Wednesday, December 2, 2020
Dec. 2, 2020

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Lemmon discovers past is key to character in ‘Helstrom’


Sydney Lemmon really, really, really wants you to vote.

The 30-year-old actress has been volunteering regularly with Knock for Democracy, calling voters in states like North Carolina and Georgia, where Democrats are in competitive House and Senate races.

Trying to talk politics with strangers sounds intimidating at a time when Americans are as polarized as ever on nearly every issue, and Lemmon admits it’s hard not be discouraged by the harsh rejections, which can feel personal. But the positive interactions make it worthwhile.

“In our own little echo chambers and bubbles, we’re all so driven and obsessed with this (political) moment,” Lemmon, who passes quite a bit of time engrossed in the news cycle, says during a video call from Connecticut. “But there are people whose votes count just as much who don’t feel the urgency the same way. I just can’t say enough about how meaningful it’s been to feel as though I’m doing even the littlest thing to help make some change. But it does feel like an impossible moment in some ways.”

The stakes are a little bit different in “Helstrom,” a 10-episode Marvel horror series that premiered Friday on Hulu and marks Lemmon’s first starring role. She plays Ana Helstrom, a woman who as a child was kidnapped by her father an actual demon and taken on a road trip as he killed people.

As an adult, Ana oozes confidence and danger and is a bit detached. She has taken it upon herself to rid the world of people, like her dad, who hurt others.

“When you meet Ana in the pilot, she’s absolutely winning at life,” says Lemmon. “She’s strolling through her auction house that she built with (her childhood friend and confidant) Chris Yen. She’s auctioning off Napoleon’s sword, snaring this guy, nearly kissing him and throwing him off a building.

“And then she gets sort of yanked from the height of her amazing life and pulled into her messy history.”

A graduate of Boston University and Yale School of Drama, Lemmon’s formal education is most apparent in the moments that she thoughtfully discusses her approach to the role and other elements of the craft.

Lemmon didn’t seriously consider pursuing acting until after she got the opportunity to attend a magnet arts program during high school. But she showed early signs of potential.

Although Lemmon was “quite shy” as a kid, her mother has told her stories about how she would put on shows involving the ABCs on the stairs as a toddler. Her grandfather, Academy Award-winning actor Jack Lemmon, was among her fans.

Ana’s family history is much more complicated. Loosely based on the Marvel comic book character Satana Hellstrom, co-created by Roy Thomas and John Romita Sr., Ana is an extravagant businesswoman who deals in high-end antiquities and a vigilante killer with no fond feelings for the rest of her family. Lemmon explains that she focused on what was in the scripts to build up “Helstrom’s” fresh incarnation of Ana.

Figuring out Ana was a process, and not just because the scripts arrived weekly, just days before shooting each episode.

Ana’s superpowers including the ability to sense the energy and history of objects that she touches and tough exterior were among the many facets of the character Lemmon had to navigate before coming to understand her. Lemmon’s moment of clarity came in a scene that involves Ana finally opening a box of trinkets that are relics from her past.

“These tokens were directly linked to her dad,” says Lemmon. “Her dad would give them to her and they have a huge connection to a lot of the trauma and the abuse that she sustained as a little kid.”