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Interview: Harriet Dyer

American viewers may not be familiar with actress Harriet Dyer, but that is about to change with her new NBC series The Inbetween, which airs Wednesday nights at 10 pm.

The Australian born actress is best known for her work down under on series such as Janet King, Love Child and No Activity.

The series follows Cassie Bedford, who communicates with the dead and helps the Seattle police solve various crimes.

We had the chance to talk with Harriet about her preparation for the new series, what she thought about psychics and premonitions and what fans can look forward to with the first season of The Inbetween.

Pop Culture Principle – Before you accepted the role of Cassie Bishop, how did you personally feel about things like spirits, premonitions and the afterlife? Did you think they were real?

Harriet Dyer – Honestly, I didn’t really. I think I had a healthy skepticism about all of it. My mom and my sister always believed and their kind of fervor for it almost put me off sometimes, so I was a bit shruggy about the whole thing. If there is something there great, but if there isn’t, that probably makes more sense.

At an NBC event between shooting the pilot and shooting the rest of the series, a woman who worked for NBC approached me at this event and said that she really enjoyed the pilot and told me that she was a medium. So, I kind of picked her brain for about twenty minutes because I had never met a medium before. I probably should have gone to a psychic in preparation for the role, but when you get a pilot, everything starts very quickly and to find a medium in LA that I felt was the real deal, I don’t know who I would have asked.

But this woman was such an amazing human and I just really got it talking to her. She spoke to me in such detail about how it all comes about and when she sees spirits and stuff like that. She then suddenly described a family member of mine that I lost two years prior and it was like there was no way she could have known anything about that person. Like I was saying, this was all on the Universal lot in Burbank and this turned my whole world view on its side in a really exciting and fulfilling way. So, going into shooting the series, I had a new found respect for what we were making and for the character of Cassie.

Pop Culture Principle – Did you do any type of research in preparing for this role?

Harriet Dyer – I had eleven auditions around that time and sometimes when you do pilot season and auditions, sometimes the lines come through at 6:00 the night before and you have to be in there at 10 am the next morning, there is time to just rehearse the lines, but not really any time for research.

Given that I had just got the role and with me as I am, I just went with that. I’ve never been an extensive researcher anyway. When I went to drama school, it was one of those things we were told to do is a lot of research on your character, but for me, I found that all of it was just more noise in my head when the camera was rolling.

When it comes to research, if your brain really loves facts and things like that, then you’ll get something out of it, but for me, Harriet, personally, I’m much more of an emotional kind of actor and I just go with what I’m feeling and what the script is asking of me and what my fellow actor is offering me. I inhabit that space more than being a pen to paper, what is a medium kind of essay.

Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us a little bit about your character Cassie Bishop?

Harriet Dyer – Cassie has not only the ability to see ghosts like a medium, but she also has crazy kind of premonitions and also flashbacks. So, the inhabits the body of someone who has passed away and she can obtain information and sometimes it’s something that she has to decode because sometimes it’s not literal, but very abstract. From that, she is able to pass on information that could be important in a police case because her father is a detective with the Seattle police department.

For example, she can tell him that she had a vision about some women with her eyes taken out and then low and behold, they find a body with the women’s eyes taken out. It doesn’t give you an immediate answer and it doesn’t tell you how it happens, so things unfold from that first piece of information that she received.

It’s exciting and there is a lot of beautiful imagery in the show and they’ve done so much incredible stuff with special effects and I think it’s these visions that Cassie has that sets this show apart from shows like Ghost Whisperer for example. These visions are such a big part of Cassie’s abilities and it’s not just her communication with the dead and I think that’s what makes this show quite unique.

Pop Culture Principle – Although Cassie’s surrogate parents are a gay couple, that relationship is just treated as a normal relationship in the series. How important do you feel that is when it comes to the series?

Harriet Dyer – I just think it’s great because it’s 2019 and the world is changing and marriage equality is in most modern countries. For NBC to very gently back that without making it a big deal is so important for society and especially for gay couples. Gay couples want to show that there is nothing different about their unions. They still pay the bills, they raise their kids and they are making dinner, it’s all the same. The more that people who don’t quite understand that yet see that on television, that is just better for humanity. The more normal something like that is, because at the heart of it, it is absolutely normal.

Pop Culture Principle – Since your character has a close relationship with her father who is a police detective, do you think the spirits tell her things because they know the information will be passed on to him?

Harriet Dyer – I think the spirits see Harriet as a portal to the living world and they are aware of Cassie and her abilities. Like that woman from the NBC event told me that the spirits just know. They know that if they need something dealt with, Cassie has a direct line to a detective, which is very convenient for storytelling.

Pop Culture Principle – Cassie doesn’t spend her time trying to make people believe what she sees. Either you do or you don’t, but she won’t try and convince you that she does. Would you agree with that?

Harriet Dyer – Yes and I think that’s what makes Cassie cool is that she doesn’t care if you believe her or not. I believe it because I live with it. I don’t need you to believe me, I don’t need you to like me, I just need you to get out of my way if you are going to make my life more difficult. She’s a tough kid who is pretty much an orphan. She’s learned to keep healthy boundaries between herself and those people who would make her feel bad about herself.

