too?

Definitely. We're committing to the reality of the urgency of these problems. We're not winking at the audience and saying, "We know it's all silly." It's not silly for these people. It has real repercussions. Some scenes are quite sad and dark. That's where you see the humanity in some of these people. Yes, it's a job and yes, Robyn is generally able to shrug it off, but sometimes it does hit home.

Do aspects of Robyn's professional life seep into her private life?

Yes. It would be very hard not to bring some of it into her personal life. She has signed NDAs with a lot of her clients, so she sees things she's not even allowed to tell her partner about. But even if you have a job where you're used to compartmentalising information, you can still blur the lines between what you should tell people and what you keep to yourself. That's really intriguing dramatically.

Does the best drama reside in that ambiguous area?

Definitely. There is nothing interesting about people who are morally polarised - all good or all bad. I don't think that's real. Most people exist in the grey zone, whether they admit it or not. If you held up a microscope to any of us, would we stand up to scrutiny?

How does that manifest itself in Robyn's work?

She's very, very good at her job, but she still does things that are morally ambiguous and makes major cock-ups. It's great fun watching people who are very good at things. That's why we enjoy elite sport. Robyn is a train wreck, but she's really good at her job.

Will viewers be taken aback by what Robyn gets up to in her work?

Yes. There are moments where you think, "I can't believe she said that or got out of that situation." But at the same time, you're also thinking, "Damn, that's impressive!" The seamlessness with which Robyn is able to pull people out of unfortunate situations hooks you in.

What are the strengths of Oliver's script?

There are no mistakes in his writing. There is nothing that doesn't come back for a reason. There are no red herrings. All the i's are dotted and the t's crossed. His script is also laughing at something a bit naughty. Oliver does that better than almost anyone I know. He has a dark sense of humour. It's really fun and delicious to say his words out loud. Some lines require three takes because everyone's laughing so much. That's very rare. All in all, it adds up to a riveting package.

Why is the setting of PR so well suited to drama?

A lot of these situations are exotic for viewers. Flack is a peek behind the curtain at a fascinating world that a lot of people don't know about. It's unique. I can't think of another show that has gone into this area of celebrity and fame. I also can't think of another show that's so brutally honest and confrontational and funny, all at the same time. It's a character-driven drama that you'll connect to emotionally. It ticks all the boxes.

What have you enjoyed about executive producing Flack?

I love being involved in all the details of any job, even if I'm not the executive producer. It turns out I've been back-seat executive producing all along! I find it very gratifying to be part of the building process on a production. That appeals to every part of my job. It's a function of having grown up on set. It's in my DNA.

What lessons can we draw from Robyn's behaviour?

She makes you ask questions about your own moral compass in a way that's uncomfortable. Those questions are jabbing at you: "What would you do?" The obviously good thing, the obviously bad thing or something in-between? Most people try not to get themselves into trouble. So if you put them against a wall, they do what it takes to get out of it. That's not a strange concept for us.

Does Flack also have something to say about the nature of truth?

Yes. I hope this drama will make people question what they know. What is the truth? We're living in such a bizarre era where if someone tweets a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. How reliable is your information? Who's controlling it? How many levels has it been through before we hear it? It's not just about trivial celebrity lives, but who should we believe? That in itself is a can of worms. It's highly relevant.

Finally, what do you hope audiences will take away from Flack?

I hope they find it gripping. Dramas that are complex make you take a step closer and say to yourself, "I want to know more." I found Flack compelling to read, and I think it'll be compelling to watch, too.