AMC’s Dietland, one of this summer’s newest shows, is a darkly funny drama that follows Plum Kettle, a ghostwriter for the editor of one of the hottest fashion magazines in New York. The series is based on Sarai Walker’s 2015 best-selling novel of the same name and explores issues like misogyny, unrealistic beauty standards, and rape culture.
I recently had the chance to chat with Erin Darke, who plays the role of Leeta — a mysterious woman who hopes to help Plum realize the mistakes of her life choices.
Darke was excited to be part of Dietland for several reasons and even had hopes of being on it when she first heard the series was coming to television.
“I really wanted to be on another show that was about women made by women with a feminist bend. I remember just reading the blurb and the headline and [thinking] that’s it. That’s my next show. I have to make this happen,” Darke said.
“I can’t believe that it actually did. Nothing works out that way in this industry, but somehow, yeah. Here we are. I just get really excited about telling women’s stories with other women. I mean, this show is definitely that.”
Dietland feels particularly timely because of the #MeToo movement, but Darke noted that this story has been relevant for a long time.
“What’s amazing is that AMC picked it up before the Weinstein news broke and before #MeToo,” she stated. “It is super timely right now because we’re talking about these things, but it’s actually always been timely.”
“Part of what was so special about working on this show was that everybody was so excited to be there and so excited about the show. It makes it such a cool environment to walk into work today and everybody’s just like, ‘Can you believe we get to make this?'”
Darke also shared what she hopes audiences get from watching the series.
“I hope that they get entertainment. I hope it makes them laugh, but I also hope it makes them think. It made me think. Working on it made me think a lot both about the way I treat myself, and my body issues, and how hard I am on myself about it sometimes. It also made me think a lot about the way we treat fat people and particularly fat women. It made me have this horrible moment where I realized I don’t know if I’ve always been as much of an ally as I can and should be in that area. Since then, I’ve tried to do a lot of reading and just a lot of listening and try a lot harder to be an ally.”
“We’re all so hard on ourselves. I feel like we spend so much time beating up on ourselves and then go out and let the world tramp on us too,” Darke continued.
Leeta plays an important role in Plum’s story, and Darke commented on the dynamic of their relationship.
“I love the Leeta and Plum relationship so much because [it feels] so loving and supportive. I feel like Leeta so desperately wants to make Plum see herself the way that Leeta sees her. I’ve had that feeling with friends before where you watch them beat up on [themselves] and you’re just like, God, I wish you could just see yourself through my eyes for like a minute,” Darke said.
Though we were introduced to Leeta in the two-hour season premiere, we haven’t seen her since. “My character, Leeta sort of goes into hiding,” Darke noted.
She also shared some of the reasons she really appreciates her character.
“I love the way Leeta looks and the way people initially see her is so different from who she is. I think she’s very unexpected.”
“I think she has this deep empathy, especially for other women and the experiences of other women. I don’t think she quite always knows what to do with that and she tries to do the right thing and it might not always actually be the right thing, but it is always coming from this deep place of caring. I think she has so much heart,” Darke continued.
As for what’s coming this season, things will definitely be getting more complicated.
“Anyone who has read the book will have some idea of what’s coming. I do think it gets crazier. I think everybody sort of has to figure out what their moral compass is and how far is too far in this fight for — I mean equality is the best word, but sort of in this revolution that Jennifer has started, and Plum has sort of started in herself. I think everyone reaches a point where they have to figure out how far is too far,” Darke confirmed.
Speaking of television that makes an impact, Darke shared a series that made a profound impact on her in recent years: the first season of Fargo.
“I felt it was the first time that I had seen a female lead character who wasn’t a size two, but it was never talked about. It was never a storyline. She just was an incredibly capable, professional, awesome woman who had a love storyline and it was never an issue. I just remember watching it and being blown away by it,” Darke recalled.
“Allison Tolman’s character in the first Fargo is such an amazing character, and she does such an amazing job. I just remember being so affected by it.”
In addition to work on Dietland, Darke will also be returning as Mary to The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel for Season 2.
“I’m such a fangirl of that show. I can’t believe that I get to also be on it,” she said.
She also has an indie film coming up, which she was in the middle of shooting in Atlanta when she auditioned for Dietland.
“It comes out in September. It’s called Summer ’03. It’s a really cool coming of age story, like a family comedy from an awesome female writer-director,” Darke explained. “I hope people see it and enjoy it.”
Dietland airs Mondays at 9/8c on AMC.
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