INTERVIEW: Kevin Carroll Talks Sacred Lies

Photographer: Gray Hamner, Stylist: Jennifer Austin, Grooming: Mynxxi White

Over the last few decades, cults have become an ever-growing, yet increasingly fascinating concern within society. Many of these associations are infamous within popular culture, espousing some wide-ranging and quite often bizarre tenets: from the hard-line religious beliefs of the Westboro Baptist Church, to the more media-savvy, celebrity-endorsed organisations such as Scientology, cults are assuming a greater presence in our daily lives. And given the growing discontent within society that has been brought about by various factors, including failures in globalisation, voter disenfranchisement, and a general apathy towards the political process, the rise of populism and the Alt-right seems only to be encouraging the cult phenomenon.

As a result of this societal trend, Raelle Tucker has been able to analyse in great detail the effects that cults have on their members through her new hit TV show Sacred Lies, screened by Facebook Watch, which is based on Stephanie Oakes’ superb novel The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly. In the show, Tucker explores the machinations of the fictional Kevinian cult through the eyes of its eponymous new initiate Minnow Bly (Elena Kampouris), following her as she escapes from her psychological prison to a physical one: a juvenile detention centre. Minnow’s journey provides a fascinating insight into not only the immense mental trauma cults can inflict upon their followers, but particularly the physical, with Minnow having had both her hands removed.

In prison, Minnow meets the mysterious Dr Alan Wilson, played by the enigmatic Kevin Carroll, an FBI forensic psychologist who studies religious crimes, cults and other extremist organisations. He takes great interest in Minnow upon her arrival in the facility, due to her lengthy time within the Kevinian cult and the scars this has left her with. Indeed, as Dr Wilson becomes more familiar with her plight, he begins to empathise greatly with Minnow and the hardships she’s faced, consequently struggling to fulfil his professional capacity as an FBI agent.

I was able to speak with Kevin about his new role within the show, the intriguing character he portrays, and find out more about the other aspects of his work.

Photographer: Gray Hamner, Stylist: Jennifer Austin, Grooming: Mynxxi White

What drew you toward starring in Sacred Lies? Had you read the source material beforehand?
I have found that sometimes creative people find projects and sometimes projects find people. This was a project that my manager initially came across and thought it looked interesting. I saw that this character was a forensic psychologist and knew it would be a challenge to pull off but I wanted to give it a shot. So we jumped into the running and I am glad that it worked out.

Tell us about your character, Dr Alan Wilson, and how he fits into the narrative of Sacred Lies.
I know that initially Stephanie Oakes, the writer of the novel, was interested in exploring the mentor-mentee relationship in a way that was true for her. I think to go to deep into this may give away some of the journey points that are at the centre of the relationship in the show. But, I will say that at its most basic level he is a father and a husband trying to provide for his family and balance that with his job. That is where I think we can universally connect with who he is as a person. In the context of this fairytale we see his relationship function in concert with Minnow’s journey and hopefully we can begin fruitful conversations about our lives from this jumping-off point.

I have heard that Dr Wilson is not your typical psychologist: is he hiding any dark secrets?
Maybe not the typical psychologist but a great representative for the common man. I’m saying he wants what we all want, which is to be successful at his job and provide for his family. However, in doing that he may go to some extremes at times but all based in an attempt to support those around him. Whether he is successful or not is the journey we take on the show and in life.

Was there a particular aspect of the character that you enjoyed portraying?
I loved the notion of playing this forensic psychologist. It was a lot to try and prepare and pack in to a short short period but hopefully there will be a chance to grow with the character over a few seasons. The idea that he is a psychologist and works out in the world with his sleeves rolled up was very cool.

You have played some eccentric characters in your previous roles, such as the evil Sinnerman in Lucifer and medium John Murphy in The Leftovers. Do you find yourself drawn toward portraying larger-than-life personalities?
I do find that working on and through these characters that are not typical tends to be challenging and it’s uncomfortable to feel like I nailed them. But then again that keeps it all the more interesting and I think it will push me to grow as an artist.

Photographer: Gray Hamner, Stylist: Jennifer Austin, Grooming: Mynxxi White
Photographer: Gray Hamner, Stylist: Jennifer Austin, Grooming: Mynxxi White

With Sacred Lies being produced by Facebook Watch, and the increasing presence of online streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, do you think this shift in the distribution of TV and Films is creating more opportunities for new writers and actors?
For sure. I think the more perspective we bring to the table the quicker we able to have cultural conversations that matter. It is interesting to see beautiful minds at work and formulating the voices that add to the tapestry of cultures recorded throughout history.

You have also spent time behind the camera as a producer. Is there a particular aspect of it that you enjoy most?
I feel like only concentrating on one aspect of the craft is limiting, so starting to get familiar with other aspects of the process is the next move.

Photographer: Gray Hamner, Stylist: Jennifer Austin, Grooming: Mynxxi White
Photographer: Gray Hamner, Stylist: Jennifer Austin, Grooming: Mynxxi White

Tell us a little bit about what you have coming up.
In addition to Sacred Lies, I am recurring on Snowfall this season. That is also a dark world of truth to deal with there as well. It was a huge test to shoot both of those shows at the same time but I enjoyed the challenge. Then Blindspotting, which is in theaters now. Shout out to Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal. What a commitment to work on this movie for 10 years and get it done like they did. A huge nod to holding up the mirror to culture and a call to action to stay ‘woke.’ And at the moment I’m in rehearsals at the Mark Taper Forum for Lynn Nottage’s play Sweat. She is the first woman to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice: for Ruined in 2009 and for Sweat in 2017, which I think is amazing. It will run from September to early October.

Finishing with a fun question: if you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
Hmmm. I’d guess I’d like the power to heal. Pets, people and problems. Not sure I would want to wear tights though. This heat out here in California would make it rough to get around without a heat rash.

All episodes of Secret Lies are available to view on Facebook Watch.

The entire second season of Snowfall is accessible on FX, with a third season recently announced.

Blindspotting is now showing in U.S. cinemas.

Tickets are also on sale for Kevin’s powerhouse performance in Lynn Notage’s production, Sweat, which is being performed at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, California.

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