I think that is also another thing that makes the show different. She’s not overly earnest, she’s not deeply passionate, but as the show goes on, you see her leaning more and more into how she can help these people and you realize that she gets satisfaction out of being an aide to these energies and spirits that need her. You see Cassie actually growing into her calling a little bit, but that being said, she maintains a delicious coldness about herself.

Pop Culture Principle – Do you see Harriet’s abilities as a curse and if so, why?

Harriet Dyer – It depends upon the life you want to, live right? She’s able to make a difference with this stuff. She’s able to give people comfort and give people closure. Without the gift, her life would be a lot simpler. She would have more friends and probably would be able to have a boyfriend, but would her life be as fulfilling. I think for a young woman who is just trying to be normal and live a normal life, it is a curse, but also without it, would she be making a difference?

Pop Culture Principle – With this type of series and subject matter, there are endless stories that can be told. Would you agree with that?

Harriet Dyer – Absolutely! At about eight episodes in, I got really excited. Every time I got a script, I thought that we could go anywhere or anyone could come up to me like a Viking. We could go anywhere or deal with anything because there’s such an opportunity when you are dealing with people who have passed over. You can tap into those eras and the issues of those times. It’s something we didn’t necessarily go to crazy within this first season. I think the most abstract we got in this season was episode nine, I think. We meet a girl who was sixteen years old in the 80s and we see her dancing with a Walkman. That’s when I realized I could talk to someone from the Victorian era or a gladiator. It’s wild the kind of scope that this series could have.

Pop Culture Principle – You mentioned the series Ghost Whisperer earlier. Do you see being compared to shows like that as a hindrance or something positive?

Harriet Dyer – I don’t see it as a hindrance at all. I see it as a legacy that is being passed down. We wouldn’t exist without those shows. Everything has echoes of something before it and it’s very rare that a show comes out that isn’t something that you’ve seen before. There are only three stories you can tell, but it’s just how you tell them. I take my hat off to the legacy that Ghost Whisperer, Medium and even Cold Case left us.

If people are missing those shows, then they are going to love The InBetween. Those shows did leave us a wealth of an audience behind. Here we are in 2019 and people are still talking about those shows and I think it’s very cool. I think it’s cool and I think we have given the police procedural with the supernatural twist genre a really fresh coat of paint.

Pop Culture Principle – Do you hope for the viewers at home that this series can give them a different perspective about life and about death?

Harriet Dyer – I hope that they do. If you think there is something else, regardless of your creed or beliefs, you may not be as scared maybe? Of course, it’s an interesting debate. There are a lot of Christians for instance, in America and I don’t know how they fit with this kind of stuff. I hope that they are able to embrace it into their own belief system. It’s not going against it but could be something that works with it definitely.

I think that any story that makes you feel a little better about death, a little bit better about life and makes you feel better about waking up in the morning and makes you feel better about your friends and family getting old, I think it has the capacity to comfort people.

I think if people are watching the show and they’ve recently lost someone or lost someone at some stage, I’m sure that there is some comfort that they will be able to take from our show and that’s my biggest thing as an actor. I love telling stories that gives people comfort and makes people feel a little bit better.

Pop Culture Principle – The series does an excellent job mixing comedy in with the drama and suspense. Would you agree?

Harriet Dyer – Watching the pilot again, I couldn’t believe how much I was giggling at the cops. There is some comedy there which I am really happy about. I don’t think any drama should be completely without comedy just like no comedy should be completely without drama. I think it comes down to casting. Paul Blackthorne who plays my surrogate father is so British and just a joy to work with. His character constantly bumping up against Damien Asante, played by Justin Cornwell, is very funny to watch.

I come from comedy as a performer. I’ve done lots of plays that were comedies and a lot of series in Australia that were comedies, so I don’t mind at all trying to put a light touch on this stuff because I think that it is what will make the show different.

Pop Culture Principle – What can fans look forward to with the first season of The Inbetween?

Harriet Dyer – They can look forward to the kind of cracking police case every week which is always handled very sophisticatedly. Also, you get to meet new characters each week, but we have some that stick around like the little girl or the creepy guy at the end of episode one.

We also have a host of characters that come for one and go. There is also a good macro-storyline that will go from episode one to ten that I think will keep viewers hooked like what’s actually happening to Cassie next and what’s going on with her life.

There are great stunts, great suspense and there is some great storytelling and the scripts are all really fresh. I think it’s a really interesting take on police work as well. I think viewers can expect a really well-rounded series and it’s definitely a show that people can talk about it around the water cooler. If you stick around for the entire season, episode ten is a real cracker. I don’t know how the network can’t make another season after seeing episode ten.

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We would like to send out a huge thank you to Harriet Dyer for taking time out of her schedule to chat with us. You can catch new episodes of The Inbetween every Wednesday at 10/9c only on NBC.

**All photos courtesy of Sergei Bachlakov/Christopher Fragapane/NBC**

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