I know you wore multiple types of masks while playing Looking Glass. Did knowing the tragic reason Wade wears his mask alter your own conception of it?
Nelson: In terms of wearing the mask, through the first five episodes the journey was a really interesting one both for me as an actor and also for Wade as a character in terms of his relationship with the mask. I did a lot of mask work in acting school and what I learned from that process was often in a compensatory way the movement and voice would become amplified or exaggerated once the face was removed as a tool in pursuit of what a character wants. With Wade and with this mask and with this character. it's been the opposite. I've found that the mask, and particularly its opacity and the mystery that that projects for the character, has made him more restrained, more quiet, more laconic, in need of doing less to have status and power in the scenes in which he needs that. So I've been really surprised at how subtle the performance can be in a very natural way because of the way it's written and because of this particular mask that Damon has given me. That's been a really rewarding intuitive process that I didn't expect. It's just fun to be able to go on a set and have to do so little for the character to get what he needs and pursue what he needs.
In terms of the physical aspects of just acting with the mask, that's involved an evolution. At first they gave me a mask that I needed to wear that was completely opaque from the inside, and that didn't work for me because I needed to see my scene partners. So I was able successfully to beg them not ever to have me wear it again, because I just wasn't able to give my scene partners what I wanted and I wasn't able to get from them what I needed just to do the work you need to do to play a character. You need to see people unless your character is blind and Wade isn't. [I was then] getting masks that were either diaphanous or translucent and eventually that had the eye holes cut out so I could really see through it. That evolution was really good, meaning that when I could finally just see every bit of a scene partner I just felt more equipped to do my work and the acting got better, I think. But then another phenomenon of it is that I wear this crown with a GoPro on it. I'm always filming scene partners or the room around me so that they can project that image that the GoPro captures onto the digital effect. Initially it was annoying to have to balance a GoPro on my head but then I said to myself, Why not internalize this in a way that's helpful instead of letting it inhibit you. So, I thought, Hang on, I'm filming other actors, that's really interesting. That's its own kind of weird power. I ingested that into Looking Glass and that was great, just in terms of an empowering aspect of the character to know that was literally filming other people.
It's also striking to learn the mask is a comfort blanket as well.
Nelson: That's something I learned in the reading of episode five so I didn't understand it entirely until it was my character's reality in the moment. That sort of acting in reverse is so interesting and novel for me. I don't mind it. If that's the way you've got to do it, that's the way you've got to do it. I look at it as akin to living life. You don't know what's going to happen during the day in front of you. Damon's, in a sense, presenting you with that reality as an actor. You don't know where something's headed and maybe you don't even understand how your past has impacted you until something jars you into considering it, like therapy. So the process of acting in this show has been in its own way therapeutic for the characters we play. We learn about ourselves as we do, and go along and our experiences get contextualized by the process of the writers presenting us with our reality in a new way.
What has it been like working with Regina King? That's such an interesting relationship to see on screen, especially given his betrayal of her that he believes is necessary to save her life.
Nelson: Regina is as classy a person as I've met doing what I do. With her as the leader of the show the rest of us simply couldn't be more lucky. She sets an example for all of us with her work ethic, her integrity, her generosity, her kindness, her intelligence, and her wit. Damon has written a character who has a tremendous amount of that as well. So while Regina is transforming herself into Angela Abar and that's not Regina, for everything good about Angela, Regina is finding that inside of an extraordinary soul that is Regina King. So when acting with her it's just easy. If you do what an actor is supposed to do, which is play off your scene partner and have a back and forth with them it doesn't get easier than when working with Regina King. Betraying her in the episode was satisfyingly difficult and in doing so hopefully saving her life, which is why Wade does it, felt in a weird way satisfyingly heroic.