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Severance: Britt Lower Used A Punk Rock Legend As Inspiration For Innie Helly

"Severance" was a big hit for AppleTV+ when it debuted in 2022 due to its mysteriousness, its unflinching look at corporate work monotony, and the questioning of what makes oneself. Coming from writer Dan Erickson and directors Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle, the series is about a set of characters who, while working for Lumon Industries, "sever" their work memories from their non-work memories. Work versions of their personas are called Innies; beyond work, they're called Outies. "Man Seeking Woman" actress Britt Lower tapped into a punk rock aesthetic to inspire her character, Helly, who had just undergone the "severance" procedure, much to her chagrin.

Lower said in an interview with Vulture that one punk legend directly inspired her, "For Innie Helly, I was watching a lot of early Patti Smith concerts to tap into that raw, unapologetic punk. For me, Innie Helly represented that id part of us that's almost teenager-like in her angst." She continued saying that she thinks that the Outie version of a person is made of a person's life-long memories and their interpretations of such, whereas an Innie isn't burdened by who a person thinks they are. She said, "The Innie is this kind of raw material, and may be, at core, who the person is."

In order to further prepare to play Helly, Lower would also doodle something intuitive every morning of shooting. Lower said, "I would get into the feeling of Helly through these kind of intense scribbles, and I'm like, 'This is her! This is punk!'" She said the daily practice really helped her experience her character.

Pandemic related delays helped Lower get to know both sides of character thoroughly

Britt Lower also had some extra help in the form of timing when preparing for her role as Helly on "Severance." She said that show creator Dan Erickson was able to finish all of the scripts long before shooting due to filming delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. They had a whole eight months to sit with the scripts for all the episodes, an absolute rarity for television and streaming shows. Lower was able to memorize all her dialogue for all nine episodes of the series, leaving her plenty of time to prepare to play Helly doing other things like the aforementioned drawing and studying Patti Smith footage.

Knowing both Innie and Outie versions of her character, Lower cryptically said, "There are aspects of Helly's world on the outside that we as an audience have not been privy to yet, for a very good reason. Even by the end of the season, I think it's just the beginning of a much longer answer to who she is." These things may be explored in the show's next season, which AppleTV+ has renewed.