Scottish actress, Laura Fraser, is no a stranger to devastation and disorderly conduct — on screen, that is. Born and raised in the kinetic city of Glasgow, Fraser’s big break came in the form of a role on the BBC’s adaption of Neil Gaiman’s NeverWhere (1996), a sci-fi mini-series that quickly became a cult classic.
After appearing in several other successful British shows and films including the critically acclaimed Titus (1999), starring Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock) and Jessica Lange (American Horror Story), Fraser hopped across the pond to America to further cultivate her career abroad. From there, the actress made an international name for herself with roles in films such as A Knight’s Tale (2001), as well as the upcoming indie flick Wish You Well (2013) with Ellen Burstyn (Big Love) and Josh Lucas (Daydream Nation), all the while maintaining her CV back home with projects such as BBC’s popular mini-series He Knew He Was Right (2004) starring opposite big British names including Bill Nighy (Total Recall) and David Tennant (Dr. Who).
As an actress, Fraser’s accomplishments rely on versatility and an ability to adapt to the core of a character. From period dramas, hysterical comedies, emotional thrillers, and whimsical fantasies, Fraser’s style is effortless, and is perhaps one of the top reasons why international television audiences are so enthralled by her latest character, Lydia Rodarte-Quayle of AMC’s hit crime drama, Breaking Bad.
Nearing the end of its fifth and final season, the popular series follows the afflictions and tribulations of former high school chemistry teacher Walter White, brilliantly played by Emmy award winner Bryan Cranston. Tracking the fallout of White’s discovery that he suffers from terminal lung cancer, Breaking Bad watches as Cranston’s character quits his day job as a teacher and delves deep into the underground world of illegal drugs, where he becomes a master at manufacturing and distributing crystal meth with the goal of securing enough funds to support his family once gone.
Cut to Season 5, and ol’ Mr. White is not…well, quite ol’ Mr. White anymore. Enters Fraser as the newest series regular, another character who is edging their way across the dark side in the name of family, specifically her young daughter. Fraser’s Lydia is a performer; aware that she is more vulnerable than most inhabiting her new sphere — which includes some of the most powerful and merciless men in the methamphetamine business — she turns off her emotion and taps into her inner chill — a mean, ruthless frost that has audiences eager to see what she’ll do next. “I would describe Lydia as a sheep in armour. She builds up her armour in the second half of Season 5; she becomes more brutal and calculating, to compensate for her increasing nervousness,” explains Fraser. “If she was cold in the first part of season 5, she becomes positively glacial in this season!”
Well-heeled and dangerous, Fraser’s character’s permanent fight or flight mode sees her plunging deeper into the abyss come the end of Season 5. With the series finale on the horizon — Sunday, September 29th at 9/8c on AMC — we caught up with Fraser to talk about the end of Breaking Bad, her character Lydia’s evolution and transformation and finding balance between a successful career and raising a family.
Your career demonstrates your versatility as an actress. Do you make a conscious effort to look for diverse roles?
I’d say its one part instinct, one part luck, and one part conscious choice!
What’s been the greatest challenge of playing Lydia?
I have loved playing Lydia on Breaking Bad; however, my body would be in bits at the end of each day as it was taking the brunt of Lydia’s high pitched frequency. Lydia is almost constantly in fight-or-flight mode, so once the adrenaline stopped pumping at the end of each shooting day, I would feel depleted and numb, but very happy!
I can see how see might be a tad bit exhausting to play! The audience seem to be enjoying her though, and judging by a lot of comment’s circulating around the internet recently, your Lydia is also considered “the hottest female on Breaking Bad.” What do you make of all the attention?
That’s very funny. Lydia is not a well bunny, but she takes a lot of pride in her appearance. She tries to look as pristine as possible to indicate that she is very much in control, so I am sure she would be delighted to hear that someone thought she looked attractive.
Lydia is very protective of her daughter throughout the series. Has being a mother yourself helped you connect to the role more?
Yes, being a mother has made me a better actor in general, as becoming a parent has opened me up to the world in a new way. Feeling such intense unconditional love for such a vulnerable little person can be terrifying as well as wonderful, and I certainly summoned some of that maternal terror for Lydia, as her daughter is the only family she has.
Are there any traits of Lydia’s that come close to some of your own or that you sympathize with because they are fairly universal?
I feel like Lydia has a bit of a zany perspective on rational behaviour, and I can relate to that to a lesser degree. I can certainly relate to falling under the illusion that she can gain total control over her destiny by trying to control everything and everyone in her vicinity. I can also understand her anxiety. I feel a less exaggerated version of all her quirks daily!
Entering into the last days of the show’s final season, what up to date would you count as your favourite filming moment on Breaking Bad?
I loved shooting the scene in [the] Dead Freight [episode] in the bunker with Walt, Jesse and Mike. That was intense! So much to play, Lydia fighting for her life, the three against one… I also loved the stuff we shot in the latter half of the season, but I am under penalty of death if I reveal any storylines!
Understandable! What kinds of feedback are you hearing from family and friends in Scotland? Is the show as popular over there as it is in North America?
The show is massive here, people are very into it.
Do you get back to Scotland often?
I get back twice a year usually.
What do you miss about it?
I miss my family and friends and Scottish food!
Let’s end things on a little ode to your homeland: off the top of your head, what are the top 3 things and/or places to visit while in Scotland?
I would recommend a visit to Glencoe, up north. It’s majestic and haunting and very beautiful. Also a visit to the old town in Edinburgh would be worth a trip. It’s a really lively city full of secret passageways and stairways, and a big fuck-off castle. The Glasgow School of Art is a stunning building, it was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and it’s the most beautiful art nouveau building I have ever seen. Inside and out, down to the smallest window or stairwell — it is a truly breathtaking feat of architectural genius! Also Glasgow is my home town and I love it!Published September 20, 2013