Kathleen Rose Perkins on Playing a Grieving Single Mother to a Superpowered Teen

Netflix I Am Not Okay With This may follow the story of a young woman who learns she has superpowers as she deals with the usual difficulties and pressures of a teenager, but the series created by Jonathan Entwhistle and Christy Hall is about much more than teenage rage and crazy superpowers. In addition, the focus is on grief and trauma and the consequences of the loss for both the individual and the family. In a show that includes not only Sydney Sophia Lillis, but also her mother Maggie.

Played by Kathleen Rose Perkins, who has played several roles in film and television, but perhaps best known for her role as Carol Rance in Showtime episodes, Maggie is a single working class mother who tries to take care of her two children while she sustains her own life in light of the traumatic loss of her husband, who committed suicide before the events, which I do not share. This loss is central to the series in many ways, and recently we had the opportunity to talk to Perkins about how the series deals with grief and trauma, how it affects Maggie’s relationship with her daughter, and how the series reflects some of the real issues of families and loved ones facing loss.

Read on for our in-depth interview with Perkins and share your views on what I don’t share in the following comments.

 

One of the central emotional elements of I Am Not Okay With This is the death and suicide of Sydney’s father, husband Maggie, who is not often seen as an emotional anchor in such shows. We’ll see how Sydney deals with this injury, but from Maggie’s point of view we don’t see much. How do you think Maggie’s handling things?

Kathleen Rose Perkins: Oh, I think she’s filling it up and denying it a little. She is not going to face her grief because I find it very interesting that they have chosen a parent for that, because it is usually the parent who tries to deal with the child and be there for the child during the loss. And they’re ripe. You’re better at it. But on this show, I really appreciate that they showed Maggie that she doesn’t want to get involved at all and that she just doesn’t want to do her job. Probably a little workaholic. And when she wasn’t at work, she drank alcohol. So there were a lot of things that just distracted her from the pain of losing her husband.

And she must have a lot of wine, too. I mean survivors of a suicide, they go through many different emotions, and one of them is survivor’s guilt. So, what did I do? Did I put it there? All these things are very painful to deal with. I don’t think Maggie can handle it.

Absolutely. And I think it’s important that the show really shows that side of things.

I think so, too. And I think she’s… Yeah, you’re right. It’s generally said in terms of… That’s Sydney’s story, okay. And we’re all spokespersons and she’s the hub of the wheel and we all respond to her and deal with her. But I think it affects everyone’s life and experience, especially when you look at what Wyatt Oleff’s family goes through in his house. And the way Aidan’s character, my younger brother, my son… They touch it in front of everyone. But yes, you’re right. After all, this is the story of Sydney.

 

Speaking of Sydney, and this is her story, how do you think the grief and trauma of losing someone so close had a direct impact on Maggie Sydney’s individual relationship?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, when I got the call for the audition, one of the scenes from the audition was the very first episode where I come home late at night and she sits in front of the TV and tells me that she’s called to the director’s office and has a newspaper and… The lawyer’s office, I’m sorry. And start opening up to Maggie and tell her something very traumatic. She says sometimes I feel like the people I love don’t love me. And Maggie, which I think was my favorite line, and I know it’s a terrible thing to say to a young man, but she says sometimes you can want to go too high, Hahn. It’s just a cruel line.

And I think that sums up most of her relationship in the first season: she doesn’t want to communicate with her daughter, but she also wants to teach her daughter to lower her standards. Because I think Maggie’s trying to take that advice for herself. She’s trying to give herself some advice: You know what, if you lower your standards, don’t expect too much and you can live a relatively unharmed life. Again, she’s the one trying to deal with the trauma and just isn’t dealing with all the emotions she’s experiencing. So I find it quite interesting that she’s an adult again, and the only way to help the child is by saying that I don’t know, don’t expect too much, and maybe you’re good at it.

That’s just terrible advice. But many adults do, especially when they are interfering in their own business. That’s why I found it very interesting, and that’s why I really wanted to play that role, because it’s something you’ve never seen as an adult, and it’s a show for young adults. You’ve never seen an adult who doesn’t want to communicate with a child.

 

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Have you done anything special or specific to prepare as an actor for the role of Maggie, taking into account all these pieces of grief, mental health and trauma, and why are they so important for this, because it is a unique performance of guiding young adults?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s a good question, because I’m not like Maggie. I’d rather talk about my feelings, and I cry a lot, and I love… I’m not like that. I’m not like Maggie. So it wasn’t a challenge for the emotions until he was summoned, actually I get emotional, but later I don’t anymore. So I guess the only thing I really have in common with Maggie is that I like to work. I like to keep busy and do things.

Every time I was on stage, I tried to keep busy, whether it was doing the laundry, making coffee or wiping the counter. I’ve always done something and was part of the action. Even though I drank wine, I did so before I communicated or came into contact with anyone, my daughter. So I tried to use the task execution aspect, because that’s what I have in common with this character.

 

One of the things I really like about the show is the way it takes root in normal people. Especially with Maggie, who is a single working class mother who really tries to do the best for her family, with everything they go through. And that’s something that is really recognisable for many viewers, I think that even young people can see a reflection of their own family in a certain way. How did you approach the creation of Maggie’s figure, how do you present her on the screen?

I don’t have kids, so I’m not sure what it is. But I have friends who have kids, and some of them go through puberty. And that’s why I used to sit in front of my mother, our good friend, my teenage mother. We drink wine together because he’s spinning. I listened to her and I listened to what she said. And one of the most interesting things she said to me, which I will never forget, was that she said it was a one-way street. All you do with these children is give and give and they take and they take. And I understand Maggie’s barking orders to Sydney, but she depends on it because she’s a single mother.

She didn’t… Her husband’s missing. She runs the show, and she has to work all the time. So in some ways she has to rely on her daughter to run the household and Sydney hates that because she just wants to be a child and she really tries. I can’t imagine what it’s like. And the only thing I have learned from that role is that it is wise not to have children, because I don’t think I have the patience to face what it takes to raise a child, especially not alone. I can’t imagine what it’s like.

So yeah, what I’ve heard since the show started is that a lot of kids, a lot of kids think Maggie is a slut, and a lot of parents who have seen the show have said that: Oh, I’ve wanted to say those things to my kids so many times. They can fully understand where she comes from and applaud a cool, non-helicopter parent who does exactly the same parenting work as she does. They applaud for him and wish that they could set him up for their own parents. So I find it interesting that it’s a bit polarizing based on age.

 

Absolutely. And in Maggie’s relationship with Sydney, we also see how they develop over the course of the season in a very open and honest account of what can sometimes be so difficult in a parent-child, mother-daughter relationship. Speaking of which, what did you like best about mother-daughter relationships?

Oh, my God! Finally, I found the first scene in which I tell her to lower her standards so as not to aim too high. I really enjoyed it. But I also liked the fact that in the last episode, when I got up… We are at very short distance, which we never do in the whole series, we never get close or touch each other for that reason. So, when I stand very close to her in front of the mirror, I make her dress and diploma buttons and at the end of the series I tell her a very nice story about me and my father. Those two moments were my favorite, when I liked playing together because it was a full bow.

You see a relationship arch that runs almost 180 degrees from point to point. Oh, these people. I see how they can be. I see that there is a truly loving relationship between these two women, who probably have more in common than they would like to admit. I think Sydney still considers herself her father’s daughter and her father’s daughter. But I think that if the series continues, Sydney and Maggie might see the similarities and become more teammates than enemies, which is my favorite. It was my favorite game. Oh, we have the moment when we’re completely separated and hostile to each other.

And I’m often in my memories, I’m part of her anger, which feeds her superpowers when she gets angry, when she gets angry. So they use a lot of memories of me, especially on the couch with wine. So you can see I’m a controversial point for them throughout the season. But that last scene in the last episode was so much fun for me, and it’s definitely more in my wheelhouse. I’m more of a warm person. So it was very nice to be able to play both sides of that figure.

 

And when we talk about the powers of Sydney, which are largely a mystery, let’s say, for a few people, none of those people are Maggie, how do you think Maggie would react if she knew about the powers of Sydney?

Yeah, that’s a very good question. I mean, I’d rather she thinks it’s cool, but knowing Maggie, I don’t know what she’d think. I think she’s probably worried. How can you..: Oh, no, now this. You can also make things happen to your mind. Oh, shit. Okay. Okay. That’s something else she has to deal with.

 

I have to ask you, especially since this is a superpower show, what would your superpower be if you personally had a superpower?

Yeah, I think I like the question, and it’s a party question I often ask. So I’ve given it a lot of thought. Sure, you want to be able to fly, but clear the table. My superpower would be that I could blink my eyes and immediately have experience and knowledge of the abilities at that moment.

Okay. Okay. It’s a cool force.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So my strength will essentially be immediate control. This way I know immediately how to undergo heart surgery and I know immediately how to fly the plane, and all I have to do is close my eyes. It’s a bit like the Matrix, but I wouldn’t have to connect to the Internet.