Entertainment

Jean Smart Doesn't Know What to Make of Her 'Watchmen' Briefcase Item, Either

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Jean Smart as Laurie Blake on 'Watchmen' | Mark Hill/HBO
Jean Smart as Laurie Blake on 'Watchmen' | Mark Hill/HBO

After taking two episodes to establish an alternate world where the public is consistently paranoid about extradimensional alien attacks and costumed heroes fight crime around every corner, the third episode of Watchmen, "She Was Killed by Space Junk," gleefully subverts everything you thought you knew with the introduction of just one character. Technically, it's a reintroduction -- fans of the original comic already knew Laurie Blake, a.k.a. Laurie Juspeczyk, a.k.a. costumed adventurer Silk Spectre II -- but we might not recognize her now, more than 30 years after the comic book's storyline ended.

The Laurie we meet on the show is tougher and pricklier than her hand-drawn counterpart, and is the perfect wisecracking foil for every self-serious "hero" she comes across. No one is more excited about the character's arrival than the actor who plays her, Jean Smart, who spoke to Thrillist ahead of Laurie's debut about Agent Petey, pet owls, and, yes, that surprise item in her briefcase. "You think you know that world and where it's going, and you're trying to make sense of everything, and all of a sudden, it's like, boom, cold water in the face," said Smart of her character's sly introduction into the Watchmen world. "I think it's kind of great that it happens Episode 3."

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Laurie flashes her badge | Mark Hill/HBO

When we meet her, Laurie Blake is an F.B.I. agent whose task is to capture costumed heroes -- a far cry from the adventuring she did when she was younger, just like the whole show has been so far for those expecting something closer to the comic. "Damon [Lindelof, the series creator] I think was ready for some real dissenters," Smart said, "but the response has been so, so incredibly positive, and I think people are really enjoying it." The night before we chatted, she said, her brother had told her that everyone in his fire department had been talking about Watchmen.

Thankfully for Smart, she hadn't even heard of the comic before she was approached for the show, and so had no idea of the phenomenon she was stepping into. Lindelof and the writers gave her a "quick crash course" and she bought a copy of the comic for herself, but didn't even get to finish it before filming her first episode. "That didn't bother me," she said. "I just felt like what was there on the page was so clear to me. You know?"

"I loved her wise-ass sense of humor," Smart said. "But that always says something about a person, when they deal with every situation like that and keeping the world at arm's length a little bit. She was obviously very much a loner except for her owl, and has a closet full of just black suits and nothing else... And then, of course, carrying a torch for a guy who's now
superhuman and lives on another planet."

watchmen, laurie blake
Laurie leaves Dr. Manhattan a voicemail | Mark Hill/HBO

Speaking of Dr. Manhattan, when she arrives in Tulsa, Laurie brings with her an electric blue sex toy in the shape of her former boyfriend's very large... you know. Like the body part it's modeled after, it's not something one can just ignore, and when I brought it up to Smart she immediately started cackling. "You know, I'm turning the pages in the script they sent to me, and I'm reading, like, 'Oh, this is so cool, I love this character, this show's gonna be amazing,' and I get to that thing and I go, 'NO! No... am I gonna have to turn this thing down??'" Smart said, laughing. "I have an eleven-year-old daughter for God's sakes -- not that she's gonna watch this show."

"It's whatever the audience wants to make of that," she continues. "It doesn't really figure hugely into the story. I just kept thinking, 'You know, it's a good thing my mother passed a couple years ago.' She was pretty open-minded, but that would have been a bit much."

As a wrap gift, Smart sent the producers miniature copies of the silver valise, filled with blue bottles of wine.

watchmen, laurie blake
Laurie meets Angela | Mark Hill/HBO

Like its source material, Watchmen is greatly informed by history, and Smart's version of Laurie is plenty hung up on her own past. Much of Episode 3 revolves around a joke Laurie tells to Dr. Manhattan, crammed into a blue phone booth advertised as a direct line to Mars -- another part of the show's subtle worldbuilding. She's fully aware that he's not listening, and yet she does it anyway. "Somebody told me that they did something like that in Japan after the terrible tsunami a few years ago," Smart said. "They set up these places where people could make phone calls to their departed ones that were lost and never found. It's heartbreaking. I would do that. I would do that in a minute."

It's the Earthbound heroes that Laurie actually gets to interact with, and she does so with a nastily fun mean streak. "Oh, it was great fun," Smart said. "My first day was in the pod with Tim [Blake Nelson's] character, who she calls 'Mirror Guy.' I still call him that when I send him text messages. 'Hey, Mirror Guy, what's going on, I miss you.'" When Laurie sits down with Looking Glass, the first thing she does is use his reflective mask to get a seed out of her teeth -- in typical fashion, trying to disarm all these weirdos by trying to convince them how uncool they are.

"It's fun, too, because every time she thinks she's got somebody intimidated, a couple of times they come back and cut her off at the knees, like Angela. She's not used to that," Smart said. In one of the best scenes of the episode, Laurie and Angela Abar (Regina King), who goes by Sister Night, have a big confrontation in a mausoleum, but instead of being afraid or impressed by Laurie's big speech, Angela blows her off. "You think, 'End of scene,' but no!"

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Laurie with Agent Petey | Mark Hill/HBO

The episode also introduced us to one of the more humorous relationships on the show so far: Laurie and her reluctant sidekick, F.B.I. agent Dale Petey (Dustin Ingram, who, like his character, is a huge Watchmen fan), who she engages in constant bickering. "She's sooo mean to him, oh my god." After talking so much smack about people who wear masks, Laurie makes her "boy toy" wear one when she knocks on the door of his hotel room at the end of the episode.

"Another nice thing about that episode," Smart said, "is that, in terms of her character, it's so well-rounded. It's so complete. It's kind of a nice little package unto itself."

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Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